Monday, July 10, 2017

Self-Immolation, Catalyst of the Arab Spring, Is Now a Grim Trend

Adel Dridi recuperating from his self-inflicted burns on the floor of his family’s home in Tebourba, Tunisia. “I wanted to burn myself because I was burning inside,” he said. Credit Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

TEBOURBA, Tunisia — When Adel Dridi poured gasoline on his head and set himself on fire in May, his first thought was of his mother, Dalila, whose name is roughly tattooed on his arm. But another person was also on his mind: Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation in 2010 set off the Arab Spring uprisings.

Mr. Dridi, 31, is also a fruit seller, and, like Mr. Bouazizi, he snapped after the police spilled his apricots, bananas and strawberries on the ground in front of the city hall here in his hometown.

“I wanted to burn myself because I was burning inside,” Mr. Dridi said in an interview while lying on a mattress in his family’s home, where he was still recovering, his neck and chest scarred by burns. “I wanted to die this way.”

Seven years after Mr. Bouazizi’s desperate and dramatic protest helped start revolutions across the region, frustration at the failed promise of the Arab Spring is widespread. Authoritarian rule has returned to Egypt. Libya is a caldron of chaos. Syria and Iraq are torn by civil wars. The gulf monarchies are essentially unchanged. Neighboring Algeria is paralyzed.

Yet it is a paramount irony that in Tunisia — cradle of the Arab Spring and the one country that has the best hope of realizing its aspirations for democracy and prosperity — Mr. Bouazizi’s once-extraordinary act has become commonplace, whether compelled by anger, depression or bitter disappointment, or to publicly challenge the authorities.

(More here.)


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