A Saudi man died after setting himself on fire in the southwestern town of Samta, local media said on Saturday, in what could be the latest example of a rash of self-immolations sweeping the region following events in Tunisia.
It would be oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s first such incident since an unemployed man set himself on fire in Tunisia last month protesting the economy and sparking riots which brought down the government.
Since that time there have been a wave of copycat immolations across the region, though with few fatalities.
Civil defence spokesman Capt. Yahia al-Qahtani said in a statement carried by Saudi newspapers that the man, in his sixties, set himself on fire on Friday and died in the hospital.
No name or motive was given.
Saudi Grand Mufti Sheik Abdel Aziz Al Sheikh on Thursday condemned suicide even in response to harsh living conditions.
In Egypt, a 25-year-old unemployed man died in a hospital on Tuesday after setting himself on fire in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, while three others in Cairo also attempted to set themselves on fire, but survived.
Protesters in Mauritania and Algeria have also set themselves alight in apparent attempts to copy Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, whose self-immolation helped inspire the protests that toppled Tunisia’s authoritarian president.
These incidents, though isolated, reflect the growing despair among much of the Arab public which has no real means of expressing its dissatisfaction. They are deeply symbolic means of protest in a region that has little or no tolerance for dissent.