x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Moroccan dies from his burns after being set alight during jobs protest

Abdelwahab Zaydoun was part of a group of unemployed graduates who occupied an education ministry building in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, last week to protest against their unemployment.

RABAT // A 27-year-old Moroccan who was set alight during a protest against his unemployment has died from his burns, his wife said.

Abdelwahab Zaydoun was part of a group of unemployed graduates who occupied an education ministry building in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, last week to protest against their unemployment.

The protesters threatened to set themselves on fire when police would not allow supporters to deliver them food.

"I saw him in the morgue, he is dead and I accuse the makhzen of killing him," his wife, Amina Naddam, 25, said on Tuesday, referring to the ruling elite that many have said controls the kingdom.

"I ask the human rights organisations for help in opening an investigation into whoever forbade the bread from going to the protesters," she added, weeping.

Self-immolation has become a tactic of protest across North Africa since a vegetable seller in Tunisia set himself on fire in December 2010, provoking an uprising that toppled the government.

The Moroccans were part of the "unemployed graduates" movement representing millions of university graduates demanding jobs. While Morocco's official unemployment rate is 9.1 per cent, it rises to about 16 per cent for graduates.

The North African kingdom of 32 million is home to the largest income inequalities in the Arab world.

It has 8.5 million people in poverty and ranks 130 out of 186 on the UN's human development index, but still hosts international stars for concerts and has built a new mall with luxury stores near Casablanca.

Mr Zaydoun, who had a master's degree in law, was from the town of Essaouira but moved to near Rabat to take part in the protests, his wife said.

After the activists had occupied the ministry building for two weeks, security surrounded them and prevented colleagues from bringing them food.

In a video last week, supporters threw bread over the heads of security while activists doused themselves with liquid and ran to get the bread. Mr Zaydoun was seen running to the bread, throwing it back to the building before being beaten by police. When a fellow protester burst into flames, he ran over to help, only to catch fire himself.