Monday, February 28, 2011

Egypt's January 25 coalition opposes plan to hold elections already in June

 Left Alaa, right Gamal, the two sons of Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian prosecutor general has issued a travel ban for Mubarak, his wife, and his two sons and their families and has frozen their assets pending an investigation. (Photo Al-Masry al-Youm)

The army told one of Egypt’s main activist groups that it intends to hold parliamentary elections in June.
During a meeting last night with members of the January 25 coalition, a trio of generals said they want to follow the elections with a presidential poll two months later.
But the proposal was met with dismay by activists, who believe that such early elections will not give Egypt enough time to develop robust political parties without links to the old regime. Shady El-Ghazaly, of the liberal Democratic Front in the coalition, said: “If we have early elections it will probably mean just the Muslim Brotherhood and former NDP members getting into power.” Instead the coalition has proposed a 12-month interim government, with a “presidential council” of two lawyers or judges and one military figure ruling alongside a cabinet of technocrats.
The meeting was held at military headquarters in the east Cairo district of Abbassiya and lasted five hours The army also rejected calls for prime minister Ahmed Shafiq to immediately step down. Members of the 25 January coalition told the military that the best way to stem the tide of anger towards the government would be for Shafiq to resign. The generals did promise that he would eventueally go, but refused to give a timetable.
El-Ghazaly said activists “could not understand” the military’s position. They told the generals that Shafiq's departure would release a lot of tension and help slow down the protests.” The generals invited the coalition to direct talks with Shafiq, but the invitation was refused.
During the meeting the coalition also called for the resignation of five other cabinet ministers--Minister of Interior Lt. General Mahmoud Wagdy; Minister of the Justice Mamdouh Marei; Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Aboul Gheit; Minister of Trade and Industry Samir Youssef Ali El-Sayyad; and Minister of Petroleum Mahmoud Latif Amer.

Six killed in Oman, sultan Qaboos tries to appease the protesters

About 1,000 protesters in the sultanante of Oman blocked the entrance to the industrial area of the coastal town of Sohar in the sultanate of Oman on Monday, which includes a port, refinery and aluminium factory. Hundreds more were protesting at a main roundabout, angry after police opened fire on Sunday at stone-throwing protesters demanding political reforms, jobs and better pay. Protesters later burned the town's police station and two state offices.
"We have received a total of six deaths yesterday from the protests in Sohar," an emergency doctor at the state hospital in Sohar said. Witnesses had earlier put the death toll at two. Several said police had used rubber bullets but at least one witness said they fired live ammunition. The unrest in the northern port of Sohar, Oman's main industrial centre, was a rare outbreak of discontent in the sultanate.A supermarket was burning on Monday morning in the city after being looted.Sultan Qaboos bin Said, trying to ease tensions in U.S. ally Oman, reshuffled his cabinet on Saturday, a week after a small protest in the capital Muscat. Under pressure by the Sohar protests, the government pledged on Sunday to create 50,000 more government jobs and hand out unemployment benefits of $390 a month to job seekers.
Oman is a non-OPEC oil exporter which pumps around 850,000 barrels of oil per day. Sultan Qaboos deposed his father in a 1970 palace coup to end the country's isolation and use its oil revenue for modernisation. He exercises absolute power. Political parties are banned. The sultan appoints the cabinet. In 1992 he introduced an elected advisory Shura Council with 84 members. Protesters have demanded the body be given legislative powers. On Sunday, Qaboos ordered a ministerial committee to study increasing its authority.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tunisian prime minister Ghannouchi steps down after 3 got killed in two days of demonstrations

Mohammed Ghannouchi
Mohammed Ghannouchi on Sunday said that he steps down as Tunisia's prime minister to make place for somebody else to head the government. Ghannouchi's resignation, which he announced in a tv speech, came after two days of mass protests in the capital Tunis in which three people got killed.
The protesters had demanded Ghannouchi to resign because he had since 1999  been prime minister under former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was toppled on 14 January. According to the protesters he had been too much part of the old regime. 
"My resignation will provide a better atmosphere for the new era," Ghannouchi said in his tv speech, adding that he wanted to prevent more deaths.'My resignation is in the service of the country,' he said. And he repeated the government's pledge to hold elections to replace Ben Ali by July 15.
Ghannouchi's resignation came after two days of demonstrations which led to clashes and riots. Saturday  three people were killed, reportedly shot by police.Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas at the anti-government demonstration, and protesters responded by hurling stones, journalists from the AFP news agency said.
A statement from the interior ministry confirmed that three people had died 'from the dozen who were wounded during clashes'. The statement also said that "several members of the security forces were wounded.An interior ministry official, told the Reuters news agency that the deaths had occurred after a riot orchestrated by Ben Ali loyalists.
"Those who were arrested have admitted they were pushed by former Ben Ali officials," he said. "Others said they were paid to do it." The interior ministry statement said more than 100 people were arrested on Saturday and 88 people had been arrested on Friday.

Gaddafi holds on to Tripoli but lost two more cities

Inhabitants of Tripoli queue in front of a bank in order to receive the $ 400 that the government promised to hand out to every family.

Forces fighting to oust the Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi have seized the city of Zawiya, 50 km west of the capital, Tripoli, as well as the town of Misurata. . The Libyan government took journalists to Zawiya on Sunday morning. But instead of a show of government force, reporters saw opposition fighters manning the barricades in the city centre and flying their flag.  However, tanks were surrounding Zawiyah  50km from Tripoli, and locals feared an imminent raid by pro-Gaddafi  forces.
Tripoli still remains in the control of Col Gaddafi. Residents of the city said banks were open but bread and petrol remained tightly rationed as the opposition grip on large swathes of the nation disrupted the distribution of basic goods.

According fto diplomats up to 2,000 people may have been killed in the nearly two weeks of violence. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says about 100,000 migrants have fled to neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt in the past week.
The UN Security Council imposed a travel ban and a ban on the assets of Gaddafi's government and, with exceptional unanimity, ordered an investigation into possible crimes against humanity by the Libyan leader and his troops.
Meanwhile, Libya's former justice minister announced he was forming a "transitional government" to replace Gaddafi's crumbling regime, which now controls only some western areas around the capital and a few long-time bastions in the arid south.. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who is in teh city of Al-Baidha, said the new administration would include commanders of the regular army, many of who defected to the opposition, and would pave the way for free and fair elections in three months' time.
Other opponents of Gaddafi said they formed a new National Libyan Council after a meeting in Benghazi. Their spokesman described the council as the face of the revolution and not an interim government.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Egyptian army removes protest camp at Tahrir

 About 200.000 people have demonstated on Friday on Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo for the Egyptian interim-government to be completely replaced and not partially as has been the case. The military, who had thus far been impartial, for the first time came in action against the protesters, when they attacked several hundreds of people who were setting up camp to spend the night on the small patch of grass in the centre of the square. Around  2am military police attacked with an aim to end the sit-in. According to activists, the military used sticks to beat up the protestors. Some were wounded and others were detained, but were released afterwards.
Anger towards the military was spreaqding online following the attacks and a call has went out for another gathering at Tahrir on Saturday. The military posted an apology on its official Facebook page stating that harassments practiced against activists by military police was unintentional and that no orders were given to attack.

Gaddafi's forces keep on firing on protesters in Zawiyah and Misrata

 Gaddafi addressing the people

Libyan security forces and pro-government groups in the western city of Zawiyah have violently attacked anti-government protesters and Egyptian migrant workers, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.. Meanwhile the world powers struggle to find a way to stop Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi from lashing out at his people. US president Obama signed an order prohibiting transactions related to Libya and blocking property, the first major step to isolate Gaddafi. 'By any measure, Muammar Gaddafi's government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable," Obama said in a statement.
Diplomats at the United Nations said a vote on a draft resolution calling for an arms embargo on Libya as well as travel bans and asset freezes on its leaders might come on Saturday.
Tripoli's streets were eerily quiet overnight, with portraits of Gaddafi adorning street corners and a few police cars patrolling after a day in which residents said pro-Gaddafi forces fired at and over the heads of protesters in many areas. Up to 25 people were said to have been killed in one area alone.
"Peace is coming back to our country," one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, told reporters flown into Libya under close supervision. "If you hear fireworks don't mistake it for shooting," the 38-year-old London-educated younger Gaddafi said, smiling. He acknowledged pro-Gaddafi forces had "a problem" with Misrata, Libya's third largest city, and Zawiya, also in the west, where protesters had beaten back counter-attacks by the military but said the army was prepared to negotiate."Hopefully there will be no more bloodshed. By tomorrow we will solve this," he said on Friday evening.
At Tripoli's international airport, thousands of desperate migrant workers besieged the main gate trying to leave the country as police used batons and whips to keep them out. Thousands heve been feeeing the country to Tunisia in the West. International diplomats say some 2,000 or more people have been killed. The U.N. Security Council draft, drawn up by Britain and France, said the attacks on civilians in Libya may amount to crimes against humanity.

Four killed during protests in Aden

Protest in Aden
Four people died in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, after being shot during anti-government protests on Friday. At leadst 40 people were wounded.
All in all 16 people have now been killed in Aden since daily protests against th 32 year rule of president Ali Abdallah Saleh started on 27 January. Four more were killed in Sana'a and one in Taiz.  Unrest has been especially intense in the once-independent south, where many people resent rule from the north. Loyalists and opponents of the 68-year-old leader held rival demonstrations in the capital Sanaa after Friday prayers.
Anti-Saleh protesters shouted slogans which have echoed around the Arab world since the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia: "The people demand the downfall of the regime." Saleh supporters chanted slogans in suppport of the president.

Mass demonstration in Tunis demands Ghannouchi step down

The biggest demonstration in Tunis since Ben Ali left.

Tunis has seen the biggest demonstration since Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last month. Mohammed Ghannouchi's interim government has promised elections by mid-July, but crowds marching down Avenu Bourguiba, Tunis' main avenue, nevertheless chanted: "Ghannouchi leave." Ghannouchi had been ben Ali's prime minister since 1999.
Later in the evening police fired tear gas and warning shots as crowds tried to storm the interior ministry. Witnesses said one protester was injured when police fired warning shots at the crowd which according to some estimates was 100,000-strong. The Algerian newspaper Al Watan reported that on Saturday Avenue Bourguiba looked likea battlefield, with police cars torched, cafés plundered and trees and banks uprooted.
The Tunisian cabinet released a statement on Friday that the government "has decided that consultations with different political parties should not exceed mid-March and that elections will be organised at the latest in mid-July 2011".It also announced that it had seized the financial and real estate assets belonging to 110 members of Ben Ali's entourage following similar action on 46 other members, the Tunisian news agency TAP reported. It has already issued arrest warrants for Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gaddafi accuses protesters of siding with Al-Qaeda

Muammar Al-Gaddafi, 68, in his latest adress to the nationan, now accused residents of the town of Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, of siding with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "You in Zawiyah turn to Bin Laden," he said. "They give you drugs. It is obvious now that this issue is run by Al-Qaeda," he said, addressing the town's elders. "Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world. They have guns, they feel trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs."
Egyptian workers flee from Libya through the border post at Salloum

Gaddafi this time spoke by telephone to the tv from an undisclosed location in an intervention that lasted barely 20 minutes. His decision to speak by telephone rather than make an on-screen appearance has raised questions about his whereabouts, and indicates that his power base may be shrinking.
In Tripoli, the streets have been largely deserted in recent days but worshippers were expected to turn out at the mosques for the main weekly prayers on Friday. In Al-Zawiyah 23 people were killed and 44 wounded on Thursday when regime loyalists mounted a ferocious rearguard action against protesters in this key oil refinery town, Libya's Quryna paper reported. "The wounded cannot reach the hospitals because of shots being fired in all directions," said the paper, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, which is in the hands of the opposition, quoting its correspondent in Al-Zawiyah.
Heavy fighting was also reported in Libya's third city Misrata, to the west of capital. In Zewara, further west towards the Tunisian border, fleeing Egyptian workers said the town was in the control of civilian militias after fierce fighting on Wednesday evening.
Libya's second city of Benghazi, where the unprecedented protests against Gaddafi's four decade rule first erupted, was firmly in the hands of Gaddafi's opponents, an AFP correspondent said.

Leading an international outcry over a Libyan death toll now put at as high as 1,000, US President Barack Obama consulted the leaders of Britain, France and Italy on how to "immediately" respond to Gaddafi's brutal crackdown. Tens of thousands of foreigners are clamouring to flee the chaos in Libya as foreign governments lay on a mammoth evacuation operation, and the crisis has driven oil prices to two-year highs in a new threat to the global economy.
US officials said no option had been ruled out. Possible measures include an asset freeze for regime figures, travel and visa bans, investment and export restrictions or tough action at the UN Security Council.
But State Department spokesman Philip Crowley also stressed the extreme sensitivity of the situation.
"Whatever steps that we do take, we want them to be effective. And we certainly don't want to take any actions that put either our citizens or the citizens of other countries at risk," he said.
Western governments faced mounting domestic criticism for their failure to organise an evacuation operation more speedily as oil workers stranded in remote camps in Libya's vast desert spoke of their equipment and supplies being looted amid growing lawlessness.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gaddafi does not give up

This appearance on tv, clearly the appearance of a madman, may be Gaddafi´s last. Telling his countrymen that he is not going away but rather will die a martyr, that he has not ordered violence but that if he does everything will burn. And appealing to his followers to regain the streets, against the rioters who are inspired by islamists. While in the meantime the country is clearly falling apart and mercenaries and part of his troops are killing at random. What is worrying is the idea of the after-Gaddafi. These  troops that have been firing at their nown people are a problem in itself. And the question who will fill the vacuum once Gaddafi hs gone or has been killed is also a thrilling one. Libya is no Egypt or Tunisia with enough able people to fill in the gaps. The Jamahiriyya (or republic of the masses,  a Gaddafi neologism - formed from the words jamahir, mass,  and jumhouriya, republic) has been ruled for 41 years in the silly Gaddafi so called direct democracy style via ´popular committees´ and by Gaddafi´s secret services. It will be a complete surprise for everybody to see who, or what forces,  will step forward if the ´brother colonel´ is no longer around.   

But meanwhile the state is crumbling. Libyan diplomats across the world have either resigned or renounced Gaddafi's leadership.Late on Tuesday night, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, the interior minister, became the latest government official to stand down, saying that he was resigning to support the "February 17 revolution". He urged the Libyan army to join the people and their "legitimate demands".
On Wednesday, Youssef Sawani, a senior aide to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Muammer Gaddafi's sons, resigned from his post "to express dismay against violence", Reuters reported. Earlier, Mustapha Abdeljalil, the country's justice minister, had resigned. Diplomat's at Libya's mission to the United Nations called on the Libyan army to help remove "the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi". A group of army officers has also issued a statement urging soldiers to "join the people" and remove Gaddafi from power.
Parts of the country seem to be out of Gaddafi's control. Benghazi, the country's second largest city, was taken over by protesters after days of bloody clashes, and soldiers posted there are reported to have deserted and joined the anti-government forces. Local people in Benghazi seem to be forming committees to manage the affairs of the city. Several other cities in the country's east are said to be under the control of protesters, including Tobruk, where a former army major told the Reuters news agency: "All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi's control ... the people and the army are hand-in-hand here."
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights says that protesters also control Sirte, Misrata, Khoms, Tarhounah, Zenten, Al-Zawiya and Zouara. The Warfalla tribe, the largest in the country, has also joined calls from other tribes for Gaddafi to stand down.
In teh capital Tripoli the fights are still going on. Human Rights Watch said that witnesses in Tripoli have described Libyan forces firing "randomly" at protesters in the capital on February 22 and 21, 2011. While Human Rights Watch was unable to verify these reports, sources from two hospitals in Tripoli said at least 62 bodies, victims of clashes, had been brought into their morgues since February 20.
The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday expressed "grave concern" at the situation in the country, condemning the use of force against civilians.

Several Egyptian editors and head of press syndicate step down

Three prominent chairmen of Egyptian publications and one chief editor resigned on Tuesday, along with the head of the Press Syndicate himself, Makram Mohamed Ahmed.
Ahmed’s resignation was formally accepted today by the Press Syndicate Council. An emergency meeting on Saturday will be held to determine a temporary substitute, with the candidates currently under  consideration being Abdel Mohsen Salama and Salah Abdel Maqsoud.
Makram Mohammed Ahmed
Concurrently, Aly Hisham, the chairman of the historically most overtly Pro-Mubarak state-run newspaper, Al-Goumhoureyya, resigned along with the paper’s chief editor Mohamed Aly Ibrahim. Chairmen Abdel Kader Shaheeb of Al-Moussawar Magazine and Ismail Montaser of October also resigned. Meanwhile, Rose El-Youssef’s chief editor, Abdallah Kamal, insisted that he would continue in his work until his dismissal.
Three thousand protesters gathered on Tuesday in Tahrir Square to voice their anger that most of the January 25 Revolution demands have not been met. Standing in the middle of the square, protesters held a large banner listing six “demands” they claim have not been met since former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February. The demands include the dissolving of the Ahmed Shafiq government, cancellation of the country’s state security intelligence, lifting the state of emergency, creation of a presidential council made up of two civilians and one army officer and the immediate release of all political prisoners.
The new cabinet was installed yetsrday. Apart from prime minisyer Ahmed Shafiq also the following ministers from the previous cabinet stay in place: Samiha Fawzy as industry minister; Ahmed Abul Gheit as foreign minister; Mamdouh Marei as justice minister; and Mahmoud Wagdy as interior minister. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Libyan protest now also raging in capital Tripoli, airforce strafed protesters

Seif al-Islam Qadhafi on state tv
 The uprising in Libya, which until yesterday mainly taking place in the east of the country,  has reached the capital Tripoli. It thereby raises the possibility that the regime of colonel Muammar Qadhafi is in serious danger.
Heavy fighting was reported from the capital, which culiminated in the incredible news that Qadhafi's airforce was used to shoot and even bomb protesters.  Dozens of people were already reported killed in Tripoli before that, after demonstrations in the capital started last  night. The building where the country's parliament meets was ablaze, and there were reports that people tried to attack the building of state television.
Protesters said they had taken control of two other cities.Tribal leaders spoke out against Gaddafi, army units defected to the opposition in a revolt that has cost the lives of more than 200 people. Two colonels of the airforce defected with their planes to Malta after they got orders to bomb protesters in Benghazi. Also scores of representatives of the regime resigned, among them the minister of justice, the Libyan team at the UN, and the Libyan ambassadors to India, Bagladesh, Indonesia, Sweden, Britain, the Arab Ligue, and China.
Output at one of the country's oil fields was reported to have been stopped by a workers' strike and some European oil companies withdrew expatriate workers and suspended operations.

Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that the death toll stood at at least 233. It is bound to be much higher by Monday evening. HRW said the it has witness accounts of how security forces in Benghazi started to use live ammunition on protesters on 19 Februari. That day the funeral procession took place for 14 people killed the day before. Followed by thousands of protesters, the  procession walked from the square in front of the Benghazi court to the Hawari cemeteries. On the way the marchers passed the Katiba El Fadil Bu Omar, a complex that includes one of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's residences and is heavily guarded by state security officers. Three eyewitnesses confirmed that the security officers in distinctive uniform with yellow berets fired indiscriminately on protesters. One protester, A.G., told Human Rights Watch, "it was at this stage that they opened fire on us. We were walking along peacefully but were chanting angrily against the regime and Gaddafi."
Another lawyer who was at the protests said to Human Rights Watch, "I could see the men with yellow berets shooting at us with live gunfire, and dozens fell to the ground. This went on for a long period of time, and I left with the injured to the hospital."
On Sunday evening one of  Qadhafi´s sons, Seif al-Islam, appeared on state tv and promised to fight the protests to the last man or woman: "Our spirits are high and the leader Muammar Qadhafi is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are behind him as is the Libyan army," he said. "We will keep fighting until the last man standing, even to the last woman standing ... We will not leave Libya to the Italians or the Turks.Wagging a finger at the camera, he blamed Libyan exiles for fomenting the violence. But he also promised dialogue on reforms and wage rises.

Egyptian military reshuffle cabinet, more constitutional changes towards democracy

Yehia al-Gamal

The Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafiq has announced a cabinet reshuffle in an apparent reaction to the mass demonstations of Friday. The new cabinet excludes all prominent members of the former ruling National Democratic Party. Six prominent members of the defunct NDP are dismissed, Al Ahram reports . They are minister of Justice, Mamdouh Marei, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mufid Shehab, Minister of Manpower, Aisha Abdel-Hady, minister of petroleum, Sameh Fahmi., Ali al-Moselhi, minister of social solidarity; and Hani Helal, minister of higher education. Most of these ministers served in former President Hosni Mubarak’s cabinets and are deemed unacceptable by many segments in Egyptian society.
Yet two unpopular figures might stay in office: Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit. Before he resigned, Mubarak reshuffled his cabinet and appointed Shafiq, the former aviation minister, as prime minister.
Newcomers are the respected law expert and professor at Cairo University, Yahia a-Gamal, who is also active in ElBaradei´s Movement for Change. He will be vice-prime minister, Al-Masry al-Youm reported  Mounir Abdel Nour, secretary-general of the Wafd party, became tourism minister. Abdel Nour is a Copt. The prominent economist Gouda Abdel-Khaleq from the opposition Tagammu party, became minister of social solidarity and social justice. The post of information minister was scrapped. Amr Hamzawy, a political analyst and member of the so-called council of "Wise Men" which sought to mediate a resolution during the uprising, became minister for youth, Al-Masry al-Youm reported
Al-Masry al-Youm also quotes Al-Ahram, which has updates from the legal commission in charge of amending the Constitution. The commission is obviously going further in its alterations than originally was announced. The paper quotes Tariq al-Bishri, the commission’s head, as saying that constitutional articles granting the president broad powers will be modified. The commission will also amend legislation that regulates the exercise of political rights and parliamentary elections. For decades, these laws have acted as a draconian impediment to pluralism. “The commission is keen to make these amendments compatible with the democratic opening that the country is headed toward,” al-Bishri says.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meanwhile in Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco

(Photo Lina Ben Mhenn)'
Several thousand Tunisian protesters have demonstrated in front of the governmental palace in Tunis on Sunday to demand the ouster of the provisional government in power since former president Ben Ali stepped down. Police briefly fired warning shots to disperse the crowd that defied government warnings not to challenge emergency measures that have been installed after Ben Ali´s ouster. Some demonstrators said the march Sunday was aimed to show discontent over police's harsh measures against protesters last month in Tunis.
Many are angry that Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi — a longtime ally of Ben Ali — is still in his post, and fear the Tunisian revolution that has sparked upheaval across the Arab world has been co-opted by the old guard.

Bahrain's opposition parties met on Sunday to discuss demands they will present to the country's rulers, as protesters gathered in a central Manama square.Protesters swept back into Pearl Square late on Saturday after Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa ordered troops and armored vehicles to withdraw and offered to lead a national dialogue after days of unrest that left six dead.The opposition is demanding a constitutional monarchy that gives citizens a greater role in a directly elected government. It also wants the release of political prisoners. Ibrahim Mattar, a lawmaker of the main opposition Wefaq party, said that they wanted the crown prince to show signs of addressing their demands before a dialogue could start. The prince should "send a small signal he is willing to have a constitutional monarchy."

Yemen - The leader of Yemen's secessionist Southern Movement was arrested and shots were fired at a demonstration in the capital Sanaa on Sunday during a ninth consecutive day of unrest. Thousands of people also staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz, demanding the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Security in the southern port of Aden was stepped up on Sunday with tanks and armored vehicles out on main streets. Hasan Baoum, head of the secessionist Southern Movement, was arrested in an Aden hospital where he was receiving treatment. 
President Saleh renewed his call for dialogue with opposition parties. He blamed the last two days of protests, in which five people were killed, on "elements outside the system and the law." But the coalition of main opposition parties, including the Islamist Islah and the secular Socialist Party, said there could be no dialogue with "bullets and sticks and thuggery," or with a government "which gathers mercenaries to occupy public squares ... and terrorize people."

 Demonstration in Rabat (Morocco) - Abdelhak Senna/AFP

Morocco - Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Morocco on Sunday demanding King Mohammed give up some of his powers, dismiss the government and clamp down on corruption. At least 5,000 people marched across central Rabat, according to Reuters reporters.
The protest was initiated by a group calling itself the February 20 Movement for Change, which has attracted 20,000 followers on Facebook. The  protesters were joined by youths of the banned Islamist Justice and Charity (Al- Adl wal- Ihsan) opposition group, members of opposition parties and Berber militants. The main press union and human rights groups also voiced support. Mohamed Al-Aouni, of the February 20 Movement for Change organizing committee, said younger protesters want to stage daily sit-ins."We have not yet agreed on the next step. Some suggest weekly protests," he said. City buses were taken out of service, preventing some people from taking part. Demonstrations also took place in Morocco's other main cities, including Marrakesh, the top tourist destination and Casablanca. 
In some places clashes and unrest took place: This is what Human Rights Watch reported: In Larache in northwest Morocco, groups of persons set fire to a police station, robbed stores and tried to break into banks, according to a representative of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. In Hoceima, groups of protesters vandalized a stadium, two political party offices and a pair of hotels, activists in the city said. Security forces replied with teargas and rubber bullets. There were reports of injuries. In Sefrou, a town in north central Morocco, pro-reform demonstrators clashed with supporters of the government, according to a person injured in the melee. In Marrakesh, groups of protesters burned a police station and damaged private cars and traffic lights, a witness told Human Rights Watch.

According to the Moroccan authorities five people got killed and 128 injured, 115 of them members of the security forces. The dead were found in the building of a bank that had been set on fire. Some 120 people were arrested. According to the ministry of the interior 33 public building, 24 bank agencies, 50 commercial and private buildings were set on fire or damaged as well as 66 vehicles.

More protests, death toll in Libya now stands at 173 at least

Death of a young protester in Benghazi.

Tens of thousands gathered in Benghazi on Sunday for funerals of protesters killed by Libyan security forces as Human Rights Watch said overnight violence had doubled the death toll from four days of clashes to 173.
The BBC contacted a woman doctor in Beghazi by the name of Braikah, who described how casualties brought to the city's Jala hospital mostly had gunshot wounds. "Ninety per cent of these gunshot wounds [were] mainly in the head, the neck, the chest, mainly in the heart," she said. She said the Jala hospital mortuary had 208 bodies and another hospital had 12. However, it is not clear whether all of these bodies stem from Saturday's violence.
The unrest is the worst ever during Muammar Qadhafi´s 42 years in power. There are no reporters in the city (they are not allowed). The only news therefor comes from witness accounts. They suggst that Benghazi is in a cycle of violence, where people are killed and then, after funeral processions to bury the dead the next day, security forces shoot more protesters.
One Benghazi resident reached by telephone by Reuters on Sunday said that security forces had used heavy weapons. He added that many soldiers and policemen have joined the protests.Another witness, a leading tribal figure who requested anonymity, suggested the security forces remained confined to their control center.
´The state's official presence is absent in the city and the security forces are in their barracks and the city is in a state of civil mutiny," he told Reuters. ´People are running their own affairs. Human Rights Watch said about 90 people had been killed on Saturday in Benghazi and surrounding towns, taking the death toll from four days of clashes to 173. 

Conflicting accounts were given over poor phone lines but it appeared the streets were under the control of protesters while security forces had pulled back to a high-walled compound, known as the Command Center, from where they were firing. One witness said: ´We will not give up until the regime falls. We call on the United Nations to intervene. Another witness in Benghazi told Reuters thousands of people had performed ritual prayers in front of 60 bodies laid out near Benghazi's northern court. He said hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children, had come out onto the Mediterranean seafront and the area surrounding the port. "The protesters are here until the regime falls," he said.
Reports are beginning to emerge of protests in the capital, Tripoli, but information is scarce and difficult to confirm. One woman, Sara Radwan, told the BBC the situation in the city was "very tense and very scary".
"Tripoli is very important, it's got people from all over Libya. Everybody's watching and waiting. Gaddafi makes us sick. This is a war," she said.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Death toll from Libya protests reaches 84


Protests throughout the Middle East continue. Reports from Libya suggest a deadly determination by the security forces of the regime of colonel Qadhafi who has ruled for 42 years, to crush the protest at any cost. This is what Human Rights Watch reports about Libya:

New York - Government security forces have killed at least 84 people in three days of protests in several cities in Libya, Human Rights Watch said today, based on telephone interviews with local hospital staff and witnesses.
The Libyan authorities should immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and protect them from assault by pro-government armed groups, Human Rights Watch said.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the eastern Libyan cities of Benghazi, Baida, Ajdabiya, Zawiya, and Derna on February 18, 2011, following violent attacks against peaceful protests the day before that killed 20 people in Benghazi, 23 in Baida, three in Ajdabiya, and three in Derna. Hospital sources told Human Rights Watch that security forces killed 35 people in Benghazi on February 18, almost all with live ammunition. "Muammar Gaddafi's security forces are firing on Libyan citizens and killing scores simply because they're demanding change and accountability," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Libyan authorities should allow peaceful protesters to have their say."
Click here for the rest of the Human Rights Watch report.

Elsewhere the situation is as follows: 
Yemen -At least five people have been killed during widespread anti-government demonstrations in Yemen.
Four people were killed in the southern city of Aden by gunfire.In the city of Taiz, one person was killed and more than 20 injured when a grenade was thrown from a car at protesters. In the capital Sanaa, supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed on the streets.During what has been described as a nationwide "Friday of rage", tens of thousands of protesters in several cities demanded that Mr Saleh leave office immediately. It was the eighth day of anti-government demonstrations in Yemen.

Bahrain - Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition bloc (70% of the people of bahrain is Shiite) has rejected a royal call for dialogue to end unrest that has cost the lives of six people. "Nobody is willing to sit with officials if the military is killing people," Ibrahim Mattar, a member of the Wefaq bloc which quit parliament on Thursday, told Reuters. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa offered a national dialogue with all parties on Friday to try to end the turmoil in which six people have been killed and hundreds wounded since Monday. Activists circulated text messages calling for an open-ended strike from Sunday and the closure of all schools "in support of the popular revolution." More than 60 people were in hospital with wounds sustained when security forces fired on protesters as they headed to Pearl Square, a traffic circle in Manama, the previous day. Soldiers in tanks and armored vehicles took over the square after riot police violently broke up a protest camp there in the early hours of Thursday, killing four people. Two people were killed earlier in the week.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with King Hamad on Friday evening, condemning the violence and urging the government to show restraint. Obama said the stability of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, depended upon respect for the rights of its people, according to the White House.
(Al Jazeera, that distinguished itself with its excellent reproting from Egypt, has let down the protesters in Bahrain. Its coverage is rather shallow. The reason is most probably that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the alliance of  Saudi Arabia and the five smaller Gulf countries at the Persian Gulf, has put its weight behind Bahrain's king Hamad. Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, is a member of the GCC. Press freedom in the Arab world is not always to be taken for granted). 

Kuwait - At least 1,000 stateless Arabs (so called Bidun, which means 'without' in Arabic) have demonstrated in Kuwait demanding citizenship, leading to dozens of them being arrested by police. Also some people were injured. The protest in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, on Friday was the first in the Gulf Arab state since a wave of unrest began sweeping across the Middle East in December. Security forces dispersed the demonstration, using smoke bombs and water cannon after protesters refused warnings to leave. Stateless Arabs, estimated at more than 100,000, claim they have the right to Kuwaiti citizenship, but the government says that ancestors of many of them came from neighbouring countries and they are not entitled to nationality. Many of them have no right to a driver's licence, cannot get birth certificates for their babies or death certificates for the dead. They are also banned from getting their marriage contracts attested.

Most of the stateless claim to be Kuwaitis whose forefathers, who lived as Bedouins in the desert, failed to apply for citizenship when the state first introduced its nationality law in 1959.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tahrir fills up again to celebrate victory and stress the need for more reforms

Again hundreds of thousands of Egyptians came to Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday to hold a nationwide ´Victory March´ to celebrate the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule one week ago, to protect the revolution and to remind the military rulers of the power of the street. Apart from that the rallies were also meant to be a memorial to the 365 people who died during the uprising.
Prayers were led by te well known muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi from a podium in Tahrir Square. Al-Qaradawi returned to Egypt from Doha for the occasion. He praised the January 25 revolution, describing it as an "educated" one, which not only Mubarak´s regime, but also injustice and oppression. He praised the army's statements on democratic transition and asked them to liberate Egypt from Mubarak's cabinet. He appealed to the Egyptians to persevere with their revolution and to continue to build a new Egypt. He condemned the regime for being the source of sectarianism in Egypt while in ´here in Tahrir´, Christians and Muslims strove side-by-side for their revolution. Also he asked the ´brave Egyptian army´ to open the Rafah crossing so that Gazans can receive the supplies they need. And turning his attention to Arab leaders, he said: ´Don't fight history, you can't delay the day when it starts. The Arab world has changed.´

The Victory March was as much meant to stress the additional demands of the protesters, who have on their  agenda the abolishment of the 30-year-long state of emergency, the immediate release of all political prisoners, full freedom to form political parties and trade unions, and the formation of a national unity government of independents and technocrats that excludes the former ruling National Democratic Party. Several groups have also made demands for a completely new constitution, in stead of the change as proposed by the army of no more than six articles.
Many  recently formed groups have stressed these demands. One of the best known is the Youth Coalition of the Revolution (YCR) which combines the 6th of April movement, Freedom and Justice movement, Muslim Brotherhood youth, the Democratic Front Party youth, the Youth Movement in Support of El Baradei,  and the youth of the National Association for Change. Khaled Abdel Hamid of the RYC believes that they will continue to protest every Friday until their demands are met. He adds that the outbreak of labour strikes is keeping the revolution alive and driving it towards complete success.
Other groups are in the process of being formed. Labour activists have been very busy lately, following the spreading of the strikes and protests to almost every sector in Egypt, with demands for a new independent labour union and the abolishment of the existing pro-government union. Also a new leftist party is being formed, as an alternative to the Tagammu party.
Widely known Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah coordinates meetings for the newly formed "Professionals' coalition", which includes Doctors Without Borders, the 9 March University Professors Movement and Cinema Professionals, among others. He takes part in other initiatives as well and says “Most of these movements don’t work together, but when you see the documents and demands they come up with, you see they have a consensus on certain things like the immediate release of political prisoners, canceling the emergency law and a technocratic national unity government for at least nine months or a year until proper elections are held.”
A group of independent and politically-affiliated young people who participated in Egypt's 25 January revolution held a press conference at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate on Thursday to announce the launch of  the "Union of the Youth Revolution" in an effort to establish a common position. This group includes young people from political parties such as the Progressive National Unionist Party, the New Wafd Party, the Tomorrow Party, the Egyptian Communist Party, and the New Left Party. Members are currently trying to establish contact with all political bodies and committees to have emerged during the recent uprising in hopes of forming a unified entity to represent the young people of the revolution. 

On Thursday three ex-ministers and steel magnate and imporant member of the ruling NRP, Ahmed Ezz,  were arrested, after having been qustioned during the past week. The prosecutor dealing with financial crimes said former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli, former Tourism Minister Zuhair Garana, former Housing Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz will be held for 15 days.
Mass prayer on Tahrir after Qaradawy´s sermon. (Picture Shadi Hamid)

At least 24 dead in widespread protests during Libyan ´Day of Rage´


News about what exactly happened in Libya after opponents of the regime of ´brother colonel´ Muammar Qadhafy on Thursday held a ´Day of Rage´are still sketchy, but clear enough to give an impression of widespread unrest and severe repression by the government. The human rights group Human Rights Watch in New York said that according to its sources inside the country, Libyan security forces had killed at least 24 people in crackdowns on protests on Wednesday and Thursday.
The number of victims, however, could well be higher than that. From Benghazi, the second city of the country, alone it was reported that some 20 people got killed. Soldiers were deployed on the streets of Benghazi on Friday after thousands of people took to the streets.An eyewitness in the city, who was reached by Al Jazeera, said that he alsone saw six unarmed protesters shot dead by police, and that the government had released 30 people from jail, paying and arming them to fight people in the street.

Huge protests also took place in the city of Al Baida and also here eople got killed. Opposition website Libya Al-Youm said that here four protesters were killed by snipers from the Internal Security Forces. Others, among them a Libyan human rights group based abroad, reported that the unrest in al-Baida had cost as many as 13 lives. Mohammed Ali Abdellah, deputy leader of the exiled National Front for the Salvation of Libya, said that hospitals in al-Baida were experiencing a shortage of medical supplies, saying the government had refused to provide them to treat an increasing number of protesters.

Clashes also broke out in the city of Zentan, southwest of the capital, in which a number of government buildings were torched. Fathi al-Warfali, a Swiss-based activist and head of the Libyan Committee for Truth and Justice, said two more people were killed in Zentan on Thursday ,while one protester was killed in Rijban, a town about 120km southwest of Tripoli.
In the capital Tripoli several hundred supporters of Gaddafi held a counter demonstation. They were joined by Gaddafi himself.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

How during the revolution Egyptian women recaptured the streets

Guest author: Noha Radwan

On the morning of Wednesday, February 2nd, I woke up in the apartment of my longtime friend, Nagla, a journalist whose apartment was only a fifteen minutes walk away from Tahrir Square. By virtue of its location, the apartment, which is normally occupied by Nagla, her husband and 25 year old daughter had turned into ‘uprising central.’ It was where we slept, ate and showered between the daily 10-12 hour shifts of protesting on the square. It was also where we logged onto the internet and gazed at al-Jazeera whenever that was an option. “We” were Nagla’s women friends, Sherin, Nagwan, Magda, and Omaima who was there with her two college age daughters, and myself. February 2nd was the eighth of the 18 days that toppled Egypt’s dictatorship of thirty years, and it was only my fourth day, yet for me it will always mark the day on which the revolution was won.
Noha Radwan
Flying from California and trapped at Heathrow for eight hours, thanks to the curfew that was imposed on the country on Friday afternoon, I had only arrived on Saturday morning. That was some Saturday! By the time I had arrived on the square, it was packed. People were standing shoulder to shoulder and the chants could be heard a mile away. I was struck not only by the ubiquitous female presence on the square but the integration of the female chanters in the crowd. Every once in a while, one or the other of the women would even lead: “Isma’ kilmit masr el-hurra, Ya Mubarak itla’ barra,” Listen to free Egypt, Mubarak, get out.” And her chant would be repeated by thousands of followers.

This was truly ‘free Egypt’. Women and men were equally participating in the ousting of the dictatorship whose policies have fueled extremism, sectarian violence and a wave of sexual harassment that have made women’s presence in Egyptian public spaces a risk. Reports of women, both veiled and unveiled, becoming subjects of physical and verbal sexual harassment have filled the Egyptian media and websites during the past years. Most notorious was the mob attacks on women in downtown Cairo during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr (the post-Ramadan Muslim holiday) in 2006. Women on the metro and the busses were frequently the target of sexual slurs and abuses, and were touched, grabbed and molested in broad daylight. According to a report by the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt, 83% of Egypt’s working females have been victims of sexual harassment at one time or another. Yet on Tahrir Square, there was no fear of such thing. At the times when space was at a premium and everyone was crammed together, the men on Tahrir were going out of their way to assure the women of their safety from any form of harassment and provocation. I thought about the report’s investigations into the reasons why men sexually abuse women on the streets of Egypt. The desire to exercise and prove their ‘manliness’ was among the top ones. Perhaps for the men in Tahrir it wasn't necessary to prove anything anymore. They had faced police forces with live ammunition, and were surrounded by army tanks, in an unpredictable atmosphere.

Every day I went to Tahrir, I wore blue jeans and a light shirt with a jacket or sweater on top. My friends wore jeans, slacks and skirts. None of us covered our hair. On the square we sat next to women who wore western clothes and covered their hair, others who wore a head-scarf that was large enough to drape over their chest and back down to the waist. Some had their faces covered. We shared space and conversation, food and drink. Some smoked, others did not. At prayer times, some of them joined in, others did not. On Tahrir, a woman’s religion, Islam or Christianity, and her piety were irrelevant. What mattered was that we were there, protesting a regime that has impoverished, marginalized or terrorized millions. Off the square, I was asked if it was true that the women on Tahrir brought food for the protesters. I am sure they did. I did. And I was offered food by other women, and by other men. But women did other things as well. Women physicians volunteered in the make shift clinic that was patched up on a side street. Women Lawyers gave speeches on the square’s makeshift ‘radio,’. Women were part of the ‘security’ team that searched incomers to the square for fear of saboteurs carrying in weapons. Women sat in front of the tanks to prevent their movement. We felt strong, empowered and united, with each other and with the male protesters. Come what come may, we have taken back the streets.

Black Wednesday
When, on February 2nd, the regime once again showed its ugly face, it was too late. This is how I saw that day that soon came to be called ‘Black Wednesday’. I was the first to leave the apartment and go back to the square. A maudlin speech by President Mubarak the night before in which he promised to step down at the end of his term, and appealed to the Egyptians to let him die at home, had left opinions somewhat divided. “What’s another few months,” some said. Others contended that Mubarak could not be trusted and that an unfinished revolution would be a prelude for disaster. The speech was almost immediately followed by small sporadic rallies on a number of streets, which were more farcical than disconcerting at this stage. Judging by the impunity with which these ‘supporters’ broke curfew in the middle of the night, we had no doubt that they were there upon the directives of the president or other members of the regime. On my way to the square, I ran into a group of those ‘Mubarak supporters.’ In my newly found Tahrir spirit I walked up to one of them and said: How can you support a brutal and corrupt president?
“He said he was going to carry out reforms.” the man replied. “And these protestors are paid.”
''Paid or not, how can you trust someone to suddenly turn good after thirty years of repression?” I asked. Upon which he retorted: “Why don’t you go home, bitch?”
On the square I walked around, chatted and chanted and was soon joined by many friends. They told us about an increasing presence of violent crowds outside the square,. But since I had agreed to give an interview to Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, I had to go to a recording studio, a walk of about fifteen minutes.
I went there well ahead of time and sat in an office full of foreign reporters, who were all coming in with reports of attacks, insults and destruction of their equipment. At three in the afternoon, I recorded my interview and after that went back to the square. It was near the Egyptian museum that I came across the real thugs. They were hurling rocks into the square. I walked through several rows before one caught on and asked me where I was going. I made up a story about a nephew who was hurt inside, said that I was going to take him home. “No, you stay here, he said. We can get him.” A second later someone else asked: So you are not with them? Are you with us?'' My mind was racing. Would I fool him by giving a fraudulent answer? How can I make it past this crowd? I froze for a few seconds, and then when I thought I had an opportune moment, I dashed past a few more rows. I was less than four feet away from the army barricades around the square. If I had crossed them, I would have been in, safe from the thugs. But I was not so lucky. From behind I heard someone cry, “She is with them. Get her!” And before I realized what was going on I had my arms seized by two musclemen who walked me away from the square. “All I could hear as the mob closed in on me was: “she is with them... with them… the agents… the Americans, a Baradei’s dirty supporter.”
Thugs in action
Many pulled my hair while others volunteered slaps and slurs. In a matter of seconds my shirt was ripped open and my mouth was full of blood. We passed an army tank and I saw the officer on top. “Help!” I screamed. The soldiers were waiting for his orders. Bystanders called on him. “They are going to kill her,” someone said. All my energies were focused to staying conscious, putting my head up for air and down to avoid further hits. I wrapped my jacket around my body and my shoulder bag, which had my ID and my camera, and cried for the officer’s help again. Finally he ordered the soldiers to jump into the crowd and pull me up. They led me into the inside of the tank where I joined a few other soldiers. They pointed out that my head was bleeding. I had not yet registered my head injury, which must have been caused by a rock projectile. I had also not registered that my phone was stolen out of my back pocket and that a gold chain was ripped off of my neck. One of the soldiers offered me a big kerchief to staunch the bleeding and another held out his water bottle. I could hear the crowds raging outside. Two other young men, one of them a journalist, were brought into the tank a little later. Both were more badly injured, and it was not until darkness fell, about two hours later that the officer felt that it was safe enough for him to call an ambulance that took us to a nearby hospital. My injuries were indeed less serious than those suffered by the two other protestors. As I learned later, others yet suffered much more serious injuries. A young woman, Sally Zahran, who died of brain hemorrhage was attacked not far from where I was attacked. Mubarak’s thugs unleashed their ugliest face and to top it off, they resorted to their not unfamiliar technique of ripping the clothes off of female protesters. 

Maybe unbeknownst to them, they were helping the protests win one of their final battles with the regime, calling to public memory images of another Black Wednesday, May 25, 2005. On that day, now six years ago the Egyptian public protested the notorious amendment to article 76 of the constitution, which effectively limited the candidacy for president to someone put forward by the ruling party. Then, like now, the police responded with its familiar measures of repression. Then, like now, women were singled out. Human rights organizations filed numerous reports of women being sexually assaulted. Journalists, lawyers, others had their clothes ripped and were striped down to their under garments. Black Wednesday was followed by similarly dark Thursdays and Mondays. The regime’s thugs counted on those measures to intimidate female activists and to ensure that those assaulted would never show their face in public again. Yet they did. I saw many of them in Tahrir on the days that followed Wednesday February 2nd. Seeing them, I knew we would win, and that it was a matter of time before members of the regime would be the ones to hide their faces. I also knew that in the years’ long struggle of the Egyptian women to end Mubarak’s dictatorship and bring democracy home, they had found the means to take back the street.

Noha Radwan, born in Cairo, is assistant professor of comparative literature at The University of California Davis. 

Three dead in Bahrain as police storms camping protesters

 The video shows the extreme brutality with which the police at 3 a.m local time stormed the tents of people who were camping since three days at Pearl Square in Manama, the capital of the kingdom of Bahrain. Three people were killed, scores were wounded. Hospitals were overcrowded after the attack. The square, which was a chaos of destroyed tents, tear gas canisters and belongings that fleeing Bahraini's had left behind, was sealed off with barbed wire. Police declared that camping there was 'illegal'. The protests that originally were  actions of members of the Shiite majority for more freedom and less discriination of Shiites by the ruling Sunni minority, now seems to be spreading. Several riots broke out on Thursday morning throughout Manama.     

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bahrain, Yemen, Libya

Funeral in Manama for a man killed a day earlier

Unrest in the wake of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt continue. Today's summary :

Bahrain.  Wednesday saw more than 1,000 people attend the funeral in Manama of a man who was killed on Tuesday during clashes with police at the funeral of another protester. Mourners chanted slogans calling for the removal of the government. Meanwhile the numbers of those who had camped out overnight in Manama's Pearl Square were swelled by many who joined the protests throughout the day. The protesters say the wwant to turn Pearl Square into a kind of Tahrir Square, like in Cairo. Security forces have pulled back to ease tensions after previous days' clashes.

Yemen. Police shot and killed two protesters in Yemen's southern city of Aden. One of them was hit in the back. Meanwhile in the capital Sanaa protests against the rule of president Ali Abdallah Saleh continued for a sixth straight day. The police in Aden fired into the air to try to break up around 500 protesters. The demonstrators hurled stones, set tyres and vehicles on fire and stormed a municipal building. At least four people were arrested  Protesters chanted "The people want to overthrow the regime" and "It's time to leave, Ali".

In Sana'a, at least 10 protesters were hurt amid clashes between students demanding the ouster of President Saleh and supporters of Saleh's ruling General People's Congress. Hundreds of students who had set off for Al-Sabiine square near the presidential palace, were attacked by a like number of Saleh loyalists armed with batons, stones and daggers.
Elsewhere in Sanaa, a sit-in outside the justice ministry by judges demanding greater independence for the judiciary and the sacking of the entire Supreme Judicial Council, including the justice minister, went into its second day. The judges, who have come to Sanaa from all over Yemen, also want higher salaries. Elsewhere  workers gathered at several state-owned companies in Sana'a to demand that their managers step down.They also called for higher wages.

Libya Hundreds of anti-government protesters have clashed with police and government supporters in Libya's second city Benghazi. Dozens of people are said to have been hurt in the clashes. The overnight unrest followed the arrest of an outspoken government critic, who was reportedly freed later. State TV showed demonstrations in several cities said to be in support of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The unrest comes a day before planned anti-government demonstrations on Thursday, dubbed a "Day of Anger", which are being organised via internet social networks.

Mixed reactions to choice of Egyptian constitutional panel

Tareq al-Bishri (AlMasry Al-Youm)

The Egyptian opposition has given a mixed reaction to the appointment by the military Supreme Council of a commission that is charged with making amendments to the constitution. The eight man commission held its first meeting on Tuesday. Particularly the Copts in Egypt were not pleased that the chairman of the commission is Tareq Al-Bishri, a former judge and noted historian, but also a moderate islamist who has ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. They were even more worried that one of the other members of the commission is Sobhi Saleh, a well known member of the Brotherhood from Alexandria, who was a member of parliament from 2005 till 2010.
The rest of the commission consists of judges. One member is a Copt, judge Maher Samy Youssef.
For the Christians one of the main questions is whether Article 2 of the Constition will be maintained. That article states that Islam is the religion of the state of Egypt, that Arabic is its language and that the shari'a (islamic jurisprudence) is the principal source of legislation.
The Coptic church on Wednesday issued a statement in which it praised both the Youth and the army for their role in the changes that are taking place in Egypt. and in which it said to be in favour of Egypt becoming a civilian democracy that is representative of all its peoples
The Coalition of Young Revolutionaries, the coalition of the groups that planned the uprising against Mubarak and which at the moment is the most outspoken opposition force, goes one step further. The Coalition is unhappy with the limited task with which Al-Bishry's panel has been charged. The panel has been asked to change only six articles of the constitution: the articles 76, 77, 88, 93, 179 and 189. The Supreme Armed Forces Council also said that other constitutional articles could be changed in order to allow fair and democratic presidential and parliamentary elections.
Article 76 pertains to candidacy requirements for presidential elections; Article 77 stipulates the number of terms allowed for the president to stay in office; Article 88 is about the way elections are monitored in order that they be fair, article 93 spells out the parliament’s authority to determine the requirements for being a member of parliament; Article 179 allows the state to curtail certain freedoms guaranteed by other articles under the pretext of combating terrorism; and Article 189 states the conditions required for amending the constitution. The task of changing these articles should be finished by 25 February. And the plan is that the changes will be put to a referendum in April.
For the Coalition of Young Revolutionaries these changes don't go far enough. The Coalition laid down what it wants in a comprehensive plan on Monday. It wants a completely new constitution that would establish a parliamentary republic, clearly define the president’s authority, and guarantee the separation of power between the government’s three branches.
The newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm quoted the political scientist Hassan al-Nafaa of the University of Cairo, who said that it seems that the military 'don't have a comprehensive plan to administer the transitional period. The army wants to finish the transitional period by any means. It suspended the constitution, but didn’t abolish it--and now they only want to change six articles.”
Others had praise for the choice of Tareq al-Bishri, who at the one hand has good relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, but is known as an islamic reformer, who is in favour of a separation of mosque and state. Besides he is a former vice president of the Council of Administative Courts. Yehia al-Gamal, professor of law at Cairo University, praised him as the best man for the job, who has a deep legal and philosophical insight and is widely respected, which makes him the right man to lead the discussions.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Five years for 19-year old Syrian blogger Tal Mallouhi

Tal al-Mallouhi, a 19-year old Syrian blogster and student, has been sentenced to five years in prison by a state security court, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement on Monday."The state security court in Damascus today condemned blogger Tal al-Mallouhi to five years in prison after finding her guilty of divulging information to a foreign country,' it said in a statement received in Nicosia.
In October, Syria's Al-Watan newspaper reported that the authorities were accusing Mallouhi, a 19-year-old high school student, of spying for the US embassy in Egypt.
The charge was denied by Washington, which on Saturday called for her 'immediate release' and condemned her 'secret trial'. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement that Washington "rejects as baseless allegations of American connections that have resulted in a spurious accusation of espionage.
Three Syrian rights groups said in late November that Mallouhi 'was interviewed on November 10 by the High Court for State Security and then returned to her women's prison in Duma, near Damascus'. The statement expressing 'extreme concern' was signed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights and the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria.
Mallouhi, granddaughter of a former minister under the former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, had been 'held incommunicado without charge for nine months,' Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in September. She was first detained in late December 2009. (AFP)

Egyptian Youth Coalition calls on armed forces to form new government of technocrats

Egyptian Youth leaders on Monday called on the Egyptian Armed Forces to sack the incumbent cabinet and guarantee the implementation of democratic reforms. In a policy paper read out at a press conference the “Coalition of Young Revolutionaries” called on the military to form a new interim government of technocrats within one month. This cabinet should be headed by “a patriotic civil personality that the people respect and trust”, Al-Masry al-Youm reports.
“We ask the armed forces to settle this issue out as soon as possible and dismiss all ministers who belong to the National Democratic Party (NDP),” youth representative Shady Harb told reporters.

Protest in front of  Egyptian Ttrade Union Federation
The Coalition will make additional demands later this week, Al-Masry al-Youm reported. They include the lifting of Egypt’s longstanding state of emergency; the abolition of martial laws and  emergency courts; dismantling of the NDP and the confiscation of all its assets by the state; respecting the right to form associations, unions and media outlets; dissolving the oppressive State Security Apparatus; and releasing all political prisoners.
The policy paper also calls for the abrogation of the restrictive law regulating the formation of political parties within ten days, and the drafting of a new law for the exercise of political rights within one month.
To enhance the political participation of young people--who constitute over 50 percent of Egypt’s population--the coalition has asked for lowering the eligibility age for parliamentary candidacy from 30 to 25, and for presidential candidacy from 40 to 35.
 The Coalition has also called on the military to guarantee the enforcement of controversial court rulings that the Mubarak regime had ignored, including one ruling to expel university police guards and another to halt gas exports to Israel. The paper follows a meeting  that eight of the Youth  had on Sunday with two of the military leaders. Two of the Youth, Wael Ghoneim and Amr Salama, published minutes of this meeting from which it loosk as if the army is quite serieus about its pursuit of democracy. 
Sunday and Monday were for the rest days of social unrest. Some 500 labor activists demonstrated outside the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) on Monday to demand the federation’s dissolution.  Dozens attempted to storm and occupy the ETUF headquarters. ETUF security responded by beating protesters out of the building.
Personal of the National bank demonstrating.

On Sunday some 2000 employees of the nmational bank of Egypt demonstrated. 'The  bank wants the chairman down,' they chanted. The employees of the government-owned bank were contesting the board of directors, which pays itself very high salaries, sometimes appointing  inexperienced graduates with monthly salaries of  LE30,000, much more than what middle management.
In front of Banque Misr, Egypt's second largest bank, the same scene unfolded.  There the demand was the resignation of the advisors to the board of directors. 'This board hired ex-prime minister Nazif's niece as a media advisor to the chairman. 'This Fatma Al-Ghouli gets LE200,000 per month and she is a dentist. What could a dentist advise about in a bank?' said one of the branch managers who was among the protestors.
Archeologists demonstrate in front of the Antiquities Authority
Archeologist demonstrated to demand the resignation of the director of the Antiquities Authority, Zahi Hawass, and an end to corruption. Journalists were demanding the resignation of the head of the Syndicate of Journalism, Makram Mohammed Ahmed, who had always been a staunch Mubarak supporter. The police demonstrated in front of the Interior ministry, demanding better pay and rehabilitation of their image.
Protests against working conditions were also taking place at the ministry ofr Education and throughout the rest of the country. The army has banned all labor unrest and union gatherings and has made an appeal on all Egyptians to go back to work. The government, meanwhile, has made a request to foreign countries to freeze the assets of several members of the former government

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, ....Bahrain, Iran

Ali Abdulemam
The Tunisia/Egypt effect is also felt in the kingdom of Bahrain where particularly the Shia majority, which is ruled by the family of Al-Khalifa and the Sunni minority, has long been campaigning for more rights and  democracy.
And also in Iran protest demonstrations were held,  as the Green Movement seems to have gotten a new impulse from what happened in Egypt.

Several clashes were reported in Bahrain during the 'Day of Rage' protests which took take place on Monday. Helicopters circled over the capital Manama, and police used teargas and rubber buillets to disperse protesters. Police was present with great numbers in Shia villages.Two people died. One of them was a 22-year-old protester from Daih village who died from bullet wounds in his back. Another was in critical condition with a fractured skull. The second person who died was a 31-year old man, who was hit by birfdshot, after police fired teargas and birdshot at the funeral procession of the first victim.
In the village of Diraz, authorities dispersed with teargas about 100 Shi'ite protesters who had squared off with police, demanding more political rights. Also the police dispersed a march in the mostly Shia village of Newidrat in the southwest region of the island kingdom. The marchers were demanding the release of those detained during earlier protests, among them blogger Ali Abdulemam. Here some 10 protestres were wounded.
Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for human rights told Al Jazeera that the protests only aimed at political reforms, right of political participation,  respect for human rights, and a halt to the systematic discrimination against Shias, but stopped short of making demands with regard to the ruling family and their regime.

Tehran (AP)

 In Iran tens of thousands (some say at least 100.000) were out in streets of Tehran in what waa announced as a solidarity demonstration with the people of Egypt. Although Iran's establishment officially supported the Egyptian popular protests, it said the rallies were a 'political move' by the two opposition leaders Karroubi and Moussavi.
They were right. By seeking the pretext of demonstrating in support of the people of Egypt, the opposition was in fact protesting against the regime of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, thereby at the same time unmasking the hypocrysie of this regiem as it were.
Tehran was full of police, which used teargas and batons to disperse the crowds. Scores of people were arrested. One man died and an unknown number of peoplewere wounded. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was placed under house arrest in what appears to be a move intended to block him from attending the rallies. Earlier also Mousavi's fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was put under house arrest. The same happened to others with links to the Green movement.
  Acces to internet sites was blocked, satellite news channels were jammed and cell phone service interrupted.. It's clear the authorities did their utmost to stop opposition groups from using the Egypt rally as a means to re-ignite anti-government protests like in 2009 against the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.