This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Suicide as a Metaphor for the Failed Arab Spring

"I wanted to burn myself because I was burning inside [with anger and desperation expressing his hopelessness]."
"I wanted to die this way."
Adel Dridi, 31, street fruit seller, Tebourba, Tunisia

"This kind of suicide stands more as a dissenting attitude toward the post-revolution society, which deeply changed."
Dr. Mehdi Ben Khelil, forensic pathologist

"Imed used to pour gas on himself as a way to blackmail the police so they would give him back his merchandise."
"He had already done that as a last resort two or three times before and he told me it worked."
Ahmed Ghanmi, brother of Imed, deceased

"With the dictatorship, the state was ubiquitous; we were under a police rule and deviation was less possible."
"There were already suicides with self-immolation or hanging, but it was in the privacy of the home, not in the public sphere like today, and the youth is very exposed to this new phenomenon."
Fatma Charfi, Ministry of Health committee, Tunisia
  Five years ago, two Tunisians set themselves on fire in protest against the...
Clemens Höges/ DER SPIEGEL -- Hosni Kaliya in Kasserine

These types of protests by people who feel themselves victimized by institutionalized abuse have a way of becoming entrenched, popularized and repeated by people who feel their grievances cannot be addressed any other way than by the kind of shock treatment that creates a wave of public awareness and fear, through the ultimate sacrifice of self-harm leading to death. When it seems to those who have been exposed to the personal, psychological violence of an uncaring bureaucracy imperilling their livelihood and survival, violent rejection of life becomes a tool, rejecting that society.

One isolated incident stands out as the symptom of an ailing society and the symbol of desperate rejection of police harassment, the self-immolation seven years ago of the street fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose final act of asserting himself defiantly, even if only to claim death by his own agency, saw a spiralling of reaction and events leading to the downfall of the government in Tunis hated for its corruption. Tunisia, in its reinvention of itself as an Islamist-style democracy is pointed to as the first and the sole success of the Arab Spring.

  In the days after Kaliya's self-immolation, tens of thousands of Tunisians...
In the days after Kaliya's self-immolation, tens of thousands of Tunisians took to the streets in early 2011, eventually forcing the country's autocratic president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. This image is from Tunis on Jan. 14, 2011. Reuters

The fever of people power challenging the authority of their governments under a system detached from presiding over the fulfillment of people's needs and aspirations in free societies, spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Gulf States. The revolutionary zeal of those rejecting the status quo nurtured a fervent hope that their nations would undergo a change reflective of some form of democracy. Libya responded with utter, violent chaos, the Gulf States methodically used their military power to squelch any thought of change, Egypt reverted to military rule, while Syria and Iraq imploded.

Mr. Dridi, pre-revolution, made a very good earning in his country. Now, constantly harassed by police just as Mr. Bouazizi before him had been, he is desperate to react in some meaningful way that might help him, but could only find a solution in attempted suicide which he survived. Unemployed teacher Imed Ghanmi, 43, did the same as police confiscated his merchandise when he tried to support himself selling the smuggled goods on the street. He finally succeeded in killing himself when immolation as threat no longer succeeded.
  Protests have once again become commonplace in Tunisia. This image is from...
Protests have once again become commonplace in Tunisia. This image is from Kasserine, Hosni Kaliya's hometown. Demonstrators clashed with police during a march protesting the lack of jobs and opportunity. Reuters

But it is not only the middle-aged who resort to these desperate measures to destroy their futures. Young teens in high school have taken to immolation as well in a feverish denial of the lives they no longer wish to live. Like Ramzi Messaoudi, whose repeated disagreements with his English teacher for expelling him from school led him to set himself afire, dying three days later from the burns he sustained. "He just could not take it anymore. When he arrived at the hospital, he was still conscious and he was smiling and kept on repeating the word 'injustice'," said his 19-year old childhood friend, Wissem Hadidi.

Because there are few opportunities for the young, and because job insecurity is so high, with a tough unemployment rate, there is desperation among young people in Tunisia. Thousands have chosen to migrate abroad. Tunisia has the distinction, irrespective of how it alone among the Arab countries touched by the Arab Spring, is considered the only 'successful' Arab Spring revolution, despite which there are more Tunisians who made common cause with Islamic State, joining the jihadist terrorist group than any other country in the region save for Libya.

  The Jebel Chaambi mountains near the city of Kasserine are now home to...
The Jebel Chaambi mountains near the city of Kasserine are now home to Islamist training camps and considered a hotbed of jihad. AP/dpa
A record 104 burn patients who had chosen self-immolation over life were admitted to the country's main burn hospital in Ben Arous in 2016, representing a tripling of self-immolation following Tunisia's revolution. Driven largely by hardships and a hatred of the authorities. Dr. Mehdi Ben Khelil forensic pathologist, conducted a study to show the increase of the numbers of people who chose to self-immolate rather than resign themselves to a situation whereby no opportunities are available to them to achieve their aspirations.


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