Demonstrators in Saudi Arabia demand prisoners’ release
Demonstrators protested in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on Friday to demand the release of Shiite prisoners they feel are being held unjustly.
An outspoken Shiite prayer leader who demonstrators say was arrested last Friday was a focal point of the “day of rage” protest, said Ibrahim Al-Mugaiteeb, president of the Human Rights First Society.
Sheikh Tawfeeq Al-Amer was arrested Friday after a sermon stating that Saudi Arabia should become a constitutional monarchy, Al-Mugaiteeb said. (CNN)
Bahrain: Dangerous statistics and facts about the national security apparatus
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses again its deep concern regarding the mounting dangerous role of the National Security Apparatus (NSA) at the expense of liberties and human rights in Bahrain. A list which the BCHR has obtained reveals that amongst the more than 1000 employees working for the NSA, 64% of them are non-citizens, mostly of Asian nationalities. The king’s relatives occupy the highest posts in the NSA; Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa heads it, in addition to three others from the King’s family.
The aforementioned list also reveals that the NSA is formed on sectarian basis. The percentage of Shiite citizens employed at the NSA does not exceed 4%, and they work as informants and in the low level jobs. While the Shiites, who form two thirds of the Bahraini citizens, are the main target for the NSA. This appears when verifying the sectarian identity of the villages and areas that the Security Special Forces are besieging on an almost daily basis, the organizations that are being targeted, the protest events that are being suppressed, the hundreds of people being arrested and trialed on security charges, and the activists targeted with smearing media campaigns.
Several hurt as Sunnis, Shi’ites clash in Bahrain
Several people were hurt in fighting between Sunni and majority Shi’ite Muslims in a town in central Bahrain on Friday, the first sectarian violence since protests erupted in the Sunni-ruled kingdom two weeks ago.
The overnight clashes were triggered by a family dispute or a car accident, or both, according to different accounts, although the government said the cause of the dispute was “simple.”
“There were about a hundred people involved,” one resident said as police helicopters circled overhead and ambulances rushed from the scene.
Youths with sticks and batons fled the area, residents said. (Reuters)
Protesters converge on Iraq capital
Thousands of people have converged on Baghdad’s Tahrir, or Liberation, Square for an anti-government demonstration, despite a vehicle ban that forced many to walk for hours to the heart of the Iraqi capital.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf reported from Baghdad that the situation was heading towards a stand-off, as security forces demanded the protesters leave, blocking their route across a bridge leading to the Green Zone, where the government has its base.
Concrete blocks were set up by authorities on all of Baghdad’s bridges ahead of the protests.
“What we’re seeing here is a bit of a test, of how the government will respond when these people clearly want their demands to be heard,” Arraf said.
The protests in Iraq are growing in size, partly because of the instability of the coalition government formed by Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s prime minister, Arraf said.
Iraqis are increasingly unwilling to accept the nature of the democracy that has emerged in years after Saddam’s regime was overthrown.
“This is a new democracy, it’s an unusual democracy, and it’s not exactly what people bargained for,” she said.
“On top of that, people are looking around protests in Egypt and Tunisia … It has shown them, particularly these young people that if they come out and demand their rights, perhaps something will happen.”
The Baghdad demonstration was one of many taking place across the country on Friday, including in the port of Basra and the city of Najaf. (Al Jazeera)
Blowback: Weapons of Mideast oppression, ‘Made in U.S.A.’
The Times’ Feb. 22 article, “Britain, Italy condemned for Libya ties,” provides helpful insight into the uproar caused by British and Italian military aid to Libya. However, readers would be well served by further information on how, with our government’s support, U.S. companies have provided military and crowd-control equipment that has propped up authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East.
Rather than seeing the U.S. as spreading freedom, Arabs who have taken to the streets have experienced “Made in U.S.A.” tear gas used by repressive governments to kill and maim unarmed protesters and crush popular movements for justice.
For unarmed Arab protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Pennsylvania may seem to be the tear-gas capital of the world judging by the labels on the canisters fired at them. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) is headquartered in Jamestown, Pa., and NonLethal Technologies Inc.’s home is in Homer City, Pa. The apparently defunct Federal Laboratories was based in Saltsburg, Pa. (Los Angeles Times)