It all began when Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor driven to desperation by lack of economic opportunity and harassment by the police, set himself alight using paint thinner on Dec. 17. He soon became a cause célèbre, as Tunisians took to the streets to protest against unemployment, rising food prices, and an autocratic government that was seemingly indifferent to their suffering. President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali originally blamed protests that left at least 14 people dead on "gangs of thugs," dismissing increasing concern from the international community. By Jan. 14, the long-time strongman was forced from office, sparking similar uprisings throughout the Middle East.
Here, a Tunisian demonstrator prepares to throw a rock during clashes with security forces in the town of Regueb on Jan. 10.