New cases of self-immolation in Tunisia as disillusionment seeps in
TUNIS - A Tunisian set himself ablaze Saturday outside a government office, a hospital official said -- the second in days to attempt suicide in the manner of the fruit seller whose death sparked the Arab Spring.
The man, in his fifties, had a history of psychiatric disorders and was taken to a medical centre in Bizerte, a Mediterranean coastal city in north Tunisia, the official said.
"He covered himself in petrol and lit it," the official said. "We don't know why he did it, but he has a psychiatric history."
The man burned himself outside the Bizerte's governor's office, two Tunisian radio stations reported.
The incident came two days after Ammar Gharsalla, a jobless Tunisian, set himself alight in the province of Gafsa.
Gharsalla, a 48-year-old father of three, had been part of a group of protestors staging a sit-in outside the Gafsa government office to highlight the unemployment problem in the phosphate-rich region.
Self-immolation has particular significance in Tunisia, where the fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in December 2010 to protest harassment by officials.
He died from his burns in early January 2011, sparking a revolt that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The protests spread across the region in a series of uprisings called the Arab Spring, which ultimately led to the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi.
Sources said that Gharsalla had been snubbed by cabinet ministers visiting the unemployment-hit region. He suffered third-degree burns and remained in a critical condition.
The Tunisian government said Saturday that protests across the country had hampered economic activity to the tune of about $2.5 billion (two billion euros) over the past year.
Government spokesman Samir Dilou said there had been 513 sit-ins since the start of 2011.
"The government finds itself in a dilemma," he said. "Whether to apply the law to end the sit-ins, or to respect the legitimate right of people to protest."