A man has set himself on fire in central Tunis, just hours before the country’s legislators were to vote on a new government entrusted with pulling the country out of a deep political crisis.
Tuesday’s gesture recalled the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death ignited a revolt in the North African country that echoed across the Arab world.
“This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment,” the man shouted before immolating himself on Habib Bourguiba avenue, according to a witness.
Security forces and bystanders tried to extinguish the flames before the man was rushed to hospital, witnesses said.
“His life is not in danger but he has third-degree burns to the head and the back,” said an emergency services spokesman.
Officials named the man as 27-year-old Adel Khadri and said he hails from an extremely poor family in Jendouba in northwestern Tunisia.
Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouche attributed Khadri’s desperate action to his economic situation.
“He is unemployed and came to Tunis a few months ago. He was very fragile, psychologically broken, and that is why he set himself on fire.”
In December 2010, street vendor Bouazizi died of his injuries after setting himself alight on December 17, 2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzid after a policewoman confiscated his fruit cart.
Bouazizi’s fate sparked protests that ended with the overthrow of autocratic President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired rebellions elsewhere in the Middle East.
Economic and social difficulties were the key factors that brought down Ben Ali’s regime and two years since his ouster unemployment and poverty continue to plague the North African country.
The simmering discontent has in the past few months sparked strikes and protests which often degenerate into violence.
Two members of a rap group, Sabrine Klibi and Mohamed Hedi Belgayed, were arrested on Monday for a music video insulting police. Their arrest provoked a strong reaction from activists.
Tunisia is also struggling to emerge from a political crisis exacerbated by the daylight murder on February 6 murder of Chokri Belaid, a leftist opposition leader.
Later on Tuesday, prime minister-designate Ali Larayedh was to seek a vote of confidence on his new cabinet line-up from legislators in the National Constituent Assembly.