Palestinian man dies after setting himself alight
A Gaza man has died after setting himself alight, apparently in protest over his family’s dire living conditions.
Mohamed Abu Nada, 20, died on Sunday from injuries sustained a few days earlier when he poured petrol over his body at the morgue of Gaza City’s Shifa hospital and set himself alight.
His father told reporters in Gaza that his son wanted to draw attention to the family’s poverty. “I asked my son to go and look for a job, because I don’t have a job and we don’t have any source for living,” said Abu Mohamed Abu Nada.
Father and son reportedly argued before the incident.
The family live in al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. Two-thirds of Gazan families became refugees in 1948 and they are generally among the poorest in Gaza.
“This case illustrates so tragically the wider sense of desperation which the blockade has engendered,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa. “The humanitarian situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly dire, with the prospects of a prosperous and dignified life dwindling with every day.”
Hamdi Shaqqura of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said the news of the young man’s suicide did not come as a shock. “It is not the first time. In the past there have been several suicides for the reason of economic hardship,” he said. “The ongoing chronic closure imposed on the Gaza Strip has had a devastating impact on all aspects of life.”
The situation was particularly hard for young people, said Shaqqura. “There are thousands and thousands of new graduates in the streets with no hope of finding a job, no hope of travelling abroad and no hope of building careers and lives.”
The unemployment rate in Gaza is 29%, and rises to 58% among young people aged between 20 and 24, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Eight out of 10 households are dependent on some kind of aid, and 39% of the 1.6-million-strong population live below the poverty line.
Overcrowding, lengthy and frequent power cuts, unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and inadequate medical care are features of daily life in Gaza for much of the population.
A UN report released last month forecast a rise in the population to 2.1 million by 2020. “The substantial population growth will thus add some 500,000 people to a living area which is restricted and already heavily urbanised,” said the report, Gaza in 2020 – A Liveable Place? “The challenges which confront the people of Gaza now will only intensify over the coming years.”
Israel enforced a tight blockade of Gaza for four years after Hamas took control of the area in June 2006, banning most imports, exports and the movement of people. Although it eased the blockade in 2010, there are still heavy restrictions on importing construction materials, exporting almost all goods and the issuing of permits to leave Gaza via Israel.
Suicide, which is forbidden under Islam, is rare in Gaza despite operations by suicide bombers during the second intifada.