Egyptians set themselves ablaze after Tunisia

An Egyptian man set himself on fire near parliament and another one tried to follow suit.

Egyptians set themselves ablaze after Tunisia

An Egyptian man set himself on fire near parliament on Tuesday and another one tried to follow suit, echoing an act of self-immolation in Tunisia that triggered mass protests and helped oust the president.

Similar cases have been reported in Algeria and Mauritania as Arabs in authoritarian states watched with astonishment the speed at which a public uprising in Tunisia toppled its ruler last week. Some have responded by calling for change at home.

In Egypt, Tuesday's acts followed an initial incident a day earlier when a man set himself alight outside parliament in a sign of growing public discontent in the tightly run country.

"This is a symptom of rising anger and frustration over socio-economic injustice, but I don't think it indicates that a Tunisian-style revolution is necessarily in the making," said
Hossam Bahgat, a human rights activist.

"We certainly don't want this to become a phenomenon. Surely there are other ways to challenge this authoritarian and corrupt government."

On Tuesday, lawyer Mohamed Farouk Hassan, 52, shouted slogans against rising prices before setting himself on fire, sources said. The severity of his injuries was not clear.

Afterwards, a college student in his mid-twenties poured fuel over himself nearby but passers-by prevented him from setting himself on fire, witnesses and sources said.

A day earlier, a man poured gasoline over himself in Cairo and lit it after protesting against poor living conditions.

Like Tunisians, whose public protests led to the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Arabs in many states are frustrated by soaring prices, poverty, high unemployment and authoritarian systems of rule that give them no voice.

A fifth of Egyptians live in poverty, and many feel economic reforms pushed by the government of President Hosni Mubarak, in power for 30 years, have failed to bring better lives.

"The country's wealth is going into the fat bellies of those who have wealth and power," said Sayed Darwish, an Egyptian bystander outside parliament. "This country is a country for the wealthy and powerful. It isn't for us."

A woman outside parliament, Zeinab Sayed Hafez, shouted: "These people can't feel the suffering of those who are hungry."

Protests in Tunisia erupted after the suicide of 26-year-old vegetable trader Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on Dec. 17 because police seized his grocery cart.

In Algeria, where riots over the last few weeks have broken out in parallel to the unrest in Tunisia, newspapers gave their first reports on Sunday and Monday of at least four men who set themselves on fire in provincial towns in the last five days.

In Mauritania's capital Nouakchott, police sources said Yacoub Ould Dahoud, 40, a company director and member of a wealthy family, staged a self-immolation protest on Monday against alleged government mistreatment of his tribe.


Agencies

Last Mod: 19 Ocak 2011, 12:05
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