A year ago today, December 17, 2010, street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, frustrated with the corruption of the Tunisian police, set himself on fire. Within a month, Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule had ended. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for three decades, was gone by February, and this August, we saw the fall of Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi.
Over the "Arab Spring" as it came to be known, sixteen countries across North Africa and the Middle East were swept up in massive, sometimes violent demonstrations that inspired the Occupy movement in Europe and North America. No wonder Time Magazine chose "The Protester" as their Person of the Year.
It is the rare person who can affect change on a more-than-personal scale. Mohamed Bouazizi, who died of his burns on January 4, 2011, never lived to see the effect he had, not just on his country, but on the entire world.
For more on the short, tragic life of the man who sparked a year of protest, check out this excellent profile by Al-Jazeera. The Guardian lays out the timeline from Bouazizi's self-immolation to the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia here.