Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Immolation Copycats 2011

Worldwide, we are in the midst of a wave of political
immolation copycats, with at least seven 
deadly incidents being recorded since 
the spark was ignited a month ago in Tunisia.

As I wrote in The Copycat Effect, one of the most imitated public and political forms of self-death is the fire suicide.

More protesters set themselves on fire in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria on Monday, January 17, 2011, in apparent copycat fiery suicide attempts inspired by the act that helped trigger a popular uprising in Tunisia. Besides the Tunisian and Egyptian accounts, reports of fire suicides in four Algerian towns and in the capital of Mauritania have circulated in the past five days.

One incident involved a man setting himself on fire outside of parliament in the Egyptian capital. Policemen guarding Cairo's parliament building and some passers-by used fire extinguishers to put out the blaze surrounding Abdou Abdel-Monaam Hamadah, 48. He was taken to the hospital with burns on 60 percent of his body.

Egyptian Abdou Abdel-Monaam Hamadah is shown in a hospital in Cairo on Monday after setting himself on fire on a busy street in front of the People's Assembly. His hospital image was broadcast throughout the Arab world.

Another was of a Mauritanian man who set himself on fire in front of presidential palace in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, in an echo of suicide that triggered Tunisia uprising. Yacoub Ould Dahoud, 40, a company director and member of a wealthy family, was upset about alleged government mistreatment of his tribe. Dahoud doused himself with gasoline while sitting in his locked car in front of the presidential palace and set himself on fire. He was rescued by security forces and bystanders who broke open his car windows. He was taken to the hospital with burns.
Four men in four different Algerian towns also set themselves on fire in the past week, Reuters reported. One of the men died after setting himself on fire at a government building in Algeria, state radio reported on Sunday, also echoing the self-immolation that triggered the protests that toppled the leader of neighboring Tunisia.
Mohsen Bouterfif doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire on Thursday, January 13, after a meeting with the mayor of the small city of Boukhadra who was unable to provide him a job and a house, the daily El Khabar newspaper said. He died on Saturday of his burns.

The photographs being published are often graphic. Mohsen Bouterfif is shown in the hospital, after he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire.
About 100 young men protested over Mohsen's death in the town, in Tebessa province, 700 km east of Algiers. The governor of the province sacked the mayor, El Khabar said.
Several Algerian towns, including the capital Algiers, have experienced riots in recent weeks over unemployment and a sharp rise in the prices of food staples.
Official sources say two people have been killed and scores were injured during the unrest, which unfolded in parallel to street violence in Tunisia and demonstrations over high food prices in other North African and Middle Eastern countries. To calm the protests, Algeria has cut the cost of sugar and cooking oil.

The fall of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on Friday -- the first time in generations that an Arab leader has been toppled by public protests -- sent a sharp signal to the rest of the region, dominated by autocratic regimes. 

The protests that brought down Ben Ali erupted after the self-immolation of 26-year-old vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010. Bouazizi died weeks later of his burns, becoming a martyr to crowds of students and the unemployed protesting against poor living conditions.
The incidents reflect the growing despair among the public of many Arab regimes resisting reform. They are deeply symbolic means of protest in a region that has little or no tolerance for dissent.
It was the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed man in Tunisia last month that sparked the tidal wave of protests that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last week. A total of 78 people have been killed since the start of unrest in Tunisia, the country's interior minister told the media on January 17th.
Ben Ali ruled with an iron fist for 23 years, time spent in the company of similarly authoritarian rulers across much of the Arab world like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, in power since 1969, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, in office since 1981, and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled that impoverished nation since he seized power more than 30 years.
The stunning collapse of the Tunisian leader drew a litany of calls for change elsewhere in the Arab world, but activists faced the reality of vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo and hard-line regimes that crack down on dissent.
The men who have set themselves alight in recent days appeared to be inspired by the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate whose fruits and vegetables market stand was confiscated by police because it had no permit. His death touched a nerve with educated, unemployed youths in the North African country, prompting the mass protests that toppled Ben Ali.
Self-immolation as a method of protest is uncommon in the Arab world, where many associate it with protesters in the Far East or the Indian subcontinent. But Egyptian women in rural or poor urban areas have been known to set themselves on fire to protest violent husbands, abusive parents or an unwanted suitor.
"It is clear that Tunisia and its events had an impact on Egypt as well as Algeria," said veteran Egyptian columnist Salama Ahmed Salama. The attempted self-immolation in Cairo on Monday, he added, will be a "worrying element to the government."
Arab political spokesmen are trying to put a calming spin on the impact of the fire copycats. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit ruled out the possibility that Tunisia's political uprising will spread.

Update, as per the comment below: The copycat immolations are spreading. A 16-year-old French boy was rushed to a local hospital on Tuesday (January 18, 2011) in critical condition after setting himself on fire at his Marseille private school. Meanwhile, also, an 18-year-old schoolboy from the southwestern town of Bordeaux, France, has been in a coma since November 18, 2010, when he set himself on fire in his school.

1 comment:

aferrismoon said...


The report says that it might have been because of the events in Tunisia