A 20-year old Gazan man killed himself in a public act of protest Sunday, dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself on fire. The family of Ihab Abu Nada said that he was frustrated at being unable to find a job, and decided to take his life to protest the conditions in Gaza, where he and other young people feel that they have no future.
Ihab’s father told reporters that the young man had left home that morning after telling his mother that he was going to find work. But he had been frustrated on many previous unsuccessful attempts to find a job, and apparently was pushed over the edge on Sunday and decided to commit a public act of suicide.
This marks the first such self immolation protest in Gaza, although local human rights groups say that dozens of Palestinian residents of Gaza have been pushed to commit suicide due to the dire economic situation.
In other Arab countries, self-immolations have sparked mass protests, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010, when young street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after the government destroyed his vegetable stall, his only source of livelihood.
Although an Israeli-imposed siege was partially eased in 2010, hundreds of materials and products are still banned, and exports from the Gaza Strip are severely restricted by the Israeli occupation authorities. The siege has destroyed Gazan industry and export agriculture, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who once worked inside Israel were forced into long-term unemployment.
The Abu Nada family lives in a refugee camp near the Gaza beach, and Ihab’s father told a radio station in Gaza, sobbing, that his heart was broken because of his son’s suicide. He said that the family was suffering, like so many other families in Gaza, in severe poverty. He added that after paying bills, the family had just fifty dollars a month to spend on food and essentials.
Rami Saleh, 23, told a CBC reporter, ‘[w]hen a young man burns himself because of his suffering and poverty … it means we have ticking bombs needing to be defused”.
A recent report by the United Nations stated that, if present conditions are allowed to continue without a lifting of the naval, air and land blockade, Gaza will be unlivable by the year 2020.