Rabat – Saying he was “sick of racism,” a 38-year-old-man set himself on fire in the town of Kortrijk, in Belgium on Tuesday.
Ahead of the incident, the man, identified on social media as Chafik Hanchi, posted a video online. In it he declared his intent and said he was “sick of racism.”
According to Russian-owned RT Television, on Tuesday, he left the town’s courthouse and returned some time later carrying a gasoline canister. Stopping in a square just 15 metres from the courthouse entrance, the video shows him pouring gasoline and setting it alight.
He then pours more on to his jacket and lights that. Seconds later he is seen rushing toward fire fighters and paramedics who were already on scene. He was taken to hospital with severe burns to 35 percent of his body.
Police are investigating possible motives for what they are calling an “act of desperation.”
According to Jamal Qnioun, head of People Help People organization and member of the Council for International Coexistence in Kortrijk, Hanchi sent him a video prior to the incident, threatening self-immolation. He also sent him a number of text messages where he talked about being “sick of racism” and that he felt he could no longer go on living.
Hanchi had been suffering immense personal street brought about by the recent lost of his father. He was also experiencing financial trouble. He had, at one time, operated a hair salon in the town but was forced to shut down after inspectors discovered an undocumented employee working there. According to Qnioun, Hanchi paid the fine and re-opened a new salon on the same street, only to face another inspection just days later.
Another video, posted on a separate Facebook account, shows Hanchi complaining about trouble he was having with the national security office.
Again, he said he was “tired of racism.” Qnioun expressed concern on social media after the event over what he calls the “harsh conditions” faced by immigrants in Kortrijk.