Tunisian professional footballer Nizar Issaoui, 35, has died after setting himself on fire earlier this week in what he called a protest against the “police state” in Tunisia, according to his brother Ryad. Issaoui sustained third-degree burns from his self-immolation in the village of Haffouz in the central region of Kairouan. He was transferred from a local hospital to a specialist burns hospital in the capital, Tunis, but doctors were unable to save him. He passed away on Thursday and was buried the following day.

Issaoui’s actions evoke memories of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, sparking the Tunisian revolution and subsequent Arab Spring uprisings that led to the fall of authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. News of Issaoui’s death incited protests in Haffouz on Thursday evening, with young demonstrators throwing stones at the police, who retaliated with tear gas. Similar clashes occurred during Issaoui’s funeral on Friday, with hundreds of mourners chanting, “With our blood and with our soul, we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Nizar.”

At the time of his death, Issaoui was a free agent after playing for various clubs from lower divisions to the top flight throughout his career. In a Facebook post preceding his tragic act, Issaoui declared that he had sentenced himself to “death by fire” and expressed his exhaustion. He added, “Let the police state know that the sentence will be executed today.”

Tunisian media reports suggest that Issaoui’s extreme protest was prompted by police accusing him of “terrorism” after he complained about being unable to purchase bananas for less than 10 dinars ($3.30) per kilogram, double the government-set price. A video selfie circulating on social media features Issaoui exclaiming, “For a dispute with someone selling bananas at 10 dinars, I get accused of terrorism at the police station. Terrorism for a complaint about bananas.”

Source: theguardian.com