The story of the Tunisian youth Mohamad Bou’Aziz who put himself in flames in desperate protest against unemployment after attaining a university degree, not finding appropriate work, then resorting to selling from a fruit cart, and having that fruit cart stolen from him by government authorities because it is part of the illegitimate market — reminds me of the boys I see every day here in Egypt. The ones who drag tarps made heavy with China-made belts and what my friends and I have dubbed “street bras” (which have better control than Vicky’s Secret at times) and plastic children’s toys. The ones who push street carts with 7arankash (still don’t know what the word for it is in English), fruits and veggies. The ones who, as soon as anyone hollers, pack up their stuff and drag their merchandise through the street, running as fast as their load will allow them to get away from the Egyptian police who will ticket them or jail them while confiscating their merchandise without mercy. It was explained to me that it’s illegal to sell merchandise without an actual store so this is happens on the daily. I see dozens of Mohamad Bou’Azizes running a stampede through the busy sha3bi areas of Alexandria round maghreb time, after the police have finished their tea, ready to snatch these boys and their rizk in seconds. I see the fathers and mothers of Mohamad Bou’Aziz making way for these boys, sneaking them into their stores and moving their children out of the way so that someone else’s child can feed his siblings and his parents. I see Mohamad Bou’Aziz every day. I see him in the taxi drivers I talk to and hear about, the ones who graduated from the top disciplines in their respective universities only to find their presence and their degree unwelcome – only to find themselves having to rent a taxi for a few hours daily from an elder, driving it around Alexandria for dollars a day. Literally, dollars a day. What’s happening in Tunis isn’t isolated, it’s not temporary, and it’s definitely not going to go away. Unless the governments do something now, something drastic, something sustainable, and most importantly something just – the chickens will continue to come home to roost and our streets corners will go up in flames.
chickens comin home to roost in tunis