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Tags: Egypt Watch

Morocco, Too



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The protests have spread so completely throughout the Arab world that it’s hard to keep track. Here’s the latest Times roundup on the situation in Morocco:

 

CASABLANCA, Morocco — For Morocco, a kingdom on the western edge of North Africa, the calls for change sweeping the region are muted by a fear of chaos, a prevalent security apparatus and genuine respect for the king, Mohammed VI. Since he took the throne in 1999, the king, who is only 47, has done much to soften the harsh and often brutal rule of his father, Hassan II.

As in Jordan, demands for the resignation of the government have not touched the king, who is considered by many to be a reformer on the side of the poor. But the demands in Morocco include a desire for a more legitimate democracy, with limits on the power of Mohammed VI, who together with his close advisers controls most of the real power in the country.

On Sunday, in response to a “February 20 Movement for Change” that began on Facebook, more than 10,000 people turned out in cities across the country to call for democratic change, lower food prices, freedom for Islamist prisoners, rights for Berbers and a variety of causes, including pan-Arab nationalism.

In Rabat, the capital, and in Casablanca, the largest city, there were between 3,000 and 5,000 protesters, and there were smaller demonstrations in Marrakesh, Tangier and other cities. All were peaceful, though state radio announced that the rallies had been canceled, perhaps as a tactic to keep the turnout down.

There were reports of scattered violence on Sunday evening in Marrakesh, where protesters, some of them throwing stones, clashed with the police and attacked a McDonald’s, and in the northern town of Larache, where a gas station was set ablaze.

On Monday, Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said that five burned bodies were found in a bank that had been set on fire by demonstrators in another northern town, Al Hoceima.

People in the town said police used tear gas against protesters Sunday night after they set fire to five cars and threw stones at a police station following the demonstration.

Mr. Cherkaoui said that 120 people had been arrested on Sunday, but minors had been sent home, and that 128 people, including 115 members of the security forces, were wounded in several towns, though he did not specify the seriousness of any injuries.

In Casablanca and Rabat, numerous undercover police officers were obvious in the crowd, sometimes photographing protesters. In Rabat, people chanted slogans like, “Down with autocracy,” and, “The king must reign, not govern.” In Casablanca, protesters called for the government to resign. One sign said: “Democratic Constitution = Parliamentary Monarchy.”

“This is a start,” said Imane Safi, 18, who was at the demonstration in Casablanca. “The Arab world is changing and the Moroccan people need a change in the Constitution for more democracy. We want a country like Britain, with a constitutional monarchy and a strong Parliament that is not corrupt.”

Secretary Clinton’s Statement



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The world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm. We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been lost, and with their loved ones. The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.

Gaddafi’s own ministers had harsher words…

REUTERS FLASH: Army officers urge defection



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This is big: 

Group of Libyan army officers issue statement urging fellow soldiers to “join the people” and help to remove Muammar #Gaddafi - Al Jazeera

Ambassador to U.S. Condemns Gaddafi



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The Libyan ambassador to the United States, Ali Ojli, has come out and condemned Gaddafi and his regime’s response to the protests in Libya, though he has not resigned his position.

This is one of many defections. 

Sens. Kyl and Kirk Issue Statement



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From their latest press release:

 

Kyl-Kirk Joint Statement on Libya

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) today released the following statement regarding the situation in Libya:

“Reports indicate that Qaddafi is now engaged in a brutal attempt to maintain his 40 year dictatorship.  The United States should not remain silent in the face of Qaddafi’s egregious violations of human rights.  We urge the President to speak out clearly in support of the Libyan people in their struggle against the Qaddafi dictatorship.”

Video of Protests



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Videos are slow in coming from Libya, as Gaddafi’s media blockade has been even more effective than Mubarak’s was. Many of the videos and images are too graphic to post here. But here is a video of a protest from this morning in Benghazi that may give you a sense of the size and energy: 

REPORTS: Defections in Libyan Army



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Three flashes from Al Jazeera:

1. Fighter pilots have landed plans in Benghazi after refusing to fire on protesters. 

2. Planes carrying foreign mercenaries have arrived in Tripoli.

3. Senior military officers in the Libyan army are reportedly defecting; some are even helping to arm protesters.

BREAKING: Gaddafi to Speak



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A Reuters Flash report claims that Moammar Gaddafi will give a speech on state television soon. 

Bad News



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Due to a crackdown on non-state media, everything in Libya is very uncertain. There are two very disturbing updates from Al Jazeera, however: 

 

11:00pm: Libyan state TV says “security forces have begun an extensive operation against dens of vandals”.

10:59pm: Libyan city of Misratah, east of Tripoli, is latest to be attacked by airstrikes. Heavy artillery fire devastates buildings as tanks roll into the city, witnesses tell Al Jazeera.

Muslim Brotherhood Leader Issues Fatwa Against Gaddafi



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Mother Jones writes: 

 

If you weren’t convinced before that Libya’s demonstrations have passed a point of no return…

negevrockcity:

Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi just issued a Fatwa, live on Al Jazeera Arabic, calling for the assassination of Libyan leader Mouammar Qadaffi.It is the first “death Fatwa” since that of Salman Rushdie’s almost 20 years ago. What do you think about that?

 

Catching Up on Libya



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With reports that that Gaddafi has ordered military jets to fire on protesters, 200 dead, conflicting rumors about Gaddafi’s acts, and violence escalating, you’re probably wondering exactly what has happened. The best place to start is to read through Al Jazeera’s live blog of the events from earlier today. Follow more updates here, at Egypt Watch, and my Twitter.

Gaddafi II’s Speech



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Al Jazeera has the highlights of the speech Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Moammar, gave on Libyan State TV today: 

 

In his speech, al-Islam blamed the unrest in Libya on tribal factions and drunken or drugged Islamists acting on their own agendas. He also promised reforms and said the alternative would be civil war causing no trade and no oil money for the country.

On reported deaths in the unrest, he said: ”There were some planning errors. Errors from the police … and the army that was not equipped and prepared to confront angry people and…to defend its premises, weapons and ammunition.”

“Each party has its own version of the story…But the unfortunate bottom line is that sons of Libya have died. This is the tragedy.”

On the demands of the protesters: He said he agreed with and understood the “clear political agenda and demands” by political organisations, trade unions and lawyers whom he said were behind the events in the east of Libya.

“These do not represent a problem. We understand and agree with their opinions.”

On the people he blamed for the unrest: “They have started by attacking army camps, have killed soldiers, officers…and taken weapons”.

“The security forces…have arrested dozens in Libya who unfortunately were among our brother Arabs and among the African expatriates…who were used in these events at these times to create problems…Some wealthy (businessmen) and tradesmen spent millions on them to use these people”.

“There are groups that want to rule, there are groups that want to form the state in eastern Libya and rule…in Benghazi and Baida…

“There are groups that have formed a government in Benghazi and groups that have set up an Islamic emirate in Baida … and another person who declared himself to be the ruler of the Islamic Republic of Darna”.

“They now want to transform Libya into a group of (Islamic) emirates, small states and even (cause) separatism. They have a plot. Unfortunately, our brother Arabs (allowed) their media, their stations and the inflammatory coverage.”

Venezuela Denies Reports



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Al Jazeera is reporting that a senior cabinet member in Hugo Chavez’s regime is denying that Venezuela has received Qaddafi, as rumored just minutes ago. 

Meanwhile: almost all communications to and from Libya have been cut off. Several senior officials, ministers, and diplomats of Qaddafi’s regime have resigned in protests of the killings of protesters. There are now reports of fighter jets firing on protesters.

BREAKING: Qaddafi to Venezuela?



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Reuters is now reporting that Qaddafi may have left Libya, fleeing to Venezuela, according to a British foreign minister. 

Slaughter in Libya: 200 Dead



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Horrible. Machine-gun fire was sprayed across crowds of funeral mourners. Libya generally appears to be destined for the bloodiest and most brutal of the middle-eastern uprisings:

 

Libyan security forces again fired on a funeral procession through the city of Benghazi on Sunday, as residents buried dozens of dead from a crackdown the day before and as a five-day-old uprising against the dictatorship of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi appeared to spread to other cities along the Mediterranean coast.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it had proof that at least 173 had been killed since the uprising’s start. But several people in Benghazi hospitals, reached by telephone, said they believed as many as 200 had been killed and more than 800 wounded there on Saturday alone. Witnesses indicated that many had been killed by machine-gun fire.

There were also large protests on Sunday in Yemen, Tunisia and, for the first time, Morocco. And Iranian security forces violently suppressed attempted demonstrations in Tehran and other cities around the country.

But the escalating violence in Libya — a cycle of funerals, confrontations, and more coffins — has made the revolt there the bloodiest in a wave of uprisings sweeping the region since the ouster of strongmen in Tunisia last month and Egypt this month.

Under Mr. Qaddafi’s four decades of idiosyncratic rule, Libya has become a country where the official rhetoric disdains the idea of a nation-state, tribal bonds remain primary even within the ranks of the military, and both protesters and the security forces have reason to believe that backing down will likely mean their ultimate death or imprisonment.

“The most dreadful crime against humanity is taking place in this city,” said Abdel Latif Al Hadi, a 54-year-old Benghazi resident whose five sons are out protesting. “In the eastern region, there is no going back after this bloodbath.”

Several residents of Benghazi described an ongoing battle for control of the city, Libya’s second-largest, with a population of more than half a million. By Sunday, thousands of protesters had occupied a central square in front of the courthouse, which some call their Tahrir Square after the epicenter of the Egyptian revolt, and they were chanting the same slogans that echoed through the streets of Tunis and Cairo, “The people want to bring down the regime.”

By evening, two witnesses said, the protesters had stormed the security headquarters, and, these witnesses said, a few members of the security forces had defected to join the protesters. “These young men are taking bullets in their chests to confront the tyrant,” Mr. Hadi said, speaking by phone from the siege of the security building.

But more than a thousand other members of the security forces had hardly surrendered. They were concentrated a few miles away from the courthouse in a barracks in the neighborhood of Berqa. Witnesses said young protesters were attempting suicidal attacks on the barracks with thrown rocks, stun grenades usually used for fishing, or occasionally vehicles stolen from the security forces. But the security forces responded by shooting from the cover of the fortified building, while others shot from vehicles as they cruised the side streets.

Some protesters said they were crying and celebrating even as the toll rose. “Despite the pain and victims, we are happy because the blood of our sons was not spilled in vain,” said Amal Mohaity, a lawyer and human rights activist. “Mark my words: Qaddafi is coming down, he is coming down, he is coming down.”

 

Djibouti Too?



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Is there anywhere these protests won’t spread?

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Djibouti to call for President Ismael Omar Guelleh to step down.

The demonstrators were reportedly monitored closely by security forces in riot gear.

Mr Guelleh’s family has governed the Red Sea city state since independence from France in 1977. The United States has a large military base in Djibouti.

The constitution was last year amended, to let Mr Guelleh seek a third term.

Some of the protesters say they will stay in a stadium until Mr Guelleh, 63, leaves power in the Somali-speaking country.

Elections are due in April. Mr Guelleh was re-elected unopposed in 2005.

The protesters held banners reading “IOG out” and “No to a third mandate”, reports the AFP news agency.

Jordan Erupts



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Partisans favoring King Abdullah II attacked anti-government demonstrators in the Jordanian capital of Amman yesterday. The conflict could exacerbate tensions and demonstrations which had actually slowed a bit until yesterday. King Abdullah is a U.S. ally and has ruled for a decade. The Times has the story

 

A protest turned violent in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Friday as government supporters clashed with demonstrators calling for political change, injuring several, witnesses said.

Anti-government protests, though rare for Jordan, have become routine on Fridays in the weeks since popular uprisings swept over Tunisia, Egypt and other parts of the region, but this was the first time that one ended in confrontation.

Jordanians expressed surprise over the turn of events, saying that this Friday’s anti-government gathering was actually smaller than previous ones, with only a few hundred participants, as opposed to earlier demonstrations that have attracted several thousand.

The protest started out peacefully outside the King Hussein mosque in downtown Amman, according to participants, with the demonstrators calling for an end to corruption and constitutional monarchy and for the lowering of prices.

“Then,” recounted Firas Mahadin, 30, a movie director who took part in the protest, “more than a hundred young thugs surrounded us from in front and behind and started attacking us.”

Mr. Mahadin was speaking by telephone from the hospital, where he had gone with a suspected concussion after being hit on the head with a metal club, he said. He said that the attackers were shouting slogans in favor of King Abdullah II and against Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite station that has been accused by parts of the Middle East establishment of fomenting the recent upheavals and unrest.

Mr. Mahadin and others described the pro-government supporters as young men in civilian clothing armed with metal bars and wooden clubs.

Witnesses said that police at the scene did not intervene.

A police spokesman, Mohamed Khatib, described the clashes as the result of a “quarrel” that broke out “between a pro-government rally and another demonstration staged in the same location,” Agence France-Presse reported.

Most of the rallies for change have been led by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, joined by leftist groups, students and trade unions.

The king enjoys absolute powers, and appoints the prime minister and the cabinet. But he is contending with the country’s worst economic crisis in years.

King Abdullah has already taken some measures to try to calm the atmosphere. Responding to the protesters’ demands he dismissed the prime minister, Samir Rifai, on Feb. 1 and replaced him with Marouf al-Bakhit, a former general who has served before in the post and is widely viewed as clean of corruption. The royal palace said in a statement that Mr. Bakhit was asked to take “practical, swift and tangible steps” toward comprehensive political change.

Few consider either the monarchy or the country at imminent risk of serious turmoil, not least because the population is divided between groups with differing grievances and interests. Jordan is a country of six million, more than half of them Palestinian, and 40 percent members of tribes, also known as East Bankers.

Qaradawi’s Ominous Return



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…another troubling parallel to Iran, 1979. From the Investigative Project on Terrorism:

 

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Muslim Brotherhood theologian, promises to be in Egypt’s Tahrir Square to deliver a sermon at Friday’s prayer service.

Qaradawi, who has lived in Qatar since 1961, was a vocal critic of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Aprofile this week in Germany’s Der Spiegel called him the Muslim Brotherhood’s “father figure.”

But his return is being touted as a reward for “Qaradawi’s role in mobilizing support for the Egyptian revolution,” a claim which is questionable at best.

It won’t be the first time Qaradawi has been back to Egypt, but his visits have been fleeting. A sermon from him on the first Friday after Mubarak’s ouster could be hugely symbolic as the Brotherhood tries to exert influence over the direction Egyptian society takes. And it will trigger memories of the 1979 Iranian revolution, which took a dramatic turn when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile in France.

Egypt’s revolution has been described as largely spontaneous, fueled by a building rage brought on by years of oppression, inspired by a Facebook page created by Google executive Wael Ghonim devoted to a man killed by security forces and ignited by the peaceful Tunisian revolt, which showed change was possible.

If anything, the Muslim Brotherhood deliberately took a low profile during the uprising, not wanting to play into Mubarak’s narrative that his ouster would lead to chaos in Egypt. But a statement Monday from Qaradawi’s International Union of Muslim Scholars said he “initiated the beginning of the Friday of wrath 28/01/2011 by shouting out loud, ‘Go, Mubarak, safeguard the blood and protect the people of Egypt.’”

The Brotherhood confirmed Qaradawi’s role in Friday’s events, saying he “will address the celebrators on the importance of the role of all Egyptians in building a free and democratic Egypt.”

The Der Spiegel profile notes Qaradawi’s enigmatic nature. Hailed as a moderate for opposing al-Qaida and embracing modern technology, he has called on Allah to kill “the Jewish Zionists” and spoken “about the right of Palestinian women to blow themselves up.” He has been barred from entering the U.S. since 1999, the profile said.

In the past two years, he also has:

Called on Muslims to acquire nuclear weapons “to terrorize their enemies.”

Called jihad an Islamic moral duty and said Muslims are permitted to kill Israeli women because they serve in the army.

Affirmed his support for suicide bombings. “I supported martyrdom operations,” he said, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “This is a necessary thing, as I told them in London. Give the Palestinians tanks, airplanes, and missiles, and they won’t carry out martyrdom operations. They are forced to turn themselves into human bombs, in order to defend their land, their honor, and their homeland.”

Called the Holocaust a divine punishment of Jews “for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

Prayed for the opportunity to kill a Jew before his death. “The only thing that I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah.”

This week, a Brotherhood official was among eight people named to a panel charged with recommending changes to Egypt’s suspended constitution. As the IPT has noted, the Brotherhood’s bylaws continue to call for it “to establish Allah’s law in the land by achieving the spiritual goals of Islam and the true religion.” That includes “the need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings.”

Der Spiegel reports that Qaradawi envisions a “United Muslim Nations” as a contemporary form of the caliphate. In its statement on the Revolution, the International Union of Muslim Scholars advocated something much broader. It called for “all components of the Egyptian people, Muslims and Copts, alike to stand as one to reach a consultative democratic government which represents the Egyptian people and its values and principles.”

Images of a triumphant Qaradawi in leading prayer at the spot that triggered Egypt’s revolution might trigger memories of Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran months after the Shah fled. Though analysts at the time did not anticipate him seizing power, the Islamic Republic was born just two months later.

Analysts today say differences in Egypt’s uprising and in the Brotherhood’s following make a repeat unlikely.

In an interview on National Public Radio, Stanford University director of Iranian studies Abbas Milani said the Brotherhood has no charismatic leader of Khomeini’s stature. But he remained skeptical of the organization’s claims that it is not interested in making Egypt’s revolution into an Islamic one.

“Do you believe them?” asked Steve Inskeep. “No, I don’t, to be honest with you,” Milani said. “I think Muslim Brotherhood has an established record of wanting to create a government based on Sharia.”

Read more at: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2603/qaradawi-ominous-return-to-egypt

U.S. to Economically Aid Transition in Egypt...



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…to the tune of $150 million:

 

WASHINGTON: The United States gave Egypt $150 million in crucial economic assistance on Thursday to help the key US ally transition towards democracy following the overthrow of longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

“I am pleased to announce today that we will be reprogramming $150 million for Egypt to put ourselves in a position to support the transition there and assist with their economic recovery,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

“These funds will give us flexibility to respond to Egyptian needs moving forward,” the chief US diplomat told reporters after a closed-door briefing with senators about Middle East unrest.

Clinton added that William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, and David Lipton, a senior White House adviser on international economics, would travel to Egypt next week.

The pair will “consult with Egyptian counterparts on how we can most effectively deploy our assistance in line with their priorities,” Clinton said.

During the State Department daily media briefing, Mark Toner, a Clinton spokesman, said he did not have immediate details on where the $150 million was coming from or where exactly it was going.

Tahrir Square Still Flooded



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…not with anti-Mubarak protesters anymore, obviously, but with celebrations, and demonstrators making new demands:

 

CAIRO: Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians flocked in Tahrir Square on Friday in a gathering reminiscent of the 18-day-long demonstrations that led president Hosni Mubarak to step down on Feb 11.

On Feb. 18, dubbed the “Friday of Victory,” people came to celebrate the ouster of Mubarak after 30 years in power and to reiterate their demands for reform. They also wanted to honor over 365 killed in protests.

Before Friday prayers, a military band played a variety of national and patriotic songs to the cheers of the growing crowd.

Sherif Ismail, 30, came to Tahrir with his three children “to honor the martyrs who died for our freedom.”

Families of some of the martyrs were also present at the square.

“I want people to remember those who sacrificed their lives for them,” Amal Mohamed Gaber, 47, whose son Ahmed, 19, was shot dead with live ammunition in a protest on Jan. 31.

Leila Abdel Kerim, a 39-year-old housewife and mother of four, came to celebrate with her family.

“We’ve come to celebrate and I’m against all the employees who went on strike especially now demanding reform and increase in salaries,” Abdel Kerim’s husband, Mohamed Abdel Rahman, 37, told Daily News Egypt. “Things won’t improve overnight. The revolution isn’t a magic lamp that will immediately solve the people’s problems.”

“We need to be productive now and rebuild our country,” Abdel Rahman added.Mostafa, nine, said this was the first time he’s ever come to Tahrir Square.

“I’ve come to celebrate the victory of all the Egyptian people,” he said.

Others called on the army to implement their demands for reform and democracy, including the annulment of the emergency law, the formation of a new government instead of the one handpicked by the ousted Mubarak, the release of the detainees and the prosecution of those responsible for killing protesters.

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