TUNIS — A Tunisian man has died after setting himself on fire to protest unemployment, an official said Tuesday, a year after a fruit-seller’s self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring.
The protester’s death on Monday underscores growing pains in the north African country following decades of iron-fisted rule by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, ousted last January.
Ammar Gharsalla, a 48-year-old father of three, had taken part in a sit-in outside a government office in the central town of Gafsa, the epicentre of a 2008 uprising that was brutally put down by the Ben Ali regime.
Today it still suffers from grinding unemployment despite being home to the region’s biggest employer, the Gafsa Phosphates Company (CPG), accused of corrupt hiring practices.
Gharsalla’s suicide bid last Thursday sparked clashes between stone-throwing youths and security forces, but calm was restored the next day.
Two days later another man also tried to commit suicide by self-immolation outside the government building in Bizerte, northern Tunisia, and taken to hospital in serious condition.
A year after a revolution that was acclaimed across the world, the protests and unrest show that little has changed for the north African country’s poorest, and underscores the challenges facing the government that emerged from Tunisia’s first free elections in October.
The polls were dominated by Ennahda, an Islamist movement that now leads the government and awarded key jobs to members of other parties.
They face several immediate challenges including unemployment, narrowing the gulf between relatively wealthy coastal zones and very poor inland areas, and reversing a decline in investment.
In western Kasserine on Sunday, youths heckled President Moncef Marouzki and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who were visiting to pay their respects to those who died during the revolution.
The towns in Tunisia’s marginalised west were at the forefront of last year’s uprising, sparked when unemployed fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi died on January 4, 2011, two weeks after setting himself on fire to protest harassment by Ben Ali regime officials.
The revolt toppled Ben Ali and went on to ignite protests across the region which ultimately led to the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
- Tunisia sees 4 cases of self-immolation in a week (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Tunisian man sets himself alight in protest (vanguardngr.com)
- Tunisia: Second Man Sets Self On Fire (huffingtonpost.com)
- Angry Job Applicants Attack Gafsa Phosphate Company Offices (All Africa)