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Tunisia: Unemployed Man's Suicide Attempt Sparks Riots

This post is part of our special coverage of Tunisia Revolution 2011.

An unemployed Tunisian set himself on fire in protest against his joblessness, sparking a wave of riots on the ground and solidarity and support on social networking platforms.

While the fate of Mohamed Bouazizi, aged 26, from Sidi Bouzid, in southern Tunisia, remains unclear, Tunisian netizens ceased the incident to complain about the lack of jobs, corruption and deteriorating human rights conditions in their country.

From Facebook to Twitter to blogs, Internet users expressed their solidarity with Mohamed, who had graduated with Mahdia University a few years ago, but could not find a job. Being the only breadwinner in his family, he decided to earn a living and with his family’s help, he started selling fruit and vegetable from a street stall. His venture gave him very little, enough to guarantee the dignity of his family. But city hall officials were on the look out, and have seized his goods several times. He tried to explain to them that what he was doing was not his choice that he was just trying to survive. Each time, his goods were confiscated, he was also insulted and asked to leave the city hall premises. The last time this happened, Mohamed lost all hope in this life and decided to leave it forever. He poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire.

On Facebook, several groups were created to denounce what happened. Mr President, Tunisians are Setting Themselves on Fire (Ar) is such a group. In less than 24 hours, the group attracted 2,500 members, and today boasts more than 10,000 fans. In less than 24 hours, it has also been censored by the authorities, who have clamped down on the Internet with an iron fist.

Here are two screen images, the second showing what Tunisians see when they try and access the page:

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Some bloggers wrote about what happened and expressed their anger. Writing in a Tunisian dialect, Boukachen wrote a post entitled The Sidi Bouzid Holocaust:

الحكاية يا جماعة ميش جديدة، عندها سنين حالة المناطق الداخلية ميزيريا تتحد في تسليطها على الناس الظروف المناخية و تهميش هالمناطق بكل لامبالاة و فرح دائم و طحين مستمر. اما الحكاية ما تاقفش هنا، لأنو الاعلام المنحط متاع بلاد العم بوكشان يمارس تعتيم كامل عالحكاية،…

What happened is not something new. This miserable situation has been ongoing in the remote areas for many years. It is the result of the combination of the climatic conditions and the marginalization of such areas, coupled by the total indifference (of the authorities). But the story does not end here as our depraved media exercises a full blackout of this incident.

Tunisian Girl added:

Dernièrement , les immolations par le feu se sont multipliées en Tunisie .Les acteurs de ces actions sont généralement des citoyens tunisiens qui ont perdu tout espoir en une vie descente . Chômage et pauvreté sont au rendez-vous et ont envenimé leur existence.

The Tunisian government did not find another solution but to censor the websites disseminating the story and imposing a blockade on the city of Sidi Bouzid, where people are expressing their anger by protesting in the streets.

On Twitter, the furor is also continuing, with the hash tag #sidibouzid trending among Tunisian users.

This post is part of our special coverage of Tunisia Revolution 2011.

The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Please visit www.befrienders.org to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.

38 comments

  • […] (shot by police) today and others have been severely beaten and tortured. Lina Ben M’henni summarizes the background of Mohamed Bouazizi who had graduated with Mahdia University a few years ago, but […]

  • […] Sparks Public Outrage  Global Voices’ Lina Ben Mhenni writes, “Tunisian netizens seized the incident to complain about the lack of jobs, corruption and […]

  • […] Al centro della protesta la mancanza di lavoro (molti sono gli assembramenti in prossimità delle sedi dei sindacati), ma la rivolta ha un carattere più ampio, afferma la blogger tunisina di GlobalVoices Lina ben Mhenni (vedi qui). […]

  • […] A imprimere il tono all’intera annata sono state, già a gennaio, le conseguenze traumatiche del terremoto di Haiti, l’attentato alla squadra africana del Togo, nella provincia di Cabinda (Angola), durante la Coppa d’Africa e il lancio di gas lacrimogeni sui manifestanti in Madagascar. Ma la violenza non dà tregua neanche a fine anno, con la crisi politica in Costa d’Avorio, che è costata almeno 173 vite umane, e la tensione sociale che continua ad accendere i tumulti in Tunisia. […]

  • […] all started two weeks ago, when an unemployed man set himself on fire in protest against his unemployment in Sidi Bouzid. According to the Los Angeles Times: The death […]

  • […] tentativo di suicidio di un giovane disoccupato [en] a Sidi Bouzid [it] due settimane fa, seguito dai suicidi di Houssine Ben Faleh Falhi (25 anni) […]

  • […] to our demands, despite the fact that they were simple. The last demand followed the death of Bouazizi. We should note that the demands were peaceful despite the continuous repression from the regime, […]

  • […] che tra l’altro erano molto semplici. L’ultima richiesta riguardava la morte di Bouazizi [en]. Vorrei far notare che tutte le dimostrazioni erano pacifiche, nonostante la continua […]

  • […] December 17, a 26 year old Tunisian man named Mohamed Bouazizi reached the end of his rope. An unemployed university graduate, Bouazizi had become a seller of […]

  • […] then, they’ve boiled over. Ethan Zuckerman: On December 17, a 26 year old Tunisian man named Mohamed Bouazizi reached the end of his rope. An unemployed university graduate, Bouazizi had become a seller of […]

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