'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Libya, Tunisia, Egypt et al - uprisings all started by a fruit seller in Sidi Bouzid.

Please help me Persuade Time Magazine to make a Tunisian fruit seller called Muhammad Al Bouazizi their 'Person of the Year 2011'

Time Magazine gives the title 'Person of the Year' to the individual who 'for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year'.

They are clear that the title should not in itself be a prize, but an acknowledgement of influence on world events. Recent winners include Mark Zuckerberg, Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama.

I think in 2011 that title should be given to a Tunisian street vendor called Muhammad Al Bouazizi. It would be a fitting tribute to one man who has clearly already influenced the world in ways he could never have imagined.

For those who don't know, and you can read much fuller accounts here and here, (and from Time Magazine itself here), Mr Bouazizi was a fruit seller in a small provincial town called Sidi Bouzid. Following a confrontation with a local government inspector on Dec 17, and several attempts at getting anyone in authority to listen to his complaints, Mr Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest at his treatment and the treatment of millions like him, in front of the gates of the Governors office.

He died on Jan 4th from his injuries. In the intervening time, rioting, sparked by Mr Bouazizi's act, had started in cities across the country. Before he died he was visited in hospital by President Zine el-Abidine Ben, and 10 days after his death, the President fled the country.

As we now know, this is nowhere near the end of it. A second dictatorship has fallen in Egypt (the world watches to see how the military will make handle the transition to, hopefully, full democracy) and now it looks like Libya is about to gain freedom also. Meantime, protest movements continue across the Middle East.

Of course, he could not have known where his protest could lead. But that is not the point. One man's selfless act has changed the Middle East more than decades of diplomacy have managed. And I think his influence and memory must be marked.

I am sending the following note to the Managing Editor of Time Magazine, Richard Stengel. If you feel you would like to send a similar note, please feel free to copy the note and forward it to Time by clicking here. Also please sign the on line petition by clicking here

Dear Mr Stengel

Before he is forgotten, I would like to nominate Tunisian market trader Muhammad Al Bouazizi as your Person of the Year for 2011.

Your criteria is 'the person who has done most to influence events of the year'. Already we have seen his selfless protest leading to the collapse of dictatorships, and popular uprisings across the Middle East as the people demand democracy and influence over their own destiny. It is hard to imagine any individual who could do more in the coming months to change the course of an entire region, if not the global political map itself.

It would be all too easy to forget, as events unfold on a daily basis, that all this started thanks to the actions of a single man, selling fruit on a street, in a small provinicial Tunisian town.

The 'Time' award is of course not a prize; but it should be a marker for the world to acknowledge the acts of others. And Mr Bouazizi, in a single act, has done more than Presidents, Prime Minsters, Diplomats and opinion leaders have achieved in 30 years in the Middle East.

Please, over coming months, don't forget him, and make him your Person of the Year

Yours sincerely

Richard Morris


  1. He was one of the people on the long-list online vote earlier this year. As usual, I think that one was won by a Korean singer or someone like that, but it does at least show he's on their radar.

  2. Hi, thanks - yes, I was thrilled when he got on the list and did a fair bit of goading people to vote for him - but what can you do against the might of the S Korean teen vote? We've been trying to get Muhammad recognised by Time since Feb and getting good reaction. If you could drop Time a line and sign the petition on the links above, i'd be really grateful. Thanks for your help.

  3. Hi ascorbic

    the nominations for Person of the Year are now being decided. Would you mind commenting on their feed if you think Mohammad should get the prize? Here's the link.http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/11/08/who-should-be-times-2011-person-of-the-year-our-panel-sounds-off/?xid=gonewsedit#