Tunisia: Cigarette peddler burns himself to death over fine

Tunisia: Cigarette peddler burns himself to death over fine
2 min read
16 October, 2015
A 24-year-old Tunisian street vendor committed suicide on Tuesday by setting himself on fire in Sfax after police confiscated his wares
Khardani began selling cigarettes after his lost fingers in a work accident [Twitter]
A Tunisian cigarette peddler set himself ablaze on Tuesday outside a government building in Sfax, the Tunisian online daily al-Chourouk reported.

Seifeddine Khardani set fire to himself after local police refused to drop a hefty fine imposed on him.

His death is similar to the 2011 suicide of Mohammad Bouazizi.

Bouazizi's self-immolation incited demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country, becoming a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring.

     He felt humiliated and oppressed so he set himself on fire and let his body be engulfed in flames
- Mohammad Khardani
Khardani, originally from the central province of Kairouan, left his impoverished hometown in search of job opportunities and a better life in Sfax.

"He used to work as a carpenter in a workshop in Sfax but he had a bad accident and lost several fingers so he had to become a street peddler to make ends meet," Khardani's cousin Mohammad told al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic service.

Mohammad said: "Seifeddine was a kind shy guy, he has been providing for his elderly mother and his three sisters by selling cigarettes after his father died. "

"Contrary to what the media has said Seifeddine didn't have a degree, he didn't finish primary school. Where he's from there aren't any jobs they don't even have paved roads," he added.

Mohammad said the day before his cousin committed suicide he borrowed money from his friends and headed to the south with a group of street vendors to procure cheap smuggled cigarettes to sell.

On the way back, the group was stopped by police. All fled the scene except for Khardani, who thought he could bargain with the police.

"Unfortunately, the police confiscated the goods and fined him the equivalent of $3,500. Seifeddine was extremely angry that the police thought all of the cigarettes belonged to him," Mohammad said.

"The day he killed himself he went to the local authorities to explain that all of the cigarettes weren't his and that he couldn't pay the fine, but he was blocked by the guards," he added.

"Seifeddine felt as if the world had turned black. He felt humiliated and oppressed so he set himself on fire and let his body be engulfed in flames," Khardani's cousin added.

Sfax police chief Abd al-Majid Kharroubi told al-Araby's Arabic service the claims Khardani had asked to meet with local official was false.