TUNIS Abdel Razaq Zorgi, a 32-year-old journalist, set himself on fire yesterday in Tunisia. He posted a video online before self-immolation in the struggling provincial city of Kasserine. He described his desperation and called for a revolt. Also, he expressed frustration at unemployment and the unfulfilled promises of Tunisia’s 2011 Arab Spring revolution. According to authorities, Zorgi died of his injuries soon after he was taken to the hospital.
Protests erupted in Tunisia post this and it led to clashes with police and nationwide concern. Police fired tear gas at dozens of people who had set tyres ablaze and blocked the main street. Six members of the security forces were injured and nine protesters were detained, interior ministry spokesperson Sofiane al-Zaq said Tuesday.
There was brief calm for Zorgi’s funeral, post which, people took to the streets again. Tensions were being reported in other places too.
In late 2010, in protest of police harassment, unemployment and corruption, a street vendor set himself on fire and this led to nationwide protests fuelled by social media. It brought down Tunisia’s long-time authoritarian president in 2011. This ushered in democracy for Tunisia and unleashed similar movements around the Arab world.
Despite the country’s transition to democracy after overthrowing Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the authorities still struggle to improve poor living conditions. Unemployment and poverty are high, and the area has struggled for years against extremists in the nearby mountains who are linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
The Tunisian National Journalists’ Union called for demonstrations and a possible strike in response to the journalist’s death. In a statement, it accused the state of contributing to Zorgi’s death by not cracking down on corruption.
Tunisian reporters expressed solidarity with Zorgi, lamenting precarious conditions for freelancers with no legal protections and low pay amid Tunisia’s struggling economy.
“The reasons for this young man’s suicide are poverty and marginalization, as well as the fragile situation of most journalists,” said Latifa Labiadh of radio station Ama.
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