Rioting in Tunisia

Following an "incident" in the town of Sid Bouzid, Tunisia issued a statement to clarify "the groundless rumours spread by certain sides". It said:

"The matter has to do with a procedure carried out by the city of Sidi Bouzid’s municipal regulations services, as part of their ordinary monitoring operations, by notifying a street vendor who was carrying out his activities in an area unauthorised to this effect. The concerned services reminded the citizen to move away his activity elsewhere.

"The vendor refused to comply with the rules and insisted on remaining on the spot. And, when the municipal agents enforced the law, the vendor doggedly stuck to his refusal and attempted to his life by setting fire to himself."

The vendor in question was Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate who had been unable to find a job. He set himself on fire last Saturday when police confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling on a stall without a licence. He is now critically ill in hospital with third-degree burns.

Rioting followed – an unusual occurrence in Ben Ali's police state – and continued into Sunday with police firing tear gas to disperse the crowds. A number of videos have been posted on YouTuberecording the scenes, though journalists have been prevented from entering the town.

On Wednesday, another unemployed man in Sidi Bouzid, 24-year-old Hussein Nagi Felhi, reportedly announced that he was going to end his life. He climbed a high-voltage electricity pole, shouted "no for misery, no for unemployment" and touched the wires.

The AP report continues:

The suicide angered young protesters, who hurled stones at police and were met by volleys of tear gas. Protesters in a nearby town set an administrative building on fire, said Mohamed Ben Fadhel, a local leader of a teachers' union.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 24 Dec 2010.