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Sat 22 Jan 2011 05:47 PM

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Saudi man sets himself alight in poor border region

Self-immolation in Jizan province follows other such acts elsewhere in the region

Saudi man sets himself alight in poor border region
People shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunis against unemployment and poor living conditions. In Saudi Arabia, a man set himself on fire in an act that could have been inspired by similar burnings in the region (AFP/Getty Images)

A man in his sixties has died after setting fire to himself in Saudi Arabia’s underdeveloped Jizan province bordering Yemen, police said on Saturday, following other acts of self-immolation elsewhere in the region.

“He died yesterday [Friday] ... The reasons are unknown. We are still investigating,” said Abdullah al Qarni, police spokesman in Jizan near the Yemen border where diplomats say unemployment is higher than in the rest of the top oil exporter.

The daily al Riyadh said the man set himself alight using a petroleum product in his house and died later in hospital. It was not clear whether his act was inspired by several cases of selfimmolation in the region after protests erupted in Tunisia when a 26-year-old vegetable trader set himself on fire in December.

Tunisian President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia when he was ousted after weeks of protests against soaring prices, unemployment and government repression.

Despite its massive oil wealth, Saudi Arabia is grappling with unemployment that hit 10.5 percent in 2009, the latest published figure.

It offers its 18 million nationals social benefits but they are considered less generous than those provided by other Gulf Arab oil producers such as Kuwait and Qatar, which have much smaller native populations.

Many Saudis lack the qualifications to compete for jobs with foreign workers who make up about a third of the kingdom’s 28 million population. Others refuse to take low paid work of the sort done by foreigners, mostly from the Indian subcontinent.


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