Friday, February 18, 2011

The Next Egypt?

The world has erupted. Pro-democracy protests have spread faster than a forest fire engulfing nations that saw for decades oppression and corruption from authoritarian rulers.
While Tunisia ignited the torch, Egypt took it forward and President Hosni Mubarak's resignation gave the hope to millions of citizens worldwide that they too could bring about change in their country by simply believing in the power of the people's movement. 

The world looks on as Egypt celebrates its victory today with two million people in Tahrir Square (in pic above), the people's seat that toppled the President. While the mood was festive, Egyptians do realize they have a long way to go to get the military to honour its promises and deliver change.

But following Egypt's historic victory against its oppresive regime, hundreds and thousands took to the streets in their own countries. The respective governments too stepped up opposition and, unlike Egypt, turned the police and army against the people. 

While for many countries achieving Egypt's success in such a short span of time might be difficult, I believe Bahrain. Libya and Yemen would be at the forefront of demanding change and will unfortunately see much more violence than Egypt. 

While Bahrain may see days of comparatively peaceful protests next week with sporadic incidences of violence, Libya will definitely erupt and see much more violence over the weekend. Yemen is just finding its feet in pro democracy protests and though Saleh has taken a backstep by offering to step down at the end of the term, Yeminis will not be satisfied until they see him leave soon.

Bahrain - Burning in Protests
Bahrain is seeing one of the most violent protests of the recent days. The people from this  tiny country in the Gulf have decided to stand up against the monarchy and are demanding a more equal and just society. 

About 70 percent of Bahrain's citizens are Shiite Muslims. Though Bahrain is one of the few Gulf nation's with a popularly elected parliament, the main powers still rest in the hands of the Sunni monarchy which decides important political and military posts.

So protesters have taken to the streets demanding an end to these powers of the monarchy. Clashes and protests have occurred sporadically over the past few days. Security forces in Bahrain have dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters in Pearl Square in the centre of the capital, Manama using tear gas and batons. There are now police with tanks reported on some streets. Bahraini security forces have also opened fire on anti-government protesters killing an injuring many.

The heavy police and military presence in the capital Manama is ensuring that more protesters are not allowed entry in the capital. Funerals of those killed in the clashes are taking place across the country.

Amnesty International has strongly condemned these acts of violence by the state. 'Respect for human rights in Bahrain has deteriorated significantly in the past year in the face of growing anti-government sentiment and violent protests,' it says in its latest report 'Crackdown in Bahrain: Human Rights at the Crossroads', which speaks about gross human rights violations by the Bahraini government.

Libya - Day of Rage
Libya's 'Day of Rage' found snipers fire at protesters from rooftops. The longest ruling dictator Col. Maummar al-Gaddafi's left no stone unturned to turn his rage on the people protesting against his rule. 

His regime turned its helicopter gunships and snipers on protesters, killing and injuring many of them. According to Human Rights Watch at least 24 people have been killed by Libyan security forces though officially Libya has issued no casualty figures.

Reports on social network sites say up to 50 people have been killed in protests in several Libyan cities. Libyan are flocking to facebook and twitter to join the anti-government movement

The protestors refuse to succumb and are first concentrating on towns that have weaker support for Gaddafi like in the east, including its second largest city, Benghazi. The area is largely cut-off from international media.

Also mobile phone networks in Libya are now being used by the regime for sending messages from 'the youth of Libya' warning against crossing 'four red lines: Maummar Gadhafi, territorial integrity, Islam and internal security'.

Although the European Union has urged Libyan authorities to allow free expression and listen to what the protesters have to say, the Libyan leader believes in pretending that discontent doesn't exist in Libya. Gaddafi says Libyans enjoy 'true democracy'.

So while his country is burning in other parts, he decides to put a show of strength. State television showed several hundred pro-government supporters holding a rally in Tripoli's Green Square before dawn. As Gaddafi arrived, he stood up through the sunroof of his limousine and waved to the crowd.

The Gaddafi family's billionaire lifestyle and playboy reputation is a liability in a region where unemployment and corruption are widespread. The protesters demand political freedoms, respect for human rights and an end to corruption and are refusing to bow down. 

Yemen - 'Friday of Rage'
Riots have flared up in Yemen after eight days of protests where protesters are calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A key US ally and a ruler for 32 years, Saleh is already facing threats from al Qaida militants who want him out, a southern secessionist movement and an erratic armed rebellion in the north.

Facebook and twitter were used to garner support for the 'Friday of Rage' and tens of thousands responded in the capital Sanaa, Aden and Taiz. Anti-government demonstrators clashed with supporters of Saleh and police, who fired tear gas and shots in the air to disperse the crowd. 

In the city of Taiz, a hand grenade was allegedly thrown at a group of protesters causing a blast and a stampede. Riots also flared up in the southern port of Aden where cars and a local government building were set ablaze.

Eyewitnesses in Sana’a told Amnesty International that they had been surrounded and attacked by security forces and 'thugs'.“We are trying to hide but the security forces are pointing out our locations to the thugs. We are very scared, particularly because there are children with us. We’ve tried to get the children out of the area but the security forces have not allowed us to do so,” one activist told Amnesty International today.

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