Category Archives: Intifada update

Intifada update

Mubarak given up, wants to die in Sharm says Saudi official
Egypt’s ousted president has given up and wants to die in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he has been living since a popular uprising ended his rule, a Saudi official said on Wednesday.

Hosni Mubarak, 82, has suffered from health problems in recent years and travelled to Germany for gall bladder surgery in March last year. Reports of a further decline have increased since he stepped down on Friday after three decades in power.

An official in Saudi Arabia said the kingdom had offered to host Mubarak but he was determined to see out his days in Egypt. Official confirmation could not immediately be obtained from the Saudi government. (Reuters)

Ex-judge to head Egypt reform panel
Egypt’s new army rulers have appointed Tareq al-Bishry, a retired judge, to head a committee set up to suggest constitutional changes.

Al-Bishry was a strong supporter of an independent judiciary during Hosni Mubarak’s rule and is respected in legal circles for his independent views.

“I have been chosen by the Higher Military Council to head the committee for constitutional amendments,” al-Bishry said on Tuesday.

The Higher Military Council had earlier vowed to rewrite the constitution within 10 days and put it to a referendum within two months. (Al Jazeera)

Protests continue in Egypt despite army admonitions
Despite calls from the Supreme Armed Forces Council to end labor protests, small demonstrations continued on Wednesday.

Central Auditing Organization employees staged a sit-in Wednesday demanding that the organization be given total independence from the government. Employees also called for amending regulations, promotions and a bonus increase, among other demands.

Meanwhile, about 2000 Manpower Ministry employees protested against corruption within a group of investors who were appointed by Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi. Protesters called for bonus pay and a monthly travel allowance of LE 200. (Al-Masry Al-Youm)

After 25 Bahman’s success, the challenges for Iran’s Green Movement
The Iranian regime’s response to the street protests of Monday was predictable. Rather than realising that a sizeable proportion of its people were maintaining serious and justifiable grievances about the ruling elite, institutions of the Islamic Republic have put up a preposterous show of defiance. A large group of Parliamentary deputies openly agitated for violence and asked for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to be killed.

The classic line of UK-US-Israel-“terrorist” MKO (Mujahedin-e-Khalq) involvement patterns were put out in full force. The Secretary of the Expediency Council and 2009 Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, a man routinely praised by pundits as a voice of balance and reason on the current Iranian political battleground, called both Mousavi and Karroubi “servants of the Americans” and laid out an ultimatum for the two former Presidential candidates: disown the protests by Tuesday night or face the “fully justifiable” response of the “people”.

The two Green leaders did nothing of that sort. In communiques published on their official website (over which there are some doubts of legitimacy, given that Mousavi has supposedly been cut off from contact since Sunday), both Mousavi and Karroubi praised the behaviour of the people on Monday and stated their determination to persist with their struggle.

Both messages fell short, however, of taking stock of the mood on the streets of Tehran and other cities on 25 Bahman. As relayed by the considerable YouTube footage, the bulk of the slogans shouted by the protestors were directed straight at the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is now considered the main “culprit” of the current predicament. But no mention of Khamenei is made by either Mousavi or Karroubi, despite the ringing chant on YouTube associating the Supreme Leader’s fate with that of former Egyptian President Mubarak and Tunisian leader Ben Ali. Both Mousavi and Karroubi have also decided to maintain the controversial theme of “loyalty to the Late Imam’s [Ayatollah Khomeini] Values”. Mousavi’s alleged communique even said that such loyalty is the sole desire of the protestors, a comment which completely discounts the frequent and clear calls for the termination of the velayat-e faqih doctrine — introduced and brought forward by Khomeini — as principal element in the leadership of the Islamic Republic. (Enduring America)

U.S. follows two paths on unrest in Iran and Bahrain
The Obama administration has responded quite differently to two embattled governments that have beaten protesters and blocked the Internet in recent days to fend off the kind of popular revolt that brought down Egypt’s government.

With Iran — a country under sanctions pursuing a nuclear program that has put it at odds with the West — the administration has all but encouraged protesters to take to the streets. With Bahrain, a strategically important ally across the Persian Gulf from Iran, it has urged its king to address the grievances of his people.

Those two approaches were on vivid display at a news conference on Tuesday.

President Obama accused Iran’s leaders of hypocrisy for first encouraging the protests in Egypt, which they described as a continuation of Iran’s own revolution, and then cracking down on Iranians who used the pretext to come out on the streets. He then urged protesters to muster “the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government.”

But speaking to other restive countries, including Bahrain, Mr. Obama directed his advice to governments, not protesters, illustrating just how tricky diplomacy in the region has become. He said his administration, in talking to Arab allies, was sending the message that “you have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity; and that if you are governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change. You can’t be behind the curve.”

Mr. Obama’s words on Iran, on the other hand, were among the strongest he has ever voiced in encouraging a street revolt, something his administration initially shied away from doing in June 2009, after a disputed presidential election provoked an uprising that was crushed by the government. Later, the administration embraced the protests, but by then the “Green Movement” in Iran had been crushed. (New York Times)

From Tunis to Cairo to Riyadh?
In any authoritarian regime, instability seems unthinkable up to the moment of upheaval, and that is true now for Saudi Arabia. But even as American influence recedes across the Middle East, the U.S. soon may face the staggering consequences of instability here, in its most important remaining Arab ally. While a radical regime in Egypt would threaten Israel directly but not America, a radical anti-Western regime in Saudi Arabia—which produces one of every four barrels of oil world-wide—clearly would endanger America as leader of the world economy. (Wall Street Journal — subscription required)

Teen killed as Iraq guards fire into demo
A teenager was killed Wednesday when private guards shot at protesters who set fire to several Iraqi government offices, in the country’s most violent demonstrations since uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
The protests, which also left 27 people wounded, took place in the southern city of Kut, capital of Wasit province, with more than 2,000 demonstrators calling for the provincial governor to resign over poor basic services.

The demonstration began at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) and saw protesters set fire to three buildings — the offices of Wasit provincial council, the governorate’s main administrative building and the governor’s official residence.
Policemen and soldiers fired their weapons into the air in a bid to dissuade protesters, while private security guards employed by Wasit council opened fire directly into the crowd, for which a senior policeman pledged punishment.

Majid Mohammed Hassan from Kut hospital’s administrative unit put the toll at one dead and 27 wounded. He said the fatality had been a 16-year-old boy who suffered a bullet to the chest. (AFP)

Libya: Protests ‘rock city of Benghazi’
Hundreds of people have clashed with police and pro-government supporters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, reports say.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC the overnight unrest followed the arrest of an outspoken critic of the government.

The lawyer was later said to have been released but the protests continued. (BBC)

What the hell is happening in Yemen?
Tuesday, Feb. 15: Al-Jazeera again reports 3,000 anti-government protesters. I think they’re mainly pulling this from the AFP (I can’t find their article from Tuesday) at this point. That is definitely untrue. About 500 pro and 500 anti-government demonstrators were at the old campus of Sana’a University. Police were keeping them apart as a few of them threw rocks at each other. They filed out around 1 PM, which is lunch/qat time. The giant police force in the central of the city AJE mentions, again, is the group of Saleh supporters that are camping out in Tahrir, enjoying the complimentary vittles.

Wednesday, Feb. 16: A few colleagues went to both old and new campuses of Sana’a University today and all of them said there were nothing but pro-government demos. Somehow, we end up with this gem form the AP. They claim that THOUSANDS of policemen blocked THOUSANDS of student protesters from Sana’a University from joining THOUSANDS of OTHER student protesters somewhere else in Sana’a. That’s rich…and impossible. This AP article firmly establishes the Yemeni alternate universe, somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. Maybe in that Yemen the Russian Club has reasonably priced drinks? No, impossible.

Keep in mind that this is only in Sana’a. I can confidently say that demonstrations in Taiz and Aden are quite large and the government is probably trying to contain them more violently. What is actually going on in Taiz is a mystery, I don’t know of any journalists at all working in that city. From the pictures I’ve seen and the things I’ve read earlier in the week, I can confidently say that if a revolution is going to take place in Yemen (its still probably won’t) its going to start in Taiz. By all (credible) accounts, the protests in Sana’a are winding down. There are plans for more protests next week. Look to those demonstrations to see if the grassroots movement is really going to take hold in Sana’a. (Jeb Boone)

Yemen, UK discuss security cooperation
Yemen and Britain discussed here on Wednesday aspects of security cooperation and means of boosting them, especially areas of training and combating terrorism and enhancing the coastguard abilities.

This came during a meeting brought together Interior Minister Mutahar al-Masri and British ambassador to Yemen Jonathan Wilks, who touched on arrangements for holding the meeting of Friends of Yemen and the possibility of supporting security aspects .

The British ambassador hailed the performance of the Yemeni security services , especially in the counter-terrorism unity and the coastguard authority. (Saba Net)

Jordan revokes restrictions on public gatherings
Protest marches in Jordan will no longer need government permission, Jordan’s interior minister said Tuesday, bowing to growing pressure to allow wider freedoms.

In street protests in the past five weeks, Muslim opposition groups, their leftist allies and independent rights activists demanded that the government remove restrictions on free speech and assembly.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II responded by promising changes to pertinent laws, including a controversial election law which critics say allows the king’s loyalists to dominate the legislature, the only elected national decision-making body.

Srour said Tuesday that protesters would still have to inform authorities of any gathering two days in advance to “ensure public safety” and that they would have to observe public order. However, he stressed that the government would no longer interfere in such matters. (AP)


Intifada update

Now Iran feels the heat
On Monday, as Tehran once again became the scene of clashes between the security forces and demonstrators defying the government’s ban on street rallies, the paradoxical impact of the Arab world’s democratic awakening on Iran became glaringly obvious.

External, that is, geopolitical gains, may go hand-in-hand with political losses at home, and much depends on the government’s political savvy to close a credibility gap, as reflected in its open embrace of Egypt’s revolution while, simultaneously, trying to shut down the opposition movement on its streets known as the Green movement.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in answer to calls from opposition parties in support of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that have led to the leaders in those countries stepping down. They met strong resistance from the security forces, who fired into the air and used tear gas in the streets near Azadi (Freedom) Square, the announced site of the rally. At least one person was reported killed and many injured.

The rally soon turned into an anti-government demonstration, as happened in the 2009 street protests following disputed elections that saw President Mahmud Ahmadinejad earn a second term.

Notably on Monday, though, rather than anger being directed at Ahmadinejad and his administration, sections of the crowd were heard shouting against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the heart of power in the Islamic Republic. This is an unusual development.

In contrast to muted comments on the weeks-long street unrest in Egypt, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed support for “the aspirations of the people” who took to the streets in Iran on Monday. (Asia Times)

Bahrain: ‘day of rage’ simmers
Jasmine may be the scent sweeping across parts of the Arab world, but tear gas was the smell that permeated parts of Bahrain today.

A “day of rage” planned by Bahraini youths has resulted in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. As the day went on, the confrontations grew increasingly frequent and violent, with groups of as many as hundreds seen challenging lines of riot police. Despite a government promise to allow peaceful protests, riot police have used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up demonstrators.

It is the first significant public protest in the oil-rich Gulf since Tunisia and Egypt ousted their presidents through widespread revolt.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose bloc of Arab peninsula states, is arguably the world’s richest country club, with over a trillion dollars stashed away in foreign reserves and almost half the planet’s proven oil reserves still underground. This wealth has bought autocratic rulers domestic support and helped insulate the bloc from the current wave of Arab unrest.

However, Bahrain, the smallest of the GCC countries, is starting to look like the odd one out, due to its strained government finances and unique demographic makeup.

Unlike the rest of the Gulf, Bahrain is a Shia-majority country ruled by a Sunni royal family. The Shia, and some Sunni liberals, have for decades complained about limited rights, discrimination and heavy-handed rule. (Financial Times)

Unrest in Bahrain could threaten key U.S. military outpost
The tiny oil-producing state just off the east coast of Saudi Arabia is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, headquarters for a U.S. Marine Corps amphibious unit and a crucial base for U.S. Air Force jet fighter interceptors and spy planes.

Bahrain gives Washington a base in the very heart of the Gulf from which it can protect and monitor the movement of 40% of the world’s oil through the Strait of Hormuz, spy on Iran and support pro-Western Gulf states from potential threats.

The United States has had a naval presence in Bahrain since 1947, but that waned in 1977 when an agreement to allow Washington to dock its Middle East Fleet in Bahrain was terminated following unsuccessful Shiite attempts to end the Khalifa monarchy and expel the U.S. Navy.

In the 1990s, the U.S. naval presence was renewed and expanded as a result of the First Gulf War, when Bahrain became a primary coalition naval base and the centre of air operations against Iraqi targets.

The Fifth Fleet, with 15 warships and an aircraft carrier battle group, has made Bahrain its headquarters since 1991.

Still, the U.S. military presence has always been a sore point in the emirate’s tumultuous politics and Washington has been sensitive to the impact its bases might have on the Muslim state.

Iran, which has frequently threatened to choke off oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if attacked, would love to see the U.S. Navy expelled from Bahrain and can be expected to encourage the Shiite opposition. (National Post)

Thousands rally across Yemen
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Yemen for the fourth straight day, demanding political reforms and the downfall of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s long-serving president.

The 3,000-strong throng of demonstrators in the capital, Sanaa, comprising students, human rights activists and lawyers clad in black robes, clashed with police and pro-government supporters on Monday.

Rival groups, armed with clubs and rocks, were seen facing off after supporters of Saleh reportedly confronted the protesters.

At least three people were injured, including one stabbed with a traditional Yemeni dagger, in fighting outside Sanaa’s university where protesters chanted: “A revolution of free opinion … A revolution of freedom … We should be allowed to decide.”

Further chants of “After Mubarak, Ali” and “No corruption after today” reverberated around the city. (Al Jazeera)

Syria jails schoolgirl blogger for 5 years
A special Syrian security court sentenced a teenaged blogger on Monday to five years in jail on charges of revealing information to a foreign country, despite U.S. calls to release her, rights defenders said.

The long jail term for high school student Tal al-Molouhi, under arrest since 2009 and now 19 years old, is another sign of an intensifying crackdown on opposition in Syria in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, they said.

Molouhi had written articles on the Internet saying she yearned for a role in shaping the future of Syria, which has been under the control of the Baath Party for the last 50 years.

She also asked U.S. President Barack Obama to do more to support the Palestinian cause. A security court charged her several months ago with “revealing information that should remain hushed to a foreign country”.

Wearing trousers and a cream coloured wool hat, Molouhi was brought chained and blindfolded under heavy security on Monday to the court, which convenes at a cordoned section of the Palace of Justice in the centre of the Syrian capital.

Molouhi was motionless after hearing the sentence and said nothing. Her mother, who was waiting in the courtyard, burst out crying after being told the sentence.

Lawyers, the only ones allowed in the closed session, said the judge — there are no prosecutors in the special court — did not give evidence or details as to why Molouhi was charged. (Reuters)

Thousands of community leaders sign allegiance letter to Jordan’s King Abdullah
More than 3,000 tribal leaders and key figures on Monday signed a letter addressed to His Majesty King Abdullah in which they pledged loyalty to the Hashemite Throne and expressed faith in the King’s reform efforts.

The letter, a copy of which was made available to The Jordan Times, included former prime ministers, former ministers, ex-senior military officers, current and former MPs, tribal leaders as well as academicians from different tribal affiliations and walks of life.

“At a time when the country is witnessing openness to the media and freedom of expression, some groups have started to raise their voices taking advantage of the regional turbulence seeking publicity,” veteran MP Abdul Karim Dughmi (Mafraq) told The Jordan Times yesterday.

Recently, Dughmi said, some individuals who claimed to be “defenders of the country’s interests” started to raise their voices but in a wrong manner, adding that freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by the Constitution as long as it does not undermine security and stability of the country. (Jordan Times)


Intifada update

Iran police fire tear gas at opposition rally in Tehran
Iranian police have fired tear gas at opposition demonstrators gathering in central Tehran in support of the protests in Egypt.

A BBC producer in the Iranian capital, who was affected by the gas, described central Tehran as “total chaos”.

He said “severe clashes” were taking place between protesters and police and there had been many arrests.

Iranian police have placed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi under house arrest, his official website says.

Violence marks fourth day of Yemeni protests against president
Thousands of protesters gathered at Yemen’s Sanaa University for the fourth day, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down, clashed with pro-government demonstrators who hurled stones and wielded clubs.

Protesters chanted “Down, down with Ali, long live Yemen” as police formed a human shield to keep crowds from spreading. Members of the Lawyers Syndicate joined the protest for the first time, calling “the people want the fall of the regime.” Dozens of pro-government demonstrators earlier pressed for dialogue between the government and opposition parties.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis, inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, have rallied in recent weeks, demanding Saleh’s immediate resignation after 32 years in power. Saleh said on Feb. 2 he won’t seek to extend his term when it expires in 2013 and that his son would not succeed him as president.

Clashes in Bahrain before planned protest rally
Bahrain’s security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets Monday at thousands of anti-government protesters heeding calls to unite in a major rally and bring the Arab reform wave to the Gulf for the first time.
The punishing tactics by authorities underscored the sharply rising tensions in the tiny island kingdom — a strategic Western ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Riot police — some firing bird shot pellets — moved against marchers in various sites to prevent a mass gathering in the capital, Manama, that organizers intended as an homage to Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.

Bahrain’s protesters, however, claim they do not seek to overthrow the ruling monarchy but want greater political freedoms and sweeping changes in how the country is run.


Intifada update

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.