Friday, February 25, 2011

Middle East protests: Country by country


Protesters call for President Mubarak to step down The military has been running the country since President Hosni Mubarak, in power for three decades, resigned on 11 February following weeks of protests in the capital Cairo and other cities. The Armed Forces Supreme Council is meant to keep charge for a transition period of six months, or until new elections are held.

An estimated two million people gathered in Cairo's central Tahrir Square on 18 February to celebrate a week since Mr Mubarak's departure from office, but also as a show of strength to remind the military to keep their promise of a swift transition to democracy.

The Islamist and conservative Muslim Brotherhood would be expected to do well in any free and fair elections, but fears of a lurch towards Islamist rule is the main worry for Western powers and Israel. Much of the unrest was driven by poverty, rising prices, social exclusion, anger over corruption and personal enrichment among the political elite, as well as a demographic bulge of young people unable to find work.

The new authorities have arrested three ex-ministers for corruption including former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz. But the military government has said it will not tolerate any more strikes which disrupt the country's economy.


President Ben Ali fled after weeks of protests Protests have continued in Tunisia since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's decision to step down in January. He fled the country following weeks of anti-government demonstrations and clashes between protesters and police.

The trigger for the protests was a desperate act by a young unemployed man on 17 December. Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself when officials in his town prevented him from selling vegetables on the streets of Sidi Bouzid without permission.

Mr Ben Ali is now in a coma at a Saudi hospital after suffering a stroke, reports say. Tunisia has formally requested his extradition, saying he is wanted for serious crimes including inciting killing.

Parliamentary Speaker Foued Mebazaa has been sworn in as interim president and has asked Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, head of the government since 1999, to form a national unity government. The prime minister has also pledged to step down after elections in about six months' time.

Some analysts believe that Islamists have been organising in the country, pointing to a rally outside the interior ministry in Tunis on 18 February to demand the closure of a brothel.


Morocco has seen a spate of protests in recent weeks Thousands of Moroccans joined nationwide protests on 20 February to demand that King Mohammed hand over some of his powers to a newly elected government and make the justice system more independent.

The main opposition group has warned the "autocracy" will be swept away unless there are deep economic reforms. Morocco has been facing severe economic problems. It has announced an increase in state subsidies to try to counter commodity price rises.

Earlier this year, the country's reputation was damaged after Wikileaks revealed allegations corruption involving the royal family and the people close to King Mohammed. The king says the fight against poverty is a priority, earning him the name "guardian of the poor". Economic liberalisation has attracted foreign investment, and officials point to better basic services in shanty towns and rural areas.

But some non-government groups say little has changed, with poverty still widespread and unemployment remaining high. Morocco is dogged by strikes by both private and public. Morocco, like Egypt and Algeria, does allow limited freedom of expression and has so far been able to contain protests. Like Jordan it is a monarchy with strong support among sections of the public.


The funeral of an anti-government protester Sporadic protests against the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika have been continuing since early January.

Recent attempts to march through the capital Algiers were broken up by huge numbers of riot police. Protest groups united in their opposition to the government include small trade unions and minor political parties.

The trigger for the unrest appears to be mainly economic - in particular sharp increases in the price of food.
Mr Bouteflika has promised to lift the country's state of emergency - in place since 1992 - in the "near future". Algeria's government has considerable wealth from its oil and gas exports and is trying to tackle social and economic complaints with a huge public spending programme.


Pro-Gaddafi supporters out on the streets during a ceremony to mark a prophet's birth Protests against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's rule have left an unknown number of people dead and injured since 16 February.

Eastern Libya, including the second city, Benghazi, has fallen to anti-government rebels. Gaddafi loyalists still control the capital, Tripoli, and parts of the west.

In two TV addresses, Col Gaddafi blamed drugs and al-Qaeda for the uprising. On 22 February, he warned that anyone who played games with the country's unity would be executed, citing the way the Chinese suppressed protests in Tiananmen Square as an example. Government blocking of the internet and curbs on foreign media make it difficult to establish a full picture of the scale of the unrest.

Protests of any kind are prohibited in Libya but the latest unrest was triggered by the arrest of a lawyer who is an outspoken critic of the government. In power since 1969, Colonel Gaddafi is the longest-serving ruler in Africa and the Middle East, and also one of the most autocratic.


Protesters in Jordan celebrate the success of protests in Egypt There were clashes in the capital Amman on 18 February when anti-government protesters were confronted by demonstrators loyal to King Abdullah.

Stones were thrown and eight people were injured in the scuffles, activists said. Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets over the past five weeks, demanding better employment prospects and cuts in foods and fuel costs.

In response, King Abdullah II sacked Prime Minister Samir Rifai over the slow pace of reform and appointed Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general and ambassador to Israel. A new 26-member cabinet was sworn in on 10 February.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with few natural resources, but it has played a pivotal role in the struggle for power in the Middle East. The death of King Hussein, who ruled for 46 years, left Jordan still struggling for economic and social survival, as well as regional peace


Calls for a "day of rage" to coincide with the fall of Egypt's President Hosnic Mubarak failed to materialise into a demonstration and so far the country has remained calm. President Bashar al-Assad has promised to push through political reforms after inheriting power from his father, Hafez, in 2000, after three decades of authoritarian rule.

The country remains under emergency law, in place since 1963.

Following the death of Hafez al-Assad, Syria underwent a degree of relaxation. Hundreds of political prisoners were released. But the granting of real political freedoms and a shake-up of the state-dominated economy have not materialised.

Saudi Arabia

One of the most devout and insular countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has emerged from being an underdeveloped desert kingdom to become one of the wealthiest nations in the region thanks to vast oil resources.

But its rulers face the delicate task of responding to pressure for reform while combating a growing problem of Islamist violence. It has always been in the ruling Al Saud family's interests to preserve stability in the region and to clamp down on radical Islamist elements. Opposition movements are banned within the country.

Regionally, the country is important with King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud regarded in the Arab world as a supporter of wider Arab interests. It was to Saudi Arabia that Tunisia's ousted leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled in January.


Shia protesters demand change The Sunni Muslim monarchy has offered talks to representatives of the country's disaffected Shia majority following days of unrest which saw the main square of the capital Manama occupied by protesters.

After using troops to clear the protesters from the Pearl Square on 17 February, in an operation which left four people dead, the government appears to have stepped back, allowing demonstrators to re-occupy it after initial resistance by police.

US President Barack Obama has appealed for restraint in Bahrain, which is strategically important to America. King Hamad has asked his eldest son, Crown Prince Salman, to start a "national dialogue" to end the unrest.

Senior members of the main Shia political group, Wefaq, have called for the government to resign. Other demands are believed to include the release of political prisoners and talks on a new constitution. Shia protesters complain of economic hardship, lack of political freedom and discrimination in jobs in favour of Sunnis.


Protests in the Iranian parliament against opposition to the government Long-simmering unrest over the disputed 2009 presidential election boiled up again on 14 February.

Thousands of people heeded calls by the two main opposition leaders to rally in the capital Tehran in solidarity with pro-democracy protests across the Middle East. Security forces cracked down on the protest and two people were killed and others injured.

Supporters of the government have been calling for the opposition leaders, Mehdi Karoubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, to be executed. Iran's complex and unusual political system combines elements of a modern Islamic theocracy with democracy.

The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the highest power in the land. He appoints the head of the judiciary, military leaders, the head of radio and TV and Friday prayer leaders. He also confirms the election of Iran's president.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected in 2005, is a hardliner who has vowed to put down any protests


Anger on the streets in Yemen At least five people were killed on 18 February during widespread anti-government demonstrations in Yemen.

Four people were killed in the southern port city of Aden by gunfire as police moved to disperse protesters, medical officials and witnesses said. In the city of Taiz, one person was killed and many injured when a grenade was thrown from a car at protesters.

And in the capital Sanaa, supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed on the streets.
Yemen's president announced on 2 February that he would not seek another term in office, after three decades in power.

He also told parliament that he would not hand over power to his son, saying: "No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock."

Yemen is the Arab world's most impoverished nation, where nearly half of the population lives on less than $2 a day

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...