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.

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