Tunisian man dies after setting himself ablaze

A man, who set himself on fire, is helped in the capital Tunis on 11 September 2021, before being taken to hospital for treatment. Sofiene Hamdaoui - AFP

A Tunisian man died in hospital on Saturday after setting himself on fire, witnesses and medics said, days after another burned himself alive to protest living conditions.

Both acts recall the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the street seller whose suicide by fire on 17 December 2010 launched Tunisia’s revolution which in turn sparked the Arab Spring that toppled several autocratic leaders in the region.

On Saturday, a 35-year-old man “set himself on fire on Habib Bourguiba Avenue” in the centre of Tunis, the civil defence told AFP.

The man, whose motives are still unknown, “suffered third-degree burns and was rushed to hospital”, a civil defence spokesperson added.

Local media including state television later reported that he had died of his injuries.

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A witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained the course of the incident: “The man had arrived at the iconic avenue in central Tunis accompanied by a younger man.

“He tried to attract the attention of some journalists who were present there.

“He then doused himself with flammable material which he set on fire with a lighter.”

Police set up barricades in the area, and an AFP reporter saw a pair of burned shoes behind them shortly after the incident.

Last week a young man wounded in the 2011 revolution burned himself alive after the government failed to provide compensation, his family said.

Neji Hefiane, 26, died in a hospital on the southern outskirts of Tunis on September 4 after having set himself alight in front of his family, his father said.

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Hefiane suffered gunshot wounds to the head during anti-regime protests in the early days of the revolution, according to his family, and although he was on an official list of people entitled to government aid, he received no compensation.

His father, Bechir Hefiane, said: “It was the injustice and marginalisation he suffered that pushed my son to kill himself. We’ve got no reply, even after my son’s death.”

He said he wrote to President Kais Saied explaining his son’s case and asking him to intervene on behalf of the struggling family that lives in a working-class Tunis district.

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