23 killed in Iraq’s ‘Day of Rage’ protests
Tens of thousands of Iraqis surged into the streets Friday in at least a dozen demonstrations across the country, storming provincial buildings, forcing local officials to resign, freeing prisoners and otherwise demanding more from a government they only recently had a chance to elect.
At least 23 protesters were killed as Iraqis braved security forces to vent shared frustrations at the nearest government official. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians, they shouted for simple dignities made more urgent by war – adequate electricity, clean water, a decent hospital, a fair shot at a job.
“I have demands!” Salma Mikahil, 48, cried out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, as military helicopters and snipers looked down on thousands of people bearing handmade signs and olive branches signifying peace. “I want to see if Maliki can accept that I live on this,” Mikahil said, waving a 1,000-dinar note, worth less than a dollar, toward Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offices. “I want to see if his conscience accepts it.”
The protests – billed as Iraq’s “Day of Rage” – represented a new sort of conflict for a population that has been menaced by sectarian militias and suicide bombers. Now, many wondered whether they would have to add to the list of enemies their own government, whose security forces beat and shot at protesters and journalists Friday and left hundreds injured.
Six people were killed in Fallujah and six others in Mosul, with the other deaths reported in five separate incidents around the country, according to officials and witnesses. The reports attributed most casualties to security forces who opened fire.
The demonstrators who sparked the crackdown were calling for reform, not revolution, although there were mini-examples of the latter – hyper-local versions of the recent revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Crowds forced the resignation of the governor of the southern province of Basra and the entire city council of Fallujah and chased away the governor of Mosul, the brother of the speaker of parliament, who was also there and fled, too. (Washington Post)
Tribal leader’s resignation is blow to Yemeni president
A leading tribal figure in Yemen announced his resignation from the ruling party on Saturday, signaling a major blow to the embattled leadership of President Ali Abdullah Saleh as demonstrations calling for his resignation continue across the country.
“The Yemeni people would not keep silent on the blood of martyrs shed in Aden and will avenge it,” Sheikh Hussein Al Ahmar said in a speech before a large gathering of tribesmen in northern Amran province, referring to deaths of antigovernment protesters in the southern city of Aden, according to local press reports. He also called for the overthrow the Saleh regime, and the gathering broke out in antigovernment chants.
Mr. Ahmar is a prominent leader in Yemen’s most influential tribal confederation, the Hashids; his brother, Sadiq Al Ahmar, is the chief Hashid leader. Mr. Saleh, the president, is also a member of the Hashid confederation and has been meeting with tribal leaders to garner their support over the past two weeks.
Four days earlier, Mohammad Abdel Illah al-Qadi, a key leader of the Sanhan tribe, a Hashid affiliate that is also the president’s home tribe, resigned because of violence used against protesters. Mr. Qadi, whose father is a powerful military leader, was one of 10 parliament members who resigned the ruling party. (New York Times)
Shi’ite dissident returns to Bahrain from exile
A hardline Shi’ite dissident flew home to Bahrain from exile on Saturday to join an opposition movement demanding that the island kingdom’s Sunni ruling family accept a more democratic system.
“We want a real constitution,” Hassan Mushaimaa told reporters at the airport. “They’ve promised us (one) before and then did whatever they wanted to.”
“I’m here to see what are the demands of the people at the square and sit with them and talk to them,” he said, referring to anti-government protesters camped in Manama’s Pearl Square.
Thousands of anti-government protesters marched from Pearl Square to a former office of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa on Saturday in a new tactic to press demands for the removal of a man who has held his post for 40 years.
Sheikh Khalifa, the king’s uncle, is a symbol of the ruling family’s political power and wealth.
The march was the protesters’ first foray into a government and commercial district of Manama. They halted at a compound that also houses the Foreign Ministry. Many waved Bahraini flags and chanted: “The people want the fall of the regime.” (Reuters)
Saudi youths call for rally in Jeddah
A group of Saudi youth has called for a rally in the southwestern coastal city of Jeddah to show solidarity with the pro-democracy uprisings and revolutions across the Arab world.
A group calling itself Jeddah Youth for Change has distributed printed statements, calling on the people to join a demonstration near al-Beia Square in Jeddah on Friday.
“We will not give up our right to peacefully demonstrate,” the flier says.
“We will express our solidarity with the Libyan people who are living the hardship of their revolt against the oppressive and unjust system of Muammar Gaddafi,” it added.
Also in the eastern Qatif region, people are planning to hold a rally on Friday in support of the Libyan revolution and the uprising in Bahrain.
Thousands of people have said they are prepared to attend the protests after Saudi youth named March 11th the Day of Rage on the social networking website, Facebook. (Press TV)