Rebellions are shaking the Arab world
Written by Editor
Tuesday, 22 February 2011 02:31
The rebellions against dictatorships spread throughout the Maghreb and threaten to disrupt in Iran and Iraq.
Leaders fell back on habitual, ineffective formulas trying all kinds of measures, from economic concessions to the most brutal repression without being able to prevent the protests from spreading throughout the Arab world, a process that many compare with the fall of the Stalinist dictatorships in Eastern Europe in the early 90, for its fast and popular force.
The unrest has been inspired partly by grievances unique to each country; each protest was inspired by a distinctive set of national circumstances and issues — dire poverty and lack of jobs mainly for the youth, dictatorial governments, corruption, the suppression of the most basic democratic freedoms, all aggravated by the global food and economic crises. But many shared a new confidence, bred in Egypt and Tunisia, that a new generation could challenge unresponsive authoritarian rule in ways their parents thought impossible.
Several Middle Eastern countries were hit by demonstrations last Wednesday, February, 16th, with tens of thousands of people protesting against the monarchy in Bahrain, street battles in Yemen for the sixth consecutive day, strikes demanding economic improvements and labor rights spreading up by Egypt and Iran, new outbreaks occurred during the funeral of Saane Zhaleh, an Art student, killed in the protests of Monday, February, 14th, the largest protest since the demonstrations against election fraud in that country a year ago.
Are Libyan rulers the next to fall?
The protests also hit the even heavily policed Libya, where pockets of dissent emerged in the main square of Benghazi, with people calling for an end to the 41-year rule of fierce Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s dictatorship. Libya is the most prosperous country in North Africa. The spark that caused the riots was Mr. Fethi Tarbela arrest by the police. Mr. Fethi Tarbela is a defense attorney of Libyan prisoners of conscience, and is accused of having “spread the rumor that the prison [of Abu Salim, where there are political prisoners] was burning”, according to the newspaper Quryna of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.
His arrest led about 2,000 people to the streets of Benghazi, the country opposition center, demanding an end to the regime and corruption. This manifestation combined with another, called for the next day by a group of young people through Facebook. The result was a battle with police, causing three deaths and 38 injured – mostly police officers attacked by demonstrators with clubs and Molotov grenades – according to the director of the hospital where they were treated.
Soon after, the demonstrations have multiplied in Benghazi, where a police station and the Revolutionary Committee, located in Alhowari were burnt. Clashes with police forces are intense and have been counted 50 dead. The demonstrations spread to other cities, as in Ajdabiyah, Yafran, Derna (where it counts 12 dead and 200 injured) and Albayda, where security forces are joining together the demonstrators, which are controlling the city through Vigilance Committees. The demonstrations have already reached Tripoli, the capital of the country.
Iraq, used to sectarian conflict, got a dose of something new: a fiery protest in the eastern city of Kut over unemployment, sporadic electricity and government corruption in addition to the resistance against imperialism and its puppet government. Security forces opened fire, killing at least three people, but the protesters fought back and set fire to the Government headquarter and to the Governor’s house. At least 27 people were injured.
In Yemen, a large number of police officers has been deployed to the country’s capital, Sana, to the port city of Aden and to Taiz, in an attempt to end the street battles. Students staged protests again at the Central University in the capital, demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, called his Bahraini counterpart, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, to commiserate about the region’s falling victim to “foreign agendas,” according to the state-run Saba news agency.
“There are schemes aimed at plunging the region into chaos and violence targeting the nation’s security and the stability of its countries,” the news agency quoted Mr. Saleh as telling the King.
The riot police repression in Bahrain has reached violence unparalleled levels
In Bahrain, tens of thousands of people, virtually all Shiites, poured into Pearl Square on Wednesday. They demanded changes in a system that they say has discriminated against them for decades on issues like housing, jobs and basic civil rights. Bahraini security forces, backed by dozens of armored vehicles have entered the Pearl Plaza, without notice, last night (February 17th), in Manama downtown, the capital of the emirate, and launched tear gas and rubber bullets against thousands of protesters, many of them women and children, gathered at the site to claim, among other things, equal treatment with respect to the ruling Sunni minority.
The Prime Minister Khalifa Bin Salman, uncle of the King, as head of government since the British left in 1971, has declared this morning, a state of emergency throughout the country in an attempt to quell the Shiite population uprising – about 70% of the 600 thousand inhabitants of Bahrain – which for four days have been demanding democratic reforms in the street. At least four protesters were killed and over 300 were injured in clashes with security forces, in addition to the two victims and about fifty wounded the previous day.
Hosni Mubarak’s regime fall opened a new stage in Middle East politics and the relationships of the rest of the world with this region. Just as the Egyptian movement was a continuation of the movement initiated earlier in Tunisia, the revolutionary wave continues to expand, with different forms and levels of depth in Africa and the Middle East, which could have strategic repercussion worldwide.