Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Tunisian Footballer Self-Immolates in Protest, Dies


The death of Tunisian footballer Nizar Issaoui has shocked the nation, after he set himself alight in protest against “police injustice”. Issaoui, who was 35 years old, suffered third-degree burns and was taken to a specialist burns hospital in Tunis, but sadly died from his injuries. The former US Monastir player was a free agent at the time of his death, having played for a range of clubs throughout his career. He was also a father of four.

Issaoui’s protest was sparked by being falsely accused of “terrorism” in the village of Haffouz, Kairouan, central Tunisia. In a video posted on Facebook, he explained that he had been accused of terrorism after complaining that he was unable to buy bananas for less than 10 dinars ($3.30) a kilogramme, double the price set by the government. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has stated that Tunisia is currently experiencing its worst crisis in a generation, with inflation at around 11% and food becoming increasingly scarce.

Issaoui’s protest has drawn comparisons with that of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who burned himself to death in December 2010. Bouazizi’s death sparked the Tunisian revolution, which in turn triggered the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled authoritarian leaders across the Middle East. News of Issaoui’s death has led to protests on the streets of Haffouz, with young demonstrators throwing stones at police who responded with tear gas.

The Tunisian government has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9bn loan agreement, as the country’s budget deficit has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine. The situation has led to food shortages and rising prices, which have hit ordinary Tunisians hard.

Issaoui’s death has highlighted the ongoing problem of police brutality and injustice in Tunisia. Human rights groups have long criticised the country’s security forces for their heavy-handed tactics, which have included torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings. The government has promised to reform the police, but progress has been slow.

The death of Nizar Issaoui is a tragedy for his family and for Tunisia as a whole. It is a stark reminder of the challenges facing the country as it seeks to build a more democratic and prosperous future. The Tunisian people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, but they need the support of the international community to overcome the many obstacles that lie ahead.

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