Protests in Tunisia after journalist sets himself on fire

Published 25.12.2018 23:47
Updated 26.12.2018 08:00

The death of a Tunisian journalist who set himself on fire to protest economic problems in the North African nation has prompted a protest that led to clashes with police and nationwide concern. Journalist Abderrak Zorgui posted a video online before his self-immolation in the struggling provincial city of Kasserine describing his desperation and calling for revolt. He expressed frustration at unemployment and the unfulfilled promises of Tunisia's 2011 Arab Spring revolution. In a video shared on Facebook prior to his death, Zergui appeared to say that whenever the unemployed in his town prepare to protest, militant attacks are launched to silence them. "This is an appeal to Kasserine people, I will carry out a revolution by myself," he said in the video, as reported by Reuters. Authorities said Zorgui died of his injuries Monday soon after being taken to the hospital.

His actions prompted a protest Monday night in Kasserine that degenerated into violence, with police firing tear gas to disperse protesters who blocked roads and threw stones at police. Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiane Zaag said Tuesday that six police officers were injured and several people arrested in the protest.

A similar self-immolation — by a street vendor lamenting unemployment, corruption and repression — led to nationwide protests fueled by social media that brought down Tunisia's long-time president in 2011. That ushered in democracy for Tunisia and unleashed similar movements around the Arab world.

Zorgui's funeral was held yesterday in Kasserine, which has come to symbolize Tunisia's economic problems and social tensions. Unemployment and poverty are high, and the area has struggled for years against militants in the nearby mountains who are linked to al-Qaida and the Daesh terrorist 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 Zorgui's death by not cracking down on corruption.

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