Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire, triggering mass anti-government protests across Tunisia

It started with a young man who set himself on fire, acting out of desperation after police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he sold without a permit.

Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old university graduate without a steady job, trying to support his family. His self-immolation -- which left him in intensive care, wrapped head to toe in white bandages -- shocked the North African nation and sparked protests over unemployment that have led to at least three deaths.

In a country where officials have little concern for the rights of citizens, there was nothing extraordinary about humiliating a young man trying to sell fruit and vegetables to support his family.

Yet when Mohamed Bouazizi poured inflammable liquid over his body and set himself alight outside the local municipal office, his act of protest cemented a revolt that would ultimately end President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year-rule.

Local police officers had been picking on Bouazizi for years, ever since he was a child. For his family, there is some comfort that their personal loss has had such stunning political consequences.