Three years after setting himself on fire in front of the Crous in Lyon, Anas Kournif says he resumed “normal life” as a young student activist despite very serious consequences.
Clad in black clothing that camouflages his scar-covered body and equipped with a futuristic prosthetic in his right hand, the 25-year-old drinks a Perrier puck in a Lyon guinguette after a demonstration marking the October 18 inter-industry strike day was organized.
“It’s important to me that I always attend events like this,” he told AFP, raising his round glasses that keep slipping on his burned nose.
Anas has been very active in the socialist movement for his 15 years and remains, for some, a symbol of the hardship young students sometimes face.
On November 8, 2019 at 2:50 p.m., he decided to kill himself in a spectacular gesture.
“I went to get a jerry can at the next station, poured five liters of petrol into it, threw it over my head and lit the fire with some kind of lighter,” he lets out in a neutral tone to downplay his act, which makes him more than 75% left third degree burns.
Why? “Because nothing worked”: Burnout due to intensive union work parallel to his studies, financial difficulties combined with loss of scholarships due to failing three times in the second year of the license to practice medicine, according to “very” depressive behavior worsened he has an underactive thyroid…
“I was exhausted,” says the Franco-Moroccan, who was born in Saint-Étienne. He was looking for a “shock way of showing it” and “when you’re all alone you have two choices: assassinations or suicide attempts in public”.
He then wrote a “political testament” to highlight “the students’ problems” and “tell people to keep fighting” even when he “had decided to quit.”
“His gesture brought the topic of the precarious situation of the students into the public debate,” estimates Magalie, 22, his girlfriend since 2018, and insists on “the psychological stress associated with (their) living conditions”.
“College is survival for some students and Anas paid the price for it. He will have left this precariousness in his flesh for life and fortunately he is always there to talk about it,” adds the Lyon 2 sociology student.
– “Live my life” –
After being “rescued” by Kevin, “a guy from the construction site next door,” who grabbed a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, the pain from the burns followed, five months of induced coma, three months of uninterrupted care, all interrupted by Operations – between 30 and 45 according to his statements “maybe even more”, Anas hesitates.
He is leaving the rehabilitation center on April 30, 2021 to demonstrate on May 1st. “It had to be, it was way too symbolic. I did the +demonstration+, my feet hurt because I amputated a complete toe and three others partially amputated, but there was no problem,” he said.
Now an L3 student in Political Sciences at Lyon 2, his beliefs have not changed “except in relation to disability”, nuance the one who has become a scholarship holder again and is now on the Disabled Adults Allowance (AAH).
“When we knew that he would come back, we quickly organized ourselves to help him find the best possible student life and to give him the best possible chance of success in his educational project,” says Nathalie Dompnier, President of the University of Lumière, who is committed refers to an adjustment of the annual examinations, courses adapted to their doctor’s appointments and the support of the use of the disabled.
“As a student, I live a normal life,” confirms Anas, despite the aftermath.
“People’s gaze can be a bit difficult. They’re not likely to sit next to me on the subway,” he says.
But “I didn’t let this thing get me down and if I got out of there, it’ll be to do something and live my life,” insists the one who’s headed for the post-master’s customs inspector competition and wants his own union and political to form a party.