10 Jan 2012

Tunisian man dies after setting himself on fire

A Tunisian protester who set himself on fire to protest against high unemployment has died in hospital. It comes almost exactly a year after a fruit seller’s self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring.

Tunisian protesters call for more rights. January 5, 2012 (Getty)

48-year-old Ammar Gharsalla was staging a sit-in outside the Gafsa government office last week to highlight the region’s ongoing unemployment problem.

When three Tunisian government ministers refused to meet the group, Mr Gharsalla doused himself in petrol and set himself alight.

The father of three suffered third-degree burns and died in hospital on Monday.

It comes almost a year to the day that fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi died after setting himself on fire in January, 2011 to protest harassment by officials in the government of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Bouazizi’s death sparked a revolt that toppled Ben Ali and sparked similar protests across the region, including the uprisings which led to the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

But a year on, unemployment and economic problems continue to plague the region.

Gharsalla’s suicide bid last Thursday triggered a day of clashes on the streets of Gafsa, where protesters threw stones at security forces. Police later used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Gafsa was also the centre of a popular uprising in 2008 against Ben Ali’s regime.