01/17/2011, 00.00
EGYPT - MIDDLE EAST
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A man sets himself on fire in Cairo. From Tunisia protest spreads to the Middle East

Protests in Jordan. Applause for Tunisian cause from thousands of activists and bloggers. Economic crisis, unemployment, rising prices, human rights violations are the ingredients that could trigger riots across the region.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A man set himself on fire this morning in the Egyptian capital to protest against his misery. The gesture is reminiscent of the Tunisian student Mohamed Bouaziz, whose sacrifice sparked protests from the population of Tunisia and led to the flight of the dictator President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, welcomed by the Saudi regime.

The Egyptian, whose name is unknown, doused himself in gasoline outside parliament in Cairo and set himself on fire. The police put out the flames and the man - with obvious burns - was taken to hospital. His condition is not known.

The economic crisis, unemployment, rising prices, human rights violations are the causes of riots in Tunisia. The same problems are felt throughout the Middle East, and some analysts wonder if what has happened in Tunisia is a spark that could ignite the entire region.

Three days ago, while Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, at least 5 thousand people demonstrated against high prices and unemployment, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai. There were demonstrations in Amman, Irbid, Karak, Salt and Maan, but there were no scenes of violence and clashes, as in Tunisia.

Last week, King Abdullah II lowered prices and taxes on gasoline and food. For 2011, the government also allocated 168 million euro to provide free bread for at least 7 million poor people. The funds should be used to reduce the price of fuel and to create new jobs, but protesters say that the measures are insufficient to counter inflation.

According to the FAO (Food and agricultural Organization) world food prices of products rose by 25% in 2010 compared to 2009.

The end of the Tunisian dictatorship – the result of economic problems and violations of human rights - is becoming a source of inspiration and enthusiasm for many in the Middle East. Thousands of messages applauding the Tunisian people have appeared on websites and blogs, with the hope that the same will happens in their own respective countries. Egyptian activists demonstrated in front of the Tunisian embassy, shouting: "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him too". Protesters in Jordan used the slogan: "Tunisia has taught us a lesson."

Analysts such as the Daily Star’s Rami Khoury note that Tunisia is "the first example in the past generation of an Arab leader and his system being overthrown by popular action".

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