Five men set themselves on fire in the capital city of Morocco, Rabat, in protest at the lack of employment in the country, especially for university graduates.
ArabNews reports that the men were part of a group called 'Unemployed Graduates' and that the incident, which took place on Jan 18, was part of a wider protest with demonstrations taking place across the country. Of the five men, three were taken to hospital, two of whom had second-degree burns; the other two men had their clothing burnt but did not suffer injuries.
InDepthAfrica said that the men had been part of a group of 160 men who had been occupying a building in the Ministry of Education for the past two weeks. Friends and family had been bringing them food and other supplies but two days ago, security forces stopped them. The five men then went outside to get food . When the security forces approached them they set themselves on fire.
Unemployment in Morocco is not as high as in, for example, its near neighbour Spain, currently running at just over nine percent of the population but this figure nearly doubles for newly graduated students. The protesters were trying to make their point, first with the sit-in and then with this rather drastic measure.
The Arab language Moroccan newspaper Goud, reports in Arabic that the men poured petrol on themselves before setting it alight as the security forces approached them. They had at first told the security forces that the liquid was water. The two seriously injured men have been transferred to a hospital in Casablanca.
Since the start of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, self-immolation has become a fairly common form of protest. The first person to do it was Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia who set himself on fire to protest at having his goods confiscated and the harassment he suffered at the hands of the Tunisian authorities. He has been held up by his supporters as a hero and the catalyst for the whole Arab Spring movement.