How a Single Match Can Ignite a Revolution





WHAT drives an ordinary man to burn himself to death?

That question has echoed across the Arab world and beyond in the weeks since an unemployed Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, doused himself with paint thinner and lit a match on Dec. 17. His desperate act set off street clashes that ultimately toppled the country’s autocratic ruler, and inspired nearly a dozen other men to set themselves on fire in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania....

Yet burning oneself as political protest is not new. Many Americans remember the gruesome images of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon during the Vietnam War in 1963, his body eerily still and composed amid the flames. Many other monks followed his example as the war intensified. In Europe, Jan Palach, a 20-year-old Czech who burned himself to death in Prague in 1969 a few months after the Soviet invasion of his country, is remembered as a martyr of the struggle against Communism. Less well-known protesters have died in flames in Tibet, India, Turkey and elsewhere. In China, Buddhists have set themselves alight for at least 1,600 years....



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