Footballer Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze In Protest Against Police

A Tunisian professional footballer, Nizar Issaoui, has died after setting himself on fire earlier this week as a protest against “police injustice.”

The 35-year-old suffered third-degree burns and was taken to the specialist burns hospital in Tunis, but doctors were unable to save his life, his brother said on Friday.

“He died yesterday [Thursday] and will be buried today.”

Issaoui, a former player for top-flight side US Monastir and a father of four, published a video on Facebook in which he said the reason for his protest was being falsely accused of “terrorism” in the village of Haffouz, Kairouan, central Tunisia.

Issaoui was a free agent at the time of his death after a career that saw him play for a range of clubs from the lower divisions to the top flight.

Issaoui’s protest recalled that of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi who burned himself to death on December 17, 2010, sparking the Tunisian revolution that was the trigger for the Arab Spring uprisings, which toppled authoritarian leaders across the Middle East.

News of Issaoui’s death sparked protests on the streets of Haffouz, Tunisian media reported. Young demonstrators hurled stones at police who responded with tear gas.

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Issaoui decided to make his protest against the police after officers accused him of terrorism when he complained 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 said Tunisia is experiencing its worst crisis in a generation, with inflation hovering around 11 percent and food becoming increasingly scarce.

The Tunisian government has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9bn loan agreement. The country’s budget deficit was aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In a Facebook post shortly before his fatal action, Issaoui said, “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.”

He also said he had sentenced himself to “death by fire”.

“I have no more energy. Let the police state know that the sentence will be executed today,” he wrote.

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