Teen sets self on fire in France

Member of Pirate Party given position in Tunisian government

In a sign that an "electrified" Arab world has been inspired by the events in Tunisia to rise up against their governments, opposition leaders in Egypt have called for an open revolt in the country on January 25.

The US branch of the National Association for Change, an umbrella group of activists led by former IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei, issued a statement on Tuesday "urging all Egyptians to take to the streets on January 25th to protest the deteriorating conditions caused by the dictatorial Mubarak regime."

The message places El-Baradei -- a prominent figure in the international community since his role in Iraqi weapons inspections in 2002 and 2003 -- in virtually direct conflict with President Hosni Mubarak, who is generally considered an ally of Washington and whose government receives billions in US aid yearly.

The call for a revolt comes as several Egyptians set themselves on fire in protest this week, apparently inspired by the Tunisian uprising last week that started the same way.

A man set himself ablaze on Tuesday in Cairo and another in Alexandria, Egyptian officials said. The incidents follow a similar one in Cairo on Monday in which a man poured fuel on himself and set himself on fire on a busy street in front of the People's Assembly (see video below).

In its statement, the Association for Change said it hopes "to capitalize on the overwhelming sense of hope and optimism filling the Egyptian street. The plan is to continue the protests until the regime takes material steps towards democratization which is Egypt’s only way out of the dire situation it is currently facing."

That "sense of hope and optimism" was also detected by New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, who told Democracy Now! that the revolt in Tunisia "has electrified people across the Arab world ... mainly for that prospect of change, that change can actually occur in a lot of countries that seem almost ossified at this point."

Speaking from Lebanon, Shadid warned that the revolts could turn ugly.

"Everyone is pretty much bracing for a few grim weeks, even months, ahead," Shadid said. "What makes it so combustible is that it cuts across questions of sect, of ideology, of the conflict with Israel."

In Jordan earlier this week, Twitterers showed a surprising amount of nerve when they openly criticized Queen Rania over her Tweet that she was "watching developments in Tunisia and praying for stability and calm for its people."

Responses included "lol Jordan is next!" and "start palace hunting in Jedda [Saudi Arabia, where Tunisia's ruler Zine Abidine Ben Ali fled]." The LA Times described the Tweets as "ominous."

The protests have also spread to Algeria, where a father-of-six became the fifth Algerian to turn himself into a human fireball this week, in a replica of the immolation protest that triggered the events in Tunisia, according to local reports.

The unemployed 36-year-old soaked himself in petrol before setting light to himself outside a departmental assembly in the El Oued region, after demanding a job and housing, the Arabic language El Khabar daily said.

The president of the assembly, which is close to the border with Tunisia, managed to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, the paper added.

Four other Algerians have carried out similar protests since January 12.

They were all following the example set by 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi who died after setting himself ablaze at a protest in Tunisia in mid-December. His death sparked an uprising and led to Tunisian President Ben Ali fleeing the country after 23 years in power.


A 16-year-old French boy was rushed to hospital Tuesday in a critical condition after setting himself on fire at his school, officials in Marseille said.

The boy doused himself in a flammable liquid in the toilets of his private school in the southern city and then set himself alight, rescue service officials said.

He has second and third degrees burns over 70 percent of his body, they said. Hospital officials said the boy was in a critical condition.

It's may be a sign that the revolt in Tunisia and brewing unrest across the Arab world may also be part of a "youth uprising" that trends analyst Gerald Celente said last week would come to fruition in 2011.

Young people from industrial societies around the world will unite on the Internet to overthrow increasingly ineffective elements of globalism that have driven their economies into depression, Celente said.

"[The Internet is] exposing the corruptness, the ineptitude and the double dealing going on that [governments] don't want the public to know about," he told RT. "The more freedom of information that goes out, they're going to start using cyber war and the war on terror to take that Internet freedom away from America."

"But in 2011, the game's gonna run out," Celente added. "...On one end, it's a wake-up call and on the other hand it's [an effort to] screw the people."


Many observers have commented that the Tunisian revolt could not have happened without the aid of such new-media phenomena as WikiLeaks and Twitter. Adding to that perception is the news that a formerly imprisoned member of the Pirate Party has been given a seat in the newly-formed Tunisian unity government.

The Pirate Party, which has been opening up branches across the world, is seen as the scourge of governmental efforts to reign in illegal downloading of online content. Ars Technica reported Tuesday:

From imprisoned Pirate Party member to government leader, it's been an eventful week for Tunisian blogger and software developer Slim Amamou. Arrested by security forces a week ago, Amamou emerged from jail a few days later only to watch as president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country and the new "unity" government asked Amamou to join.

Amamou is a well-known digital activist in Tunisia; his Twitter account outlines in brief his positions: "Against censorship, against IPR, for net neutrality." He's a member of the Pirate Party of Tunisia and head of a small software company called Alixsys that develops Web apps for pharmaceutical companies and online startups.

He was arrested a week ago, as Tunisian demonstrations against the Ben Ali regime reached a peak; security forces apparently wanted to know about any involvement Amamou had with a series of denial of service attacks on Tunisian government websites.

On January 13, Amamou was released. He commemorated the moment with the briefest of tweets: "Je suis libre." In response to a question, he said that he "was not physically tortured (or very little). Only psychologically."

-- With reports from AFP and an earlier report by Stephen C. Webster

The following video shows an Egyptian man setting himself on fire outside the country's parliament on Monday, January 17, 2011.