Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egyptian, Tunisians, Yemenis on the street to demand change


 In the picture: Egyptian plainclothes policemen make an arrest. At least a thousand people are in custody after another day of protests, which took place in at least five Egyptian cities, but probably more (there were reports as well from rural areas like Fayoum). In Cairo the protests spread out throughout the city and lasted till midnight. Some burned tires in the streets. The police used water cannon, teargas, and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. In some places violent clashes were reported, whereby police and protesters pelted each other with stones. Two people were killed on Wednesday, one of them a policeman in Bulaq, an area of Cairo. The death toll now stands at six, the number of wounded is in the hundreds.

Al-Jazeera did a good job in putting events together.

In the city of Suez the situation went out off hand on Wednesday. Protesters burned down a government building and set fire to an office of the ruling party NDP. Police used live ammunition. Suez, a city which name has a certain connotation in Egypt as it is the place where a fight with the British took place in '52 that was one of the incidents that led to the 1952 revolution, has been cut off from the rest of the world. Also internet and phone lines seem to have been out of order. On Thursday the protests resumed, Al-Masry al-Youm reported, with protesters setting fire to a police station 
In Cairo the protests continued as ell. Several bridges over the Nile in Cairo were blocked and protesters were gathering in more than one place, like the preceding day. The stock exchange was closed after the index fell 6.5 %, after it was reopened it went down 10%.
Pprime minisyer Ahmed Nazif said on Wednesday that the government guarantees the freedom of expression, but only if executed by 'legitimate' means. Demonstrations are not legitimate under the state of emergency which is in vigour since 1981. The American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Egypt on Wednesday to permit demonstrations and not to block social media like Twitter and Facebook. She also said that it was time for Egypt to introduce changes.
Political parties are virtually absent in the protests. The Muslim Brotherjood as a movement, did nottake in the protests so far. This Friday, however, the Muslim Brotherhhood has promised that many of it followers will take part in the protests. Mohammed ElBaradei, the leader of the Movement for Change, returned to Egypt on Thursday from Viennna where he lives, and will also take part. Baradei said that he is ready to lead a government of transition, but but it is not at all clear whether he is going to play an important role in the events to come. Friday will, at any rate, probably be the day of the final showdown between the street and the government. Egyptians are called to go out massively unto the streets after the Friday prayers.

Crowds of several thousands of people were out in the streets of the Yemeni capital Sana'a on Thursday, demanding that president Ali Abdallah Saleh, who rules the country since 1978, step down. There have been smaller protest in the past days in Sana'a. On Saturday  Tawakul Karman, a woman activist (here in the middle of the picture) was arrested which led to more demonstrations the day after. She was released on Monday. Thursday's protest, however, is much bigger than the preceding ones, it is clearly inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt.
Unrest in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been endemic for quite some time. The north has, led by the Shiite Houthi clan, for years been fighting a war against the central government, which was brought to a halt  with a cease fire in February 2010. The situation is still very tense, though. The south, which, like the north, feels it is under represented in the government and neglected by the central government (a feeling it harbors ever since the two countries North and South Yemen united in the 90 ties), has also been the scene of  popular unrest since at least a year, with numerous mass demonstrations and even local rebellions against the regime.     

 In Tunis several hundreds of protesters were still camping in front of the prime minister's office on Thursday, demanding that the ministers in the government with ties to the former ruling party RCD step down. It was the fourth night of the protsters in front of the building. The UGTT, the trade union which played a big role in the protests that led to the departure of former president Zine al Abedin Ben Ali, has called for a general strike to be held this Thursday. Also there will be a big manifestation in Sidi Bouzid, the place were the revolt began. In the meantime Ahmed Mestiri, a former Justice minister from the era of president Bourguiba, is still trying to have a 'revolutionary council'  installed, that can oversee the transition government and partially take its place. The governement itself on Wednesday issued an international arrest warrant against Ben Ali.

No comments: