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Days of Rage: As Mideast Protests Spread, Peaceful Outcomes Are Up in the Air

4 years ago
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down after an 18-day quiet revolution, but the region is hardly at rest. What started in Tunisia has spread thick and fast throughout the region. Algeria is simmering. Jordan is fitful. Iran and Syria are clamping down on protests. Bahrain and Yemen have protests in the streets. Eighteen days may have changed Egypt, but the rest of the Middle East has hardly returned to normal.

Asked Monday if she had a message for protesters in the region, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton replied, "Remain peaceful, nonviolent. That is what worked so well in Egypt, and that's what will work, because it gives you a standing that is absolutely unimpeachable -- that you are going out and protesting but not using violent means. Continue to stand up for universal rights but recognize that change requires a process, and be willing to be part of that process."

It may take Gandhi-like patience to remain peaceful.

Demonstrators swelled the streets of the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain Tuesday after Monday's "Day of Rage" protest of government repression. Several protesters were injured and two were killed.

Sunnis rule Bahrain, but Shias are in the majority -- and for years they have claimed the government has institutionalized discrimination. Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) told Al Jazeera: "We are only asking for political reforms: right of political participation, respect for human rights, stopping of systematic discrimination against Shias. All the demands are to do with human rights and nothing to do with the ruling family and their regime." Bahraini leaders, Al Jazeera said, had tried to buy peace. It didn't work.

In Bahrain's capital, Manama, thousands of people filled Pearl Square -- dubbed "Tahrir Square" after its counterpart in Cairo -- on Tuesday. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa spoke on television to express sympathy for the dead.

But while protester there are not -- as of yet -- calling for a change of government, the same cannot be said of Yemen, where protests continued Tuesday for a fifth day. In the streets of the capital, Sanaa, and in the town of Taez, protesters called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has held power for three decades. "After Mubarak, it's Saleh's turn," the demonstrators chanted and, using a slogan from Egypt, "The people want to oust the regime."

Yemeni protesters, inspired by those in Egypt, are also relying on Facebook and Twitter to organize. "It will not matter to us if we stay one, two or three months," Hashem al-Abara, one of the social-networking organizers, told Agence France-Presse. "We will continue with the protests, and the ruling party's attacks against our peaceful demonstrations will not set us back."

As in Egypt, the Yemeni attacks on protesters have included journalists covering events there. Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, issued a statement denouncing such actions: "Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns the attacks that security agents, police officers and plainclothes men have carried out against journalists covering street protests in Sanaa during the past two days." The group listed several specific attacks, including one against photojournalist Khalil Al-Berh, who was held in a security services vehicle, his camera taken and the contents of its memory card deleted. Khalid Al-Mahdi, a Reuters photographer, was attacked on the street, his camera destroyed. Two correspondents reported being badly beaten.

Algeria, too, appears both inspired and spooked by Egypt. Protests hailed a statement from Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, who told French television that Algeria's two-decade-old "emergency law," which institutionalizes censorship and bans freedom of assembly, would be lifted this week, giving Algerians "complete freedom of expression."

Further protests are planned for this weekend, as the lifting of the law may be too little, too late for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Protesters, by the thousands, are calling for the leader, in office for over a decade, to step down.

In Jordan, where King Abdullah replaced his Parliament on Feb. 1, scandal threatened the monarchy not from the streets but from the Bedouin tents. Queen Rania, a global figure known both for her beauty and her humanitarian work, was accused last week of corruption by the leaders of 36 tribes.

But it is Iran that the United States is looking toward with a mixture of dread, derision and consternation. Speaking of that nation Monday, Secretary Clinton referred to its "hijacked" revolution. "What Iran is doing to its people, even as we speak, where there are protesters trying to have their voices heard in Iran who are being brutally suppressed by the Iranian security forces, I don't think anyone in the Middle East -- or frankly, anyone in the world -- would look to Iran as an example for them. That is not where anybody wants to end up, where you are basically in a military dictatorship with a kind of theocratic overlay which doesn't respond to the universal human rights of the Iranian people. So I don't think there's much to be learned or really in any way followed coming out of Iran when it comes to democracy."
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It's very interesting that that this is spreading the way it is , Iran is cracking down hard on it's people . Will they have the the will to face death like the 300 or so that lost there lives in Egypt ? Only time will tell . In Iran you have the brutal Revolutionary Guard who soul purpose is to protect the present leadership at all cost , Even if it means to kill it's own people . If I were the other countries in the middle east I would be getting ready for it maybe coming to there front door also . Who is behind this ? I wonder !

February 15 2011 at 10:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

God Bless President Obama, his skills and courage will encourage and promote peace and harmony in the region.

February 15 2011 at 7:12 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

I think other countries will follow on the heels of the Egyptians; I think everyone has had enough of their fundamental, moral rights being hijacked by any regime. Iran is not the place to look to for inspiration and it would remain the same way as when China snuffed out protestors in Teinenmen square a few years ago.

February 15 2011 at 3:12 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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