Two men from Kasserine have set themselves on fire this week over what appear to have been relatively minor personal grievances, echoing a method of suicide-protest that has become increasingly widespread throughout Tunisia following the revolution.
A high school student, rumored to have been upset over being denied entry to class reportedly set himself aflame outside a Kasserine high school on Wednesday. Responding to the incident, director of the school Barhoumi Mohamed rejected the notion that administration policy was related to the student’s motives, and said that an official investigation was being conducted through the Ministry of Education.
A day later, also in Kasserine, a law enforcement officer attempted to self immolate after reportedly being transferred to a less desirable rank in the highway patrol unit. The man, identified as Naim Rebhi, survived the incident, and is currently being treated for serious burn wounds in a trauma center in southern Tunis.
Suicides–and self-immolations in particular–have been on the rise in Tunisia in the years following the revolution.
According to a study by the International Study of Health published last May, the trend dates back to the historic self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street-trader whose gruesome death is often pinpointed as the starting point of the Tunisian revolution. His death, the study found, preceded a three-fold growth in attempted self-immolations during 2012, where the method of protest became the second most frequent means of committing suicide, after hanging.
This imitative pattern, often referred to as the Werther effect, was even dubbed “The Bouazizi” by researchers. According to the author of the study, Dr Ben Khelil the notion of Bouazizi as an identifiable figure suffering in similar circumstances to many, as well as the prestige and media storm afforded to him after his death as all contributing to a surge in similar suicides.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, sociologist, Tarek Belhaj “Tunisian society is subject to several social, economic and political pressures. At a certain moment, people cannot hold it anymore and choose to die.
According to Belhaj, “Suicide is a new form of social violence”
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.