Intifada update

Egypt and Tunisia’s unfinished revolutions
It’s been just seven weeks since President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, and just over three weeks since Hosni Mubarak was unceremoniously dumped from the presidency by the Egyptian military — but both countries have already unseated their interim prime ministers. Egypt’s Ahmed Shafiq on Wednesday followed last week’s decision by Tunisia’s Mohammed Ghannouchi to step down, heeding the will of those who had taken to the streets to oust the autocrats who had appointed them. The two countries have chosen different models for their transition to democracy: Tunisia has a civilian government supported by the military; in Egypt, a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has taken charge and has suspended the constitution. But in both countries, the interim rulers face a crisis of legitimacy, with controversy surrounding some of the personalities now in charge and their transition plans contested by many of the same forces that took to the streets to demand political change. And at the same time, they must deal with the mountain of problems left behind by the dictators, from corruption and cronyism to collapsing state authority and anemic economic performance. (Issandr El Amrani)

Can the richest of all the Arab royal families stem the tide of reform?
The increasing disconnect between Saudi subjects and their rulers, growing stresses in Saudi society, and troubles inside the ruling family all point to turbulence ahead.

Whereas 70% of Saudis are under the age of 30, and their median age is 19, the Saudi cabinet ministers average 65. Some senior princes have held their jobs as ministers or provincial governors for decades; one has governed the Northern Borders Province since 1956. Whereas 40% of Saudi youths have no jobs and nearly half of those in work take home less than 3,000 riyals ($830) a month, every prince (of whom there are probably 7,000-8,000) gets a monthly stipend ranging from a few thousand dollars up to $250,000, according to an estimate in a WikiLeaks cable.

In forums where Saudis are able to express discontent, anger is rising. Out of 1,600 asked in a recent web poll to rate the credibility of statements by Saudi officials, 90% ticked “untrustworthy”. (The Economist)

Egypt security building stormed
Egyptian protesters have stormed the headquarters of Egypt’s state security force in Alexandria, with several people suffering injuries in scuffles with riot police.

Around 1,000 people encircled the State Security Agency building late on Friday, demanding that the officers inside come out or they would storm the building.

Protesters then entered into the building and scuffled with riot police before military forces intervened and took control of the building.

Demonstrators said officers inside had been shredding and burning documents that may have proven past abuses. (Al Jazeera)

Continued disappearance of Iran opposition figures raises concerns of torture
Iranian officials should immediately end the illegal, incommunicado detention of four leading opposition figures: Mehdi Karroubi; Mir Hossein Mousavi; Fatemeh Karroubi; and Zahra Rahnavard, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.

The Campaign warns that the incommunicado nature of their eighteen day long detention in an undisclosed location increases the likelihood that the four are facing psychological and physical torture for the purposes of extracting false confessions.

“Arbitrary and incommunicado detention in unknown locations is often associated with torture and ill treatment, and even extrajudicial execution in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.

“Time and again opposition figures in Iran are detained without contact with their families or lawyers, only to undergo abuse and appear on TV weeks later confessing to baseless charges,” he said. (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

Youths ‘attack Algerian protesters’
Anti-government protesters have been attacked in the Algerian capital and an attempt made to lynch a prominent opposition politician, local media have said.

The reports said that protests organised by the National Co-ordination for Democracy and Change (CNDC) in Algiers were violently suppressed on Saturday morning.

According to the the Algerian daily newspaper El Watan, a group of youths tried to lynch Said Sadi, the president of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD).

Dozens of youths wearing banners supporting Abdelaziz Bouteflicka, the Algerian president, forced Sadi to flee in his car after they threatened to kill him in the al-Madania neighbourhood of Algiers, the publication said. (Al Jazeera)

Qatari blogger detained
Amnesty International says a blogger and human rights activist has been detained incommunicado in Qatar and is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

The UK-based human rights group said Sultan al-Khalaifi was arrested on March 2 by around eight individuals in plain clothes, believed to be members of the security forces.

According to information received by Amnesty International, al-Khalaifi had told his wife earlier that day that state security had contacted him, asking him to report to them, but that he did not know why.

The reasons for his detentions and his whereabouts are unknown, Amnesty said in a statement on Friday, adding that it is believed he is being held in the custody of state security. (Al Jazeera)

Bahrain protesters encircle state compound
Tens of thousands of Bahraini opposition protesters encircled a sprawling government compound on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of a meeting of senior lawmakers and further escalating pressure on the ruling Al-Khalifa family to accept sweeping reforms.

Protesters began assembling before 9 a.m., taking up positions at each of the complex’s four gates and repeating opposition calls for the fall of the government. Behind the compound’s gates, hundreds of riot police stood guard, while police helicopters circled overhead.

The protest forced government ministers to abandon their weekly council meeting, where Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa coordinates policy with the heads of Bahrain’s top ministries. Opposition groups cite the resignation of the Prime Minister, who has been in his post for 41 years, as one of their top demands.

Opposition leaders said the demonstration expanded their strategy of escalating pressure on the ruling family by marching on politically sensitive locations across the capital.

“We are attacking peacefully all the institutions of state. This is really a regime change without overthrowing the monarchy,” said Ebrahim Sharif, a Sunni Muslim and former banker who heads the National Democratic Action Society, one of the groups tasked with unifying the opposition’s message. (Wall Street Journal)

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