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Protester who set himself on fire has died, says NGO

Video by Kathryn STAPLEY

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-05

A 26-year-old jobless graduate who set himself on fire last month in a protest has died, a French NGO told AFP Wednesday. The protest sparked widespread social unrest over unemployment in Tunisia.

AFP - A young man died from setting himself on fire last month in a protest that has sparked widespread social unrest in Tunisia, a French human rights group said on Wednesday.
             
Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old graduate, doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on December 17 in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, in a protest against unemployment that sparked days of rioting by jobless young people.
             
The leader of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), Souhayr Belhassen, told AFP that Bouazizi died on Tuesday evening.
             
"An investigation or a national commission is needed to determine the causes and the solutions of this social protest which has taken a tragic form," she said.
             
Another Paris-based rights group, CRLDHT, said in a statement that Bouazizi died at a burns hospital in Ban Arous near Tunis.
             
He was forced to sell fruit and vegetables on the streets to make ends meet but police confiscated his produce because he did not have a proper permit, prompting his suicidal protest which sparked a wave of violent riots.
             
Tensions heightened five days after Bouazizi's self-immolation when another young man climbed up an electricity pylon and electrocuted himself on the cables, saying he was fed up with being unemployed.
             
Unrest gripped the Sidi Bouzid region, where livestock and informal commerce are the main ways of scratching out a living.
             
Thousands of people took to the streets on December 24, the worst day of rioting, where they burned the local headquarters of the national guard, who responded with gunshots that killed an 18-year-old protestor.
             
Protests spread to the capital Tunis in late December.
             
Civil groups and the opposition in Tunisia say the protests are driven by high unemployment and high prices of raw materials.
             
Tunisia's unemployment rate is officially 14 percent, but the percentage of graduates without work is about double that, and has prompted a warning from the International Monetary Fund.
             
The trouble drove Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to sack his communications minister and several regional governors.

Date created : 2011-01-05

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