Moral Low Ground


Inspired by Tunisian Revolt, A Wave of Self-Immolation Sweeps North Africa

January 19, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Africa, Protests with 0 Comments

Bouazizi literally sparked a revolution in Tunisia.

Inspired by a deadly act of defiance in Tunisia, at least ten people have set themselves on fire in Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania this week.

Two more cases of self-immolation have been reported in Algeria today alone. A woman in her fifties doused herself in flammable liquid and attempted to light a match after being denied housing aid in the town of Sidi Ali Benyoub, located southwest of the capital, Algiers. Luckily, a local official convinced her to stop and only her hand was burnt.

Another man, age 35, set himself ablaze in Dellys, outside Algiers, and suffered third-degree burns over 95% of his body. He remains hospitalized in critical condition. An unemployed father of six who demanded a job and housing also set himself on fire on Tuesday.

In Algeria, as in neighboring Tunisia, mass discontent over unemployment and rising costs has erupted into violent protests. Five people have been killed and 800 injured in the unrest. A thousand people have also been arrested.

Three Egyptians have also set themselves on fire this week. On Tuesday, a  lawyer named Mohamed Farouk set himself on fire near parliament in Cairo. He was followed the same day by a 49-year-old man chanting anti-government slogans who  lit himself up in the same spot.  And Ahmed Hashim al-Sayyed, an unemployed 25-year-old, died in the coastal city of Alexandria on Tuesday from self-immolation.

In Mauritania, 42-year-old businessman Yacoub Ould Dahoud lit himself on fire  in his car in front of the Senate building in the capital city of Nuoakchott because he was “unhappy with the political situation in the country and angry with the government.”

Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania all have authoritarian governments and high unemployment rates.

The wave of self-immolation is inspired by the December 17 suicide of  Mohammed Bouazizi, an act that sparked a revolution in Tunisia that brought down that country’s autocratic government.

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