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Tags: Egypt Watch

The Wounded in Bahrain (Graphic)



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Video shows protesters who have been shot being carried from the scene of demonstrations in Bahrain:

Internet Restricted in Bahrain



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The regime is evidently taking a page from Hosni Mubarak. James Glanz reports:

As protests have erupted in Bahrain over the last several days, the government has severely restricted the access of its citizens to the Internet, new data from an organization that monitors Internet traffic strongly suggests.

The data, collected by Arbor Networks, is the first quantitative confirmation that Internet traffic into and out of Bahrain has suffered an anomalous drop over the past days.

Death Toll in Libya



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At least 24 protesters against Muammar el-Qaddafi have been killed in Libya. Media suppression makes the figures uncertain. The Times reports:

 

“According to multiple witnesses, Libyan security forces shot and killed the demonstrators in efforts to disperse the protests,” Human Rights Watch said, calling the crackdown vicious. Protests broke out in five places, it said — Benghazi, Al Beyda, Zentan, Derna and Ajdabiya. Quryna, a privately owned newspaper in Benghazi, said seven killings came overnight when security forces fired live rounds at protesters. While there has been no means of verifying the authorities’ tactics, there has been a steady stream of accusations about the use of live ammunition, reflecting the government’s resolve to quash protest.

To the east and west of his country, Colonel Qaddafi has seen leaders toppled by mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt and seems determined to forestall any such uprising in his own country.

The protests seem to feed on earlier grievances, both economic and political, particularly in the east of the country where people have long felt disadvantaged compared with those in the capital.

 

Yemen Day 8



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Protests agains the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh continue unabated. Yesterday saw confrontations between pro-democracy and pro-regime supporters reminiscent of those in Egypt: the latter wore plainsclothes, but it wasn’t clear if they were government agents or authentic supporters, and acted with violence. Laura Kasinof reports:

 

SANA, Yemen — Pro-government demonstrators armed with sticks ran down rivals calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Salehon Friday in the capital, breaking up the show of dissent as the country’s turmoil went into an eighth day.

In the city of Taiz, 130 miles south of the capital, thousands of antigovernment protesters massed and clashed with government supporters, news reports said. Reuters reported that a grenade exploded in a large crowd of antigovernment protesters who had gathered in the city’s Hurriya, or Freedom, Square, camping out in emulation of Egyptian protesters who turned Cairo’s Tahrir Square into the center of their uprising. At least eight people were wounded in the blast, Reuters reported.

In what now seems a pattern, pro-government forces wearing traditional dress that prevails outside the capital routed antigovernment protesters as the police and army looked on. The demonstrators had been seeking to march to a mosque from the university. After they were dispersed, their foes, waving sticks aloft, celebrated with a victory parade.

As the protests stretched into a second week, opponents of Mr. Saleh appeared divided. A formal coalition of opposition parties organized earlier demonstrations that extracted concessions from him, including a pledge to stand down in 2013. For the moment they appear content to push for greater concessions under that timetable.

But a younger cohort of opponents is pressing for Mr. Saleh’s earlier departure, organizing their resistance — as elsewhere — using cell phone text messages and Facebook.

Southern secessionists have also renewed their protests in the port city of Aden, where demonstrations have been notably more violent. One protester, about 20 years old, was said to have been shot to death in battles with the police on Wednesday, according to reports from the city, as hundreds took to the streets in several neighborhoods.

Though Yemen’s southern secessionists have also sought inspiration from a regional wave of protests their demand for independence is longstanding and their goals differ from those of the students protesting against Mr. Saleh in Sana and other areas, including Taiz, which is not part of the area that secessionists have claimed.

Why no Progress in Tehran?



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 In an essay for the Times, Alan Cowell answers the question of why the demonstrations in Iran have not picked up like thsoe in Egypt, in terms of two main factors: (1) The Iranian regime has been more effective with media suppression, and (2) the West’s less friendly relationship with Tehran gives it less leverage: 

 

 

For 18 days, the world watched Egypt’s revolution live on television, following every surge of protest, every incremental escalation of people power.

And for one day this week, when the fervor inspired by Egypt’s example seized Tehran, the world did just the opposite. No satellite images like those of Tahrir Square showed Enghelab Square. No foreign reporters poured through Tehran’s airport. No networks vied for the most exhaustive coverage.

Instead, outsiders foraged through YouTube fragments and Facebooksnippets to divine what was happening. The narrative was disjointed, as those who disrupted it intended it to be. A reader wrote to ask me why there no moving pictures to confirm a revival, however fleeting, of the protest that flowed from Iran’s disputed 2009 election and was then brutally crushed.

The answer was simple: news cameras were barred; news gatherers were barred from the protests and punished by the removal of news media credentials as the Iranian authorities deployed their armory of controls: the Internet slowed; plainclothes security officials on motorcycles beat and intimidated protesters; the Parliament bayed for opposition leaders to be executed.

The differences in coverage, though, reflected another distinction relating to the way regimes interact with the world beyond their borders and to the choices confronting them in the face of the region’s rage, illuminating how Western patronage, once a font of support for some leaders, may now unravel the very regimes it once held in place.

“For years, Arab rulers told their Western patrons not to worry about their subjects, as though they were obedient, if sometimes unruly, children and these patrons were only too happy to follow their advice,” Adam Shatz, a senior editor, wrote in the London Review of Books.

But once the new wave of Arab wrath, starting in Tunisia, built a tsunami on the Nile, Washington reluctantly concluded that its patronage of President Hosni Mubarak placed it on the wrong side of history. The Obama administration shifted, and Mr. Mubarak’s fate was sealed.

For three decades, as the bedrock of a regional policy shielding Israel, Mr. Mubarak secured America’s favor and was rewarded in many ways — from tolerance of his undemocratic rule to the $1.3 billion a year in U.S. aid to Cairo’s military.

That largess, too, turned to leverage: Egypt’s generals insisted from the outset that they would not order their troops to use force against protesters, in effect emboldening the uprising against their political boss.

By contrast, Tehran’s often fractious rulers have no comparable patron — indeed, they draw power themselves as sponsors of groups like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon — and so they may, and do, act with impunity.

The Fall



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Demonstrators knock over a statue of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s Green Book in Tobruk, in Libya.

Yemen



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Warning: Graphic



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Video from Bahrain. Bear in mind, this from before today’s massacre, when military helicopters sprayed fire on funeral mourners:

Brutality in Bahrain



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The situation in Bahrain is highly uncertain right now, due to brutality scaring journalists from the scene. But there is some truly horrible news coming from Bahrain right now, including that the army has opened fire on crowds of mourners at a funeral for protesters killed in previous days, including that gunmen in a helicopter may have fired on the crowd. If the military is willing to confront protesters in Bahrain, the country could have a very different future than Egypt’s: 

MANAMA, Bahrain — Government forces opened fire on hundreds of mourners marching toward Pearl Square Friday, sending people running away in panic amid the boom of concussion grenades. But even as the people fled, at least one helicopter was spraying fire on them and a witness reported seeing mourners crumpling to the ground. But even as the people fled, at least one helicopter was spraying fire on them and a witness reported seeing mourners crumpling to the ground.

 

A Western official quoted the witness saying that the shooters were from the military, not the police, which might indicate a hardening of the government’s stance against those trying to stage a popular revolt.

It was not immediately clear if all the forces were using live ammunition or rubber bullets to fire at the crowd, mostly young men who had been part of a funeral procession for protesters killed in an earlier crackdown by police.

 

Minutes later, forces in a helicopter that had been shooting at the crowds, stopped to fire at a Western reporter and videographer who were shooting footage on the latest violence.

At least seven people had died in clampdowns before Friday’s violence and a Western official said at least one had died Friday. There were reports of at least 50 injured.

The chaos has left the Obama administration in the uncomfortable position of dealing with a strategic Arab ally locked in a showdown with its people.

Sunnis Fear Revolution in Bahrain



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In Pearl Square, it is the Muslim minority members who are worried about a democratic government being more decidedly Shiite in character. A very interesting read

 

Not everyone wants democracy, or sympathizes with the popular protests crashing across the Middle East.

Not here, anyway, where the ruling elite protects a way of life for a minority Sunni population that fears and resents the political demands of the Shiite-dominated opposition.

Changing a political system, by necessity, means there will be winners and losers, a reality which has sent a chill through parts of the Sunni community here after days of protest by those seeking to alter the status quo in this small country. Their resistance to change may help explain why the government seems confident that it can retain enough public support to carry out the ruthless suppression of the protests that it began on Thursday.

“I don’t want a democracy,” said Rayyah Mohammed, 32, an art project director and strong supporter of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. “I want a monarchy. I like how things are. I have a job. I have a house. I have free health care.”

Bahrain is gripped in what its citizens see as an existential political battle, where the leadership insists on preserving an absolute monarchy and the opposition is demanding a new constitution and elected parliament.

For the most part, the protesters are widely regarded as the good guys in a battle against uncompromising rulers willing to use lethal force to preserve their domain.

But there is another world here, one populated by those who have benefited from an order that they see as a guardian against the kind of compromise, inevitable in a democracy, that might work against their interests. They see their leaders as protecting their freedom, while they see democracy as perhaps imposing on them demands they do not want to meet.

This is especially true in a place like Bahrain, which is divided along sectarian lines and politics is often regarded as a zero-sum game — if Sunnis win, then Shiites lose, in a community where sectarian identification continues to trump national identity.

“We are pro-government, we are pro-king, we don’t want what they want,” said Ahmed Zainal, 27, a public relations executive.

When the protests began, on Monday, a group of young professionals, a public relations director, an art curator, a banker and educator, asked to have their voices be heard as to why they support the king and reject the protesters. They were Ms. Mohammed, the curator, Mr. Zainal, the public relations executive; Bashayer Ali, 31, a banker; and Suhaib Abdullah, 25, a graduate student assistant. Ms. Ali’s father is a Shiite, and the rest were Sunni.

During 90 minutes over coffee in a street side café in the city, they offered a critical counterpoint to the protesters. While the Shiites see themselves as discriminated against and marginalized, these children of the upper middle class, say the Shiites are largely responsible for their own plight, a position that seemed to overlook established patters of discrimination in Bahrain. They said that what the demonstrators wanted was not democracy, but superiority.

They blamed the Shiites for having too many children, for not willing to work hard and for demanding handouts from the government.

The Scene in Yemen and Libya



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Neil MacFarquhar describes it: 

 

Demonstrators for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh fought a seventh straight day of running street battles on Thursday and police fired automatic rifles into the air to try to keep the sides apart.

The violence continued a catalog of unrest Wednesday, when continued strikes over long-suppressed grievances continued in Egypt and a demonstrator’s funeral in Iran turned into a brief tug of war between the government and its opponents.

Even in heavily policed Libya, pockets of dissent emerged in the main square of Benghazi, with people calling for an end to the 41-year rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Protesters using the now familiar weapon of social networking sites to organize dissent called for a “Day of Rage” on Thursday in Tripoli to intensify the challenge to Colonel Qaddafi.

The Bahrain Dilemma



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… eerily parallels that of Egypt. A U.S.-friendly foreign leader with a record of human-rights abuses now facing growing protests, in an area of key strategic interests. Mark Landler of the Times articulates the tight spot the Obama administration is in: 

 

For the second time in two weeks violence has broken out in a restive Arab ally of the United States, confronting the Obama administration with the question of how harshly to condemn a friendly leader who is resisting street protests against his government.

This time it is Bahrain, a postage-stamp monarchy in the Persian Gulf, where the United States Navy bases its Fifth Fleet. At least five people were killed early Thursday when heavily armed riot police officers fired shotguns and concussion grenades into a crowd occupying a traffic circle in the capital, Manama.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, on Thursday to “express deep concern about recent events,” a State Department official said. Mrs. Clinton urged “restraint moving forward” and pushed Sheik Khalid, a member of the royal family that rules Bahrain, to speed up a program of political and economic reforms.

But President Obama has yet to issue the blunt public criticism of Bahrain’s rulers that he eventually leveled against President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt — or that he has repeatedly aimed at Iran’s leaders. Such criticism would be an even sharper break for the United States than it was in the case of Egypt, since just two months ago Washington was holding up Bahrain as a model of reform for the region.

What the administration does with Bahrain is likely to be a telling indicator of how it will deal with the balance between protecting its strategic interests, and promoting democracy — a balance some critics said it never properly struck in its sometimes awkward response to the Egyptian turmoil. What will make this diplomatic maneuvering even more complicated is Bahrain’s proximity to Saudi Arabia, another Sunni monarchy with even greater strategic value to the United States.

Mir Hussein Moussavi Goes Missing



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A disturbing response to the growing unrest in Iran: 

 

A main leader of Iran’s opposition was reported missing on Thursday and both the opposition “green movement” and Iran’s hardliners issued calls for street rallies, escalating tensions after the reemergence of street protests and their brutal suppression on Monday.

The daughters of the missing opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, told an opposition Web site that they had had no word from either of their parents since Tuesday and feared they had been detained. Security forces have surrounded their home, and all communications have been cut.

On Wednesday, the Web site of another opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, reported that the house of his eldest son had been raided and damaged by security officers seeking to arrest him.

Calls have intensified from Iran’s Parliament and judiciary for the prosecution of both men, who have been accused repeatedly of waging war against God, a crime that carries the death penalty. This week, as the opposition revived in solidarity with uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, law markers in Parliament called for them to be hanged.

U.S. Watches Bahrain



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The small nation is important to U.S. strategic interests. The Defense Department is watching the protests in Bahrain with close interest — and hopefully with more foresight than in Egypt: 

 

The Pentagon said on Thursday that it was closely monitoring unrest in Bahrain, the base of operations for the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The tiny Persian Gulf nation has occupied a strategic place in the global structure of the American military for decades. The Navy has had a presence there for more than 60 years, well before it took over a British army base east of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, in 1971, when the country achieved full independence.

The 100-acre naval base is in the suburb of Juffair six miles from the capital’s central Pearl Square, where thousands of antigovernment protesters were attacked by security forces early Thursday morning. The base is home to 4,800 service members and their families and 1,300 contractors and civilians working for the Department of Defense, according to a spokeswoman for the Navy.

Tens of thousands of sailors are deployed around the region on the fleet’s ships…

 

The mission of the Fifth Fleet is broad and includes counterterrorism, air support for the war in Afghanistan, antipiracy efforts around the Gulf of Aden and military exercises with regional allies, including Bahrain. The United States and Bahrain signed a 10-year defense pact in 1991 that includes American training of Bahraini forces; it was renewed in 2001, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

“We work with their militaries to build their skill sets and to build partnerships with countries in the region,” said Lt. Frederick M. Martin, a spokesperson for the fleet.

The fleet monitors 2.5 million square miles of water that touch 20 countries along the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

Egypt Precis



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I recommend this Times piece as a good precis of what’s happening in Egypt right now. The protests to oust Mubarak have given way to more general labor discontent. Many political dissidents and arrested journalists have still not released, and protesters are demanding to know why. Otherwise, things are going relatively according to plan.

Bahrain’s Uprising



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The most serious middle-eastern imitation of the Egyptian protesters seems to be happening in Bahrain. The Times reports:

 

Hours after thousands of protesters poured into this nation’s symbolic center, Pearl Square, hundreds of people carried pro-democracy protests into a third straight day on Wednesday, joining a procession to mourn a demonstrator killed in a clash with security forces.

Emulating the occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square that helped toppled Hosni Mubarak as president, news reports said, around 2,000 people camped out at the major road junction in the city center demanding a change in the government of this strategically placed Persian Gulf kingdom that is home to the United States Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The police massed nearby but did not intervene, apparently anxious to avoid further violent confrontation like the one on Tuesday in which Fadel Matrouq, a demonstrator, was killed, propelling a further day of protest centered on his funeral. He was the second person to be killed in confrontations with the authorities since Monday.

The renewed unrest was the latest in a wave of dissent spreading from the shores of the Gulf as far west as the Mediterranean coastline of Libya where, for the first time, demonstrations were reported to have broken out overnight in the second city of Benghazi. Police reinforcements also took to the streets of Sana, the Yemeni capital, as hundreds of demonstrators for and against the pro-American government massed for a sixth consecutive day. And there were reports of fresh clashes in Iran between government forces and protesters at the funeral of a demonstrator killed on Monday.

Late on Tuesday in Bahrain, protesters entered Pearl Square in a raucous rally that again demonstrated the power of popular movements that are transforming the political landscape of the Middle East.

In a matter of hours on Tuesday, this small monarchy experienced the now familiar sequence of events that has rocked the Arab world. What started as an online call for a “Day of Rage” progressed within 24 hours to an exuberant group of demonstrators, cheering, waving flags, setting up tents and taking over the grassy traffic circle beneath the towering monument of a pearl in the heart of Manama, the capital.

The crowd grew bolder as it grew larger, and as in Tunisia and Egypt, modest concessions from the government only raised expectations among the protesters, who by day’s end were talking about tearing the whole system down, monarchy and all.

Then as momentum built up behind the protests on Tuesday, the 18 members of Parliament from the Islamic National Accord Association, the traditional opposition, announced that they were suspending participation in the legislature.

The mood of exhilaration stood in marked contrast to a day that began in sorrow and violence, when mourners who had gathered to bury a young man killed by the police the night before clashed again with the security forces.

See it all here

Police Clamp Down on Protests in Yemen



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The Times reports

 

SANA, Yemen — Large numbers of police officers took up positions around the capital here on Wednesday in an attempt to end six days of running street battles between small groups of pro- and antigovernment protesters. Students again organized protests at the capital’s central university calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Mr. Saleh attributed the effort to drive him and other regional leaders from office to “foreign agendas,” according to the state-run Saba news agency, quoting a telephone conversation between Mr. Saleh and the king of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who is also facing widespread street protests.

“There are schemes aimed at plunging the region into chaos and violence targeting the nation’s security and the stability of its countries,” Mr. Saleh told the king, the state agency reported.

Several hundred students marched against the Yemeni leader through the streets from Sana University, the gathering point for many young protesters who have sought to emulate the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The police moved to block students from demonstrating near the university, Reuters reported, but the demonstrators broke free. There was no indication of violence against them.

In the southwestern city of Taiz, thousands of students who have occupied the streets in overnight protests that began on Friday vowed to remain there until Mr. Saleh stepped down. The police have arrested more than 100 demonstrators and around 30 have been injured in skirmishes with pro-government groups who have periodically set upon the antigovernment encampment wielding sticks and hurling stones.

There were also fresh protests by southern secessionists in Aden, the port city east of Taiz, where demonstrations have been notably more violent. One protester, about 20 years old, was said to have been shot to death in battles with the police on Wednesday, according to reports from the city, as hundreds took to the streets in several neighborhoods.

Read the whole thing here. 

Political Clashes in Iraq



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The Times reports:

 

Security forces in the eastern Iraqi city of Kut on Wednesday fired on a group of protesters calling for the provincial governor to step down, killing at least three people, according to a local government official.

After the security forces opened fire the protesters stormed the governor’s headquarters and his home, burning both buildings, according to the official. At least 27 people were injured in the violence, including one security officer, the official said.

Read the whole thing here

Camp David Accords in Jeopardy?



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Well, no political action has been taken. But even some Egyptian secular liberals are eager to do away with the historic 1978 treaty, which was the foundation for peace between Egypt and Israel — hence the U.S.’s alliance with Egypt — and which was the pretext for Anwar El Sadat’s assassination by Egyptian Islamists. As HotAir notes, Ayman Nour, a liberal Egyptian leader, was recently quoted as saying, “In practice, the Camp David accords have come to an end.” And he’s not a crazy. As Allahpundit writes: 

 

Nour isn’t some random talking head; he’s been in and out of prison for years for daring to demand liberal reforms from Mubarak’s regime, and actually went so far as to run against Mubarak for president in the rigged election of 2005. Not only is he a cause celebre in the west, he’s sufficiently prominent that Bush name-checked him in his speech on democracy in Prague back in 2007. He is, in other words, arguably the Egyptian dissident, a guy whom the U.S. theoretically might like to see elected president because his political sensibilities are so western.

And yet, even this guy is hint-hint-hinting that it’s time to tear up the Camp David accords.

See the video here.

Horrible News



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A high-profile American journalist was sexually assaulted during tumult in Tahrir square. A news alert is here.

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