Self-immolation is a unique phenomenon that started spreading last year like a disease in Maghreb and Arab countries.
It can be argued that suicide is an old practice, but under current circumstances, the following aspects make it unique: its form and style; its motives and reasons; the position of society (the people, the media, politicians, religious scholars…) towards it; the pattern of its expansion; and most importantly, its results and implications.
People no longer commit suicide in their rooms; instead they turn the event into a show for the public to witness their decision. Self-immolation to death has become the only adopted method of suicide, as the victim turns into an inflamed mass moving amidst a panic-stricken crowd.
In the past, and even in modern times, suicide was associated with personal reasons that are mostly emotional, like failure in love or marriage, or despair due to illness or unhappiness…
Psychologists and sociologists have long discussed this phenomenon.
Recent suicide attempts in the Maghreb result from the youth’s frustration towards the social and economic conditions of their entire generation, and are considered an act of protest against marginalisation, exclusion, and the lack of opportunities and future perspectives. All these are social factors that are far from being individual emotional reasons.
Therefore, the position of the various components of society towards people who commit suicide has changed. Society no longer considers suicidal people as idiotic and fragile with weak faith, but rather as heroes evoking wide popular sympathy. Politicians now fear this phenomenon, and religious scholars dare not expiate it to avoid going against the popular tide.
The increasing suicide attempts, their accelerated proliferation in Maghreb and Mashreq countries, and the entailing movements of popular anger, turned, with the help of freedom advocates, calls for democracy into revolutions that toppled the ruling regimes in several countries.
All these factors made suicide attempts a threat to any government, and a spark that worsens the general situation in any country. Therefore, Maghreb governments are called to make employment their top priority, and develop the needed mechanisms for that purpose. Jobless people are in dire need of work, food and dignity, before democracy, public freedoms, media, education and the independence of the judiciary, among other issues that do not interest impoverished, marginalized citizens, despite their importance in building the state after the removal of dictatorships.
Maghreb economies are going through a critical stage that is further worsened by the global crisis, and the decline of tourism and foreign investment due to the security situation. However, the governments must create new employment channels by encouraging the service sector, small trades and private companies; reducing working hours and lowering the retirement age to hire more people; and discussing agreements with neighbouring and friendly countries to export labor…
Moreover, governments should be flexible and understanding; avoid severe speeches that cause frustration and revolt; and contain young people in terms of culture and the media, and listen to their concerns in order to reduce their feeling of marginalization and ward off anything causing chaos, threatening public security or undermining the initial goals of the revolutions.
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