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.

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