Monday, January 17, 2011

Egyptian man sets himself on fire, imitating Tunisia spark

The Arabic press is very concerned over the repercussions of an Egyptian man who set himself on fire today:

A man set himself on fire outside parliament in Cairo on Monday, the official MENA agency said, in an apparent copycat replay of the self-immolation of a Tunisian graduate which sparked a popular revolt.

The man, who was identified as restaurant owner Abdo Abdelmoneim from Qantara, near the port town of Ismailiya, "stood in front the parliament building in (downtown Cairo) and set fire to his body."

"He was immediately taken to hospital to receive the necessary treatment," MENA said.

A parliamentary source said the man "stood outside the People's Assembly, poured fuel on himself and set himself on fire."
"A policeman who was close by managed to extinguish the fire and the man was quickly taken away by ambulance," the source added, according to AFP.

MENA said the man was driven to set himself alight because "he did not receive the bread coupons for his restaurant." It did not elaborate.

The incident comes after 26-year-old Tunisian graduate Mohammed Bouazizi torched himself in Tunisia when police prevented him from selling fruit and vegetables to make a living.

The case of Bouazizi, who would later die of his wounds, unleashed a wave of protests in Tunisia that would eventually topple the 23-year-old regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In Algeria, at least four attempted public suicides -- all over jobs and housing -- were reported this week after Bouazizi's self-immolation.
Egypt is acting like, well, Egypt:
Abdu Gaafar, the man who set him self alight in front of Egypt's parliament building on Monday morning, said he was frustrated by security treatment.

He revealed that security authorities in the governorate of Ismailia, east of Cairo, refused to provide him with his share of subsidized bread for the restaurant he runs at the city of Qantara.

Gaafar suffered 5 percent face burns before nearby officers managed to put out the fire and take him to hospital, according to a security source.

But a medical source estimated burns to 60 percent of his body, concentrated on his hands and legs.

A security source revealed that Gaafar is being interrogated, to find out if "foreign hands" were behind his act.

Officer Amr Zaki told reporters that while on duty in front of the People's Assembly building, he was surprised to see a man setting fire to himself on the sidewalk opposite.

He added that the man poured gasoline on himself and ignited it while chanting anti-state security slogans, before the officer put out the fire with the help of colleagues.

But Reuters news agency quoted a guard at the parliament's gate as saying a taxi driver actually used his fire extinguisher to help the protester before firemen employed by parliament came to help.
It doesn't look like Gaafar will die, but it is very hard to predict how the Arab street will react to any specific event. Egypt is already on edge from the Copt issue.