A 27-year-old Moroccan who set himself on fire to protest his unemployment died from his burns Tuesday in a Casablanca hospital, his wife says.
Abdelwahab Zaydoun was part of a group of unemployed graduates who occupied an Education Ministry building in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, to protest their unemployment and threatened to set themselves fire when police didn't let supporters deliver them food.
"I saw him in the morgue, he is dead and I accuse the makhzen of killing him," Amina Naddam, 25, told The Associated Press by telephone from the hospital, referring to the ruling elite that many say controls the kingdom.
Once rare, self-immolation has become a tactic of protest across North Africa ever since a vegetable seller in Tunisia set himself on fire in December 2010, setting off 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 only 9.1 percent, it rises to around 16 percent 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 U.N.'s human development index, but still hosts international stars for concerts and has built a huge new mall with luxury stores near Casablanca.
Zaydoun, who had a master's degree in law, was from the southern coastal 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. Zaydoun was seen running to the bread, throwing it back to the building before being beaten by police. When a colleague burst into flames, he ran over to help, only to catch fire himself.
The state news agency confirmed his death, saying he had third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body. The other activist in the hospital had burns across his face and hands but was in good condition.
Security at the hospital was heavy, according to activist Abdallah Kacimi.
"It is surrounded as though they are preparing for a war," he said.