Desperate woman self-immolates in a Tory-run council office. Where is the outrage?

Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Tunisia in December 2010, sparking a series of revolutions in Arab countries. British people were outraged by the event at the time. But what happened when a British woman set herself alight in a British government office? Nothing.

When Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in Tunisia in December 2010, he became the catalyst of the Arab Spring – a series of revolutions against oppressive regimes in the Arab world.

The street vendor was driven to self-immolation by the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides.

The event was well-reported, supported by photographs of the event, and sparked such outrage among Tunisians that protests began within hours, building in frequency and intensity over the weeks that followed and becoming widespread after Mr Bouazizi’s death on January 4, 2011 – to the point at which President Ben Ali fled the country, ending 23 years of his rule.

Last Wednesday – four days ago – a woman set fire to herself in a housing office run by Conservative-held Barnet Council. It went unreported by the press and there have been no protests. Why?

On June 11, 1963, a Buddhist monk named Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection, in protest at South Vietnam’s persecution of Buddhists.

Again, there was photographic evidence.

Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire in Saigon in June, 1963. His protest was against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnamese president Ngô Đình Diệm, who was deposed by that country’s army and assassinated that November.

US President John F Kennedy, who had been a supporter of Ngô Đình Diệm, saw the photograph when he was passed the morning newspapers while on the phone to his brother Robert. He reportedly interrupted their conversation about segregation in Alabama by exclaiming “Jesus Christ!” And he later remarked that “no news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one”.

There is no photograph of the woman who self-immolated in Barnet Council’s housing office. If there had been, would the newspapers have reported it? Or would they have hushed it up?

Fortunately, we have the following report from Skwawkbox, otherwise we would know nothing about it:

The parent of an eyewitness described the incident:
“My daughter took her mother to an appointment at Barnet Council ( Tory) housing office yesterday afternoon. They were being interviewed in a side room when they heard a commotion. Someone came and told them to leave the building.

“When they left the room they saw flames on front of them in the waiting room. A woman had set fire to herself. Everybody was just turfed out after witnessing this terrible ordeal. She said that those outside were in severe shock but left to their own devices.

“There hasn’t been a word about this in the news or local news. This is Tory Britain . How often is this happening and going unreported? My daughter was still very upset and had to spend the night with her mum.”

Visit Skwawkbox to see video of emergency vehicles outside Barnet House.

When the site’s writer, Steve Walker, contacted police for information, he was told there had been no inquiries about the incident from anybody in the local press.

Eventually, he received the following information: “Police were called by the London Ambulance Service to Barnet House, High Road N20 at around 15:44hrs on Wednesday, 15 August after reports of a female suffering from burns injuries.

“Officers attended with LAS and the London Fire Brigade.

“A female, aged in her 50s, was taken to a London hospital before being transferred to a specialist burns unit in Essex.

“She remains in a critical but stable condition.”

When people set fire to themselves in other countries, the incidents were well-documented by the press, and the governments against which they were protesting fell soon afterwards.

But here in the UK – an allegedly-civilised country – a woman pushed into desperation by government persecution (why else would she do it in a Tory housing office?) can set herself on fire and suffer injuries that put her health in critical condition…

… and nobody bats an eyelid.

Is it really because we haven’t seen a photograph of her burning body?

Are we all really so shallow – so insensitive – that we need to see the horror before we can react to it?

Fortunately, now that Skwawkbox has published its report, word is getting out and people are starting to respond – and they are angry at the lack of response from the press.

It is possible that the local – and national – news media did not know about the incident because it had not been reported to them by any member of the public. But the emergency services have a duty to report major incidents and it is alarming that they did not.

People in positions of power must now account for themselves.

And we need to know, not only who the casualty is, but why she did what she did. Does she have relatives? Friends? What do they have to say about this?

If anybody in Barnet, who has information, is reading this, get in touch.

ADDITIONAL: It turns out the story was reported, by the Times series of newspapers in the area. The manner of the report is – well, see for yourself.

Nye Bevan News also has a piece, but it’s the comments by the relative of an eyewitness, as quoted above, along with a plea for the facts to be brought to public attention.

At the time of writing, I published this article about an hour ago and it has been read nearly more than 6,000 times. We’re getting there.

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13 thoughts on “Desperate woman self-immolates in a Tory-run council office. Where is the outrage?

  1. Zippi

    I used to live in Finchley, which is in the £ondon Borough Of Barnet. I no longer live, because of the psychological torment that was exacted upon me by my landlord. I reported him for numerous transgressions and my complaints seemed to fall on deaf ears. The council was as good as useless. After suffering some kind of breakdown, I was forced to leave the property and my possessions, whilst still obliged to pay rent and receiving no assistance, legal, or otherwise. Is it any wonder why my mind snapped. Were it not for good friends, I’d probably be in the ground. I’m now “squatting” at my mother’s, which means that I’m still living out of a suitcase. My things are in storage, or with friends, in various parts of the country as far afield as Glasgow and I’m not yet in a position whereby I can move back to £ondon.
    I’ve overheard conversations, people being told that you’re not a priority; that fact that they could lose their job, because of their housing situation, or the fact that, because they have a job, they are not a priority. I watched as another friend, who offered me sanctuary, lost her home of the last 40 years, when the estate was sold to developers for £1 and has been turned into luxury apartments; the residents were told that they would be offered like-for-like but the reality was that the new apartments were MUCH smaller and incredibly expensive. How could the residents afford? I don’t know where my friend has move to, I don’t think that it’s as far as I had to but I’ve lost her number.
    There is building all over Barnet but who can afford it? It’s all “luxury apartments.” It is becoming like New York, where, allegedly, the only people who can get a mortgage are the people who own property. Rents are ridiculous. I was paying £500 a month for a room in a flat with my own furniture, my own white goods; washing machine, fridge-freezer etc. and I had bills on top. We had mice and cockroaches and a clueless landlord. How is it that anybody who can afford a property is allowed to be a landlord? Why is there no compulsion to be registered, a member of the £andlord’s Association? Why are people who are interested only in money and not housing people, allowed to be landlords? These are people’s lives!
    I was lucky. How many people, like this woman, are less so?

      1. Tony Dean

        Mike some interesting comments nor under the article one wondering why no update by the newspaper.

  2. Francis Daniel

    You have no idea why she did it. Do not speculate and call it reporting, or you are as guilty of misrepresentation as the right- wing tabloids.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s a reasonable guess. People don’t set themselves on fire unless they are at the uttermost end of desperation. Think about it.

  3. nmac064

    What an appallingly tragic and sad story. I had seen or heard nothing whatever in the media. It makes me angry that this terrible incident has gone unreported.

  4. Karen Voncripps

    I am trying to find her as well. I have a friend who knows someone who works there and they got some information for me. She had 80% burns and was air lifted to hospital. Surely that has left a trail. I tried calling hospitals but they wont give anyone details. Barnet offices is clamping down on information on this. Trying to cover it up.

  5. Dan

    I would be very, very surprised if Barnet Council’s housing office isn’t fitted with wall-to-wall CCTV coverage. Shame the police didn’t seize the footage right away, it’s bound to have been wiped by now.

  6. Athena

    A story very short on facts and very big on Tory-bashing. However well deserved, this is cynical. Despite your “outrage” you couldn’t even find out the woman’s name or anything about the circumstances. We don’t even know if she set herself on fire deliberately or accidentally, or if another person was involved etc. etc. The association of this unfortunate incident with well-documented political protests is, frankly, distasteful and disrespectful. This woman’s tragedy is not yours to make click-bait and “hits” from, shame on you.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Wow. And this – anonymous, I hope you notice, folks – commenter calls me cynical!
      Must be a Conservative.
      The reason the woman’s name and the circumstances are not known is simple: They are being kept from us.
      It would be disrespectful not to associate this incident with well-documented political protests, as people do not set themselves on fire in government offices for the fun of it.
      It is a tragedy – and you have no right to try to marginalise it in the name of your own political affiliation.
      Now crawl back under your rock.

  7. Fred Hunt

    Using the death of a clearly troubled woman to further your own political leanings… you should be utterly ashamed of your self. I’m all for Tory bashing when it’s due, but this poor soul’s body is yet to buried and you’re on a soap box fishing for shares, donations and clicks. This is not the left, this is just shameful self promotion.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      She hasn’t died, as far as I know, although it is hard to be sure due to news media disinterest.
      I think we can all conclude that this comment is politically-motivated. There’s not an ounce of concern for the lady involved, otherwise you would know she was still alive after the incident.
      You just wanted to try to shut down someone who was making your government’s policies look bad.
      Shame on YOU. I wonder if you were offered money to do this.

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