A man in his 60s died after setting himself on fire in the town of Samitah, in Saudi Arabia’s south-western region of Jizan (map, from bbcimg.co.uk), and died later in the hospital, officials have said.
After the suicide of a man in Tunisia provoked the anti-government uprising, several acts of self-immolation took place in the Arab world.
The desperate action of a young unemployed man triggered the protests in Tunisia, which then led to the overthrow of President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali last week.
Tunisian Muhammad Bouazizi couldn’t find a job after college so he decided to start selling vegetables on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, but his unlicensed cart was confiscated by officials slapped and insulted him. On 17 December, the 26-year-old stood in the town’s main square, doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire. When he died of his injuries on 4 January, protests over his treatment had spread throughout Tunisia.
His move has since then been mimicked by several people all over the Arab world.
On Tuesday, a 25-year-old unemployed Egyptian died after setting himself on fire in the port city of Alexandria, and three other people survived setting themselves on fire on the streets of the capital, Cairo.
On Saturday a Mauritanian man set himself on fire and also died in the hospital.
Some acts of self-immolation have also been reported in Algeria.
But the incident in Samitah was the first reported in Saudi Arabia. And although officials said the motive was not yet known, the Sabq.org website said the dead man was angered by how difficult it was to gain Saudi nationality.
“Get out, get out, Ali. Join your friend Ben Ali,” chanted thousands of people in neighbouring Yemen. They took part in a demonstration in the country’s capital, Sanaa, demanding the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
According to one of its organisers, Islamist MP and teachers’ union leader Fouad Dahaba, the rally represented only the beginning. He added that the “coming days will witness an escalation”.
In the past, Yemen’s government has shown little tolerance for dissent and Saturday’s protest was broken up by security forces who fired tear gas. A security official said that about 30 people were detained.
An opposition demonstration was also broken up by riot police in Algeria. Several hundred people protested in the capital, Algiers.
According to the authorities 19 people were injured, but activists said it was more than 40.