Science in turmoil: After the Arab Spring

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As a young physicist in Tunisia, Imen Sfar gave little thought to politics until March 2010, when a street vendor set himself on fire to protest about corruption in the city of Monastir, where Sfar worked.

Two months later, an influential blogger and close friend of Sfar's was arrested and interrogated for helping to organize a demonstration opposing Internet censorship in Tunisia. His detention gave Sfar the “courage factor”, she says, to join the revolution that erupted in December 2010, after another street vendor set himself aflame in Sidi Bouzid to protest against harassment by local officials. That act unleashed years of pent-up frustrations against the repressive government of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for almost a quarter of a century (see Nature 469, 453454; 2011).

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