Self-immolating law grad dies in Morocco

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A 27-year-old law graduate who set himself on fire to protest graduate unemployment has died, according to his wife, the state news agency, and a hospital. Abdelouahab Zaidoun and a second protestor set themselves on fire at an Education Ministry building in Morocco's capital, Rabat. File:View of Rabat beach Coast.jpg

File photo of Rabat, where Zaidoun set himself on fire.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Zaidoun had been receiving treatment in Casablanca after carrying out his threat to set himself on fire when police allegedly denied food to protestors demanding public sector employment. Around 9% of Morrocans are jobless, but 15–16% of university graduates are amongst the unemployed. 8.5 million of the 32-million population are impoverished.

"I ask the human rights organizations for help in opening an investigation into whoever forbade the bread from going to the protesters," Zaidoun's 25-year-old wife Amina Naddam told The Associated Press, saying through tears she held the authorities responsible for his death. Naddam said her husband was from Essaouira but migrated to protest.

The economy continues to grow by several percent per anum but the jobs market is unable to cope with demand. Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's government seeks to create 200,000 new posts a year but Benkirane accepts this is largely dependant upon the private sector. The target is to reduce unemployment to 8%.

Zaidoun moved from the city of Essaouira, seen here from file, to Rabat in order to protest.

After a two-week occupation of the building by protestors, police began preventing the delivery of food. Video showed Zaidoun being beaten by police as he retrieved bread thrown over the police's heads; a fellow protestor sets himself on fire and Zaidoun catches light himself when he joins the first self-immolator.

Zaidoun suffered burns to more than 50% of his body. The other protestor is recovering. Both were among the 1,000 members of the National Association of Unemployed Graduates, one of several such organisations. There is a large security presence around the hospital where he died.

The once-rare practice of self-immolation has become more known since Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia in December 2010, giving rise to protests that saw the government ousted. His death in Sidi Bouzid became symbolic of the Arab Spring, which grew out from the subsequent Tunisian protests.