By Samuel Burke, CNN
It's been almost two years since a young fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a Tunisian government office.
Bouazizi died from his burns, but his friends and family said that the real cause of his death was the loss of hope - that he would ever find opportunity or dignity in Tunisia.
That single act gave birth to revolution in Tunisia and then all over the Arab world - in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and beyond.
Tunisia's uprising was seen as a model. After months of protests, Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left the country peacefully, paving the way for democratic elections.
But as with all the Arab Spring uprisings, it was not that simple. The ultra-religious Salafis began attacking liquor stores, theaters and the very idea of democracy itself.
Unemployment has gone from 13 percent in January of 2011 to just over 18 this year.
Then this month, hundreds of demonstrators in the capital of Tunis joined the wave of anti-American protests all over the world over the Internet film that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed. Protestors clashed with police and they set fire to the U.S. embassy. Four people died.
This week Chancellor Merkel of Germany announced that she has cancelled to this country. Local reports cited safety concerns stemming from the protests.
Yet there are strong voices of moderation in Tunisia. Among them is the president of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Thursday, Marzouki said the Islamists' movement has a wide spectrum of ideology, and at the far right is Salafis movement.
“And the Salafis movement itself is a wide spectrum,” Marzouki told Amanpour. “It's a tiny minority within the tiny minority who are Salafis, jihadists.
He says Tunisian authorities report this group to be just 3,000 people, and Marzouki said just 300 people constituted the group protesting against the American embassy in Tunisia, a day he dubs “Black Friday.”
He doesn’t believe they were linked to al-Qaeda, though he says it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
“I think that, in fact, they are the product of the Tunisia society: poverty, illiteracy and so forth. And this is why dealing with this problem is quite difficult.”
“They are now the most important threat against Tunisia, not against the stability of the country, because this country is stable, but against the image of Tunisia.”
Images of Tunisia’s beaches is what attracts more than five million tourists to the country each year, a far cry from the images of protests this month.
“We realize that those guys were dangerous for our image,” Marzouki says. “But now they're threatening our relationship to the whole world.”
Marzouki has a stark warning for the international community: “If we do not succeed the transition to democracy in Tunisia, it will never work in any other part of the Arab world.”
Though he says he has been given positive reassurance from Europe and the United States.
Marzouki told Amanpour he had a “very good meeting” with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday. He said that she assured him the U.S. government is a friend of Tunisia and they will help train security forces and give more military equipment.
“Our American friends know very well that, of course, the Tunisian population and the Tunisian government were extremely shocked by what happened and they are extremely against it and they want really to set up a new democracy.
“Tunisia is a lab for the Arab Spring, Marzouki reiterated. “So we have to succeed. And our friends have to support us to succeed.”
At various points throughout the year, including during the recent protests at the U.S. Embassy, Tunisians have been heard chanting "Obama, Obama, we're all Osama."
Marzouki didn’t deny that, but said, “In Tunisia we don't mix up the far right groups of Europe or the white supremacists in the United States with the American people or the American government. So why should we be mixed in with a very, very tiny minority?”
Marzouki pledged that the government will crack down. He says the country’s new constitution will show the world the direction Tunisia is headed.
And he’s confident the constitution will be progressive – “promoting human rights and women's rights.”
On attempts by conservatives to add an article making a women’s role “complimentary” to that of a man’s, Marzouki says: “Forget about it.”
Adoption of a new constitution has been postponed until April of next year.