Middle East nations scramble to contain unrest
To track the growing political movements gaining strength from the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia across North Africa and the Middle East, one would be well advised to get a planner.
There were Saturday’s clashes between demonstrators and police in Algeria, now referred to as #feb12 on Twitter, much as Egypt’s uprising shall forever be known as #jan25. New popular protests are scheduled Monday in Bahrain (#feb14) and Iran (#25Bahman). Libya comes next on #feb17, followed by Algeria again on #feb19, Morocco #feb20, Cameroon #feb23 and Kuwait #mar8.
Iran’s green opposition calls rally despite government ban
Activists in Iran will go ahead with a banned rally in central Tehran on Monday in defiance of warnings by the regime and a heavy security presence, a figure in the green movement has told the Guardian.
Ardeshir Amir-Arjomand, a spokesman for the former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, accused the government of hypocrisy in voicing support for protest in Egypt and Tunisia while refusing to allow a peaceful demonstration at home.
“Our dictators in Tehran are ruling the country with terror and panic,” he said. “They are afraid of their own people. They only sanction whatever pleases themselves, and disapprove of anything that is not under their surveillance. The call for renewed street protest in Iran is a clear sign that the green movement is still alive, and that’s why they’re afraid of it.”
Yemen protesters clash with police
Yemeni police have clashed with anti-government protesters for a third day in a row, as they demanded political reform and the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president.
Several thousand protesters, many of them university students, tried to reach the central square in the capital Sanaa on Sunday, but were pushed back by police using clubs.
Witnesses said several protesters were injured and 23 people were detained by police.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the security forces had used electroshock tasers and batons against the demonstrators.
Yesterday Egypt, today Algeria
Karima Bennoune writes: In the wake of Friday’s historic events in Cairo, over 1,000 peaceful demonstrators defied a ban on protests in Algiers on the Place de 1er Mai on Saturday. The goal of the National Coordination Committee for Change and Democracy, the organisers of what was supposed to have been a march to Martyr’s Square, was to call for an end to the 19-year state of emergency, for democratic freedoms, and for a change in Algeria’s political system. Invigorated by Cairo’s great event, this Saturday in Algiers they chanted slogans like “Djazair Horra Dimocratia” (“A free and democratic Algeria”), “système dégage” (“government out”) and indeed, “Yesterday Egypt, today Algeria”.
Could Bahrain be next?
Omar Al-Shehabi writes: Cyber activists in Bahrain have declared Valentine’s Day a “day of wrath” in the kingdom. It is also the 10th anniversary of a referendum in which Bahrainis approved a national charter promising a new political era after decades of political unrest.
Organisers chose this date to signal their belief that the authorities had reneged on the charter’s promise. Taking a cue from the protests in the wider Arab world, their stated aim is to press the authorities on their political and economic grievances.
The day of wrath’s Facebook page passed 10,000 supporters within a few days, and a declaration in the name of Bahraini Youth for Freedom is being widely circulated online. The authorities have already moved to counter any possible repercussions from the tumultuous events in region. The leadership held talks with President Hosni Mubarak shortly after the overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia, and plans to pump in hundreds of millions of dollars in food subsidies have been announced. Many web forums and Facebook pages have been blocked, and the British embassy has issued a notice to UK citizens regarding 14 February.
Palestinians announce September elections as top negotiator resigns
Palestinians will hold presidential and legislative elections by September, a top aide to President Mahmoud Abbas announced Saturday, a surprise move apparently prompted by the political unrest spreading in the Arab world.
Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo did not give a firm date for elections, but said the chief Palestinian decision-making body, the Palestine Liberation Organization, was already making preparations.
Palestinian cabinet to resign in wake of Mideast turmoil
The Palestinian cabinet will tender resignations on Monday after which Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will select new ministers at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas, political sources said.
The shake-up, disclosed to Reuters on Sunday, was long demanded by Fayyad and some in Abbas’s Fatah faction. It follows the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to a popular revolt that has set off reform calls throughout the Arab world.