- Whatever set them off, the genie is out of the bottle
and spreading from Tunisia to Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran,
Libya, Iraq, and perhaps America, in Wisconsin over proposed wage, benefits,
and union bargaining rights cuts. A forthcoming article covers outrage
in the US heartland, inspiring others Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and perhaps
wherever aggrieved workers reside, awaken, and react against intolerable
- On February 17, New York Times writers Michael Slackman
and Nadim Audi headlined, "Bahrain's Military Takes Control of Key
Areas in Capital," saying:
- Its military, "backed by tanks and armored personnel
carriers, took control of most of this capital (Manama) on Thursday, hours
after hundreds of heavily armed riot police officers fired shotguns, tear
gas and concussion grenades to break up a pro-democracy camp inspired by
the tumult swirling across the Middle East."
- Hundreds were injured. At least six died, some killed
while they slept with scores of shotgun pellets to the head and chest,
according to witnesses and attending doctors. Others were attacked when
they ran to avoid violence. Foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-l-Khalifa,
defended street violence as a last resort to save Bahrain from the "brink
of a sectarian abyss."
- Al Jazeera's unnamed correspondent for his safety said
"clashes were no longer limited to one place....They are now spread
out in different parts of the city." Hospitals are filled with wounded
people. "Some of them are severely injured with gunshots. Patients
include doctors and emergency personnel who were overrun by the police
while trying to attend to the wounded." Some are in critical condition.
- Angry crowns are chanting, "Down with Al-Khalifa,"
referring to Bahrain's ruling family. "People are also chanting that
the blood of the victims will not be in vain." The kingdom's main
opposition bloc, Wefaq, denounced government violence as "real terrorism,"
women and children attacked like men.
- Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa expressed condolences
on state television for "the deaths of two of our dear sons,"
saying a committee would investigate the killings, adding:
- "We will ask legislators to look into this issue
and suggest needed laws to resolve it." However, human rights activist
Alkwaka said attacking peaceful protesters casts doubt on his credibility
as numbers of deaths and injuries rise.
- Initially, protesters demanded a constitutional monarchy.
Now after days of violence, many want the ruling family ousted. "Bring
down the government," thousands chanted, including women and children.
An identified surgeon for his safety said Bahrain's Health Ministry prevented
ambulances from reaching victims. Police beat medical staff. Wefaq's Hussein
Mohammed called it "a slaughter." Taghreed Hussein said "We
are a people of mourners now, we have nothing" as she and others suffered
- Bahrain is strategically important to Washington as home
for its Fifth Fleet. It's responsible for security in the Persian Gulf,
Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important chokepoint for 16 million
daily barrels of oil, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait separating Yemen from Eritrea
through which three million barrels of oil pass daily, the Gulf of Oman,
Red Sea, Suez Canal, Arabian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and parts of the Indian
Ocean. Thus, security remains tight and ready to respond violently if Bahrainians
try breaching base defenses.
- Libyan Protests
- On February 17, Al Jazeera headlined "Deadly 'day
of rage' in Libya," saying:
- Reports say over a dozen demonstrators were killed in
clashes with security and pro-government forces. Faiz Jibril, an opposition
leader in exile told Libyans to "br(ake) the barrier of fear, it is
a new dawn." A Benghazi eye witness told Al Jazeera he saw police
kill six unarmed protesters Thursday. He also said 30 released prisoners
were armed and paid to attack people demonstrating peacefully.
- Mohammed Al Abdellah, deputy leader of the exiled National
Front for the Salvation of Libya, said al-Baida hospitals were short of
medical supplies because authorities refused to supply them for dozens
being admitted, some critically with gunshot wounds.
- In Zentan, southwest of the capital, government buildings
were set ablaze. Deaths were reported in a number of cities. Darnah and
protesters in other cities were chanting "the people want the ouster
of the regime."
- Libya is tightly controlled, run by Muammar Gaddafi for
over 40 years, the region's longest ruling strongman. Thursday is the anniversary
of the February 17, 2006 Benghazi clashes when security forces killed several
protesters attacking the city's Italian consulate. Wednesday night in al-Baida
alone, 11 protesters were killed, scores wounded.
- In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera, Libyan novelist/writer
Idris Al-Mesmari said plainclothes security forces dispersed Benghazi protesters
with tear gas, batons, and hot water. Hours later he was arrested. Authorities
also temporarily cut off telephone connections, blocked social networking
sites, and removed Al Jazeera from state-owned TV. It's still available
online, including in America where cable companies block its access as
in Chicago by Comcast and smaller competitors.
- Yemeni Protests Continue
- Day seven of violent Yemen protests continue, a group
of senior clerics calling for a national unity government to save the country
from chaos. Al Jazeera said:
- "influential figures are demanding a transitional
unity government that would see the opposition represented in key ministries,
followed by elections in six months."
- They commented as fresh clashes erupting between pro
and anti-government protesters in Sanaa, Yemen's capital. Deaths and numerous
injuries were reported.
- "Police are trying to form lines to separate protesters
and pro-government supporters - but they're also attempting to disperse
crowds with live ammunition, a sign of the very tense situation in the
capital ahead of calls for today's 'Friday of Fury,' " according to
correspondent Hashem Ahelbara.
- President Ali Abdullah Saleh meets daily with powerful
tribal chiefs, requesting their support at this crucial time. "He
has struck a very harsh tone, describing the protesters as 'anarchists.'
- Demonstrators reject his demand to delay elections to
2013, saying: "The only way is for us to keep fighting in the streets
to bring about the dramatic changes that have taken place in Tunisia and
Egypt," that, in fact, remain very much unresolved, entrenched power
in both countries retaining firm control.
- In Sanaa, hundreds of students joined other protesters.
So did workers at several state-owned companies, demanding their managers
step down. Like others, they also want higher wages in the region's poorest
country plagued by extreme poverty, unemployment and hunger.
- According to Sanaa University Professor Abullah Al-Faqih:
- "This is what both Saleh's ruling party and the
opposition feared most - loud and violent protests organized by people
that have no allegiance to any of the political parties."
- Protests in Iraq
- In Iraq, protests spread over anger about government
corruption, unemployment, few public services, spotty electricity if any,
repression and occupation by hated Americans.
- In Kut, 2,000 protested for lack of work and electricity,
among other grievances. It turned deadly when private guards employed by
the provincial government open fire at crowds, killing three or more and
- Eyewitnesses told the Washington Post that:
- The provincial "governor escaped through a back
door with his bodyguards....Footage broadcast on Iraqi television showed
black smoke billowing from the headquarters as protesters clambered over
walls into the compound. Other members of the provincial council also reportedly
escaped, and the Iraqi army was called in to quell the turmoil."
- They rushed reinforcements to the city, blocked its entrances,
and prevented people in surrounding areas from joining demonstrators. Several
government buildings were set ablaze, including the governorate's main
administration one and the governor's official residence.
- Unrest was also reported in Afak in neighboring Diwaniyah
province, where demonstrators stormed a building housing the local city
council, setting it afire. Several killings and numerous injuries were
reported there and elsewhere, including at gatherings of lawyers, judges,
students, oil workers and others voicing specific complaints.
- Political analyst Ibrahim Sumaiedi called outbreaks "very
dangerous. Society is divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, and everyone
is armed. If this (spreads), we will face not reform or change but something
far more devastating, because there are a lot of weapons in Iraq."
In Yemen also, heightening the chance for greater violence.
- Anticipation is now building for February 25, called
a "Revolution of Iraqi Rage," a month after the Facebook-organized
"Day of Rage" that toppled Mubarak. Numerous groups urge Iraqis
to take to the streets that day to protest. What began localized potentially
could spread and engulf the entire country, despite low Internet access
unlike Egypt. However, once protests erupt, they gain momentum of their
- Striking Egyptians Persist
- Ignoring military council prohibitions, tens of thousands
across the country demand higher pay, better working conditions, and corrupt
officials purged. In Mahall al-Kubra, Egypt's largest industrial center,
12,000 workers struck the Misr Spinning and Weaving factory, wanting their
- In Damietta, 6,000 textile workers continued their walkout
at the company's facility south of Cairo, also for similar demands. Across
Cairo, Alexandria, Qaliubiya, and the Suez Canal area, strikes and protests
continued. In Port Said, 1,000 demonstrated, demanding closure of a chemical
factory polluting a local lake. At Ismailiya, irrigation, education and
health ministry workers want higher wages and other grievances redressed.
- Cairo International Airport workers walked out, hundreds
demanding higher wages, better healthcare coverage and other benefits.
Other strikes affect banks, transport, oil, tourism, and various government
agencies. One of the most important actions impacts major Cairo banks,
forcing many businesses and factories to close because customers can't
get funds to buy products being produced.
- Many factories closed when even small numbers of workers
struck to prevent actions gaining traction and spreading to other facilities.
Plants affected include textiles, chemicals, cement, ceramics, steel and
- According the the newspaper Al-Masri Al-Youm:
- "In the wake of the 25 January uprising, employees
in many sectors - including state-owned publishing houses and the supply
directorate (rations) - took to the streets for the first time. While their
demands were primarily economic, they also included pleas against corruption
- Social injustice is a major concern it stressed, saying:
- "Although protesters have clear economic grievances,
they primarily lament what they perceive as unfair procedures, either in
regard to unequal pay among employees of various government institutions
or the arbitrary dismissal of workers."
- So far, banks, businesses, factories, schools, universities
and the stock exchange remain closed. Workers also expressed anger over
the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). Thousands
demonstrated outside its headquarters, demanding its chief, Hussein Megawer,
resign along with members of his governing board.
- AP reported that:
- "Since the military took power from (Mubarak), Egyptians
have been airing grievances everywhere over just about everything, from
meager wages to police brutality and corruption."
- What unites them is being able to voice complaints publicly
for the first time. Driven by economic despair, they now demand redress,
their passion perhaps strong enough to resonate, grow, and spread for real
change if millions join them in solidarity, knowing ousting Mubarak was
a small first step, achieving nothing so far with generals still in charge.
They're part of the old regime resistant to change.
- Egyptians' main task lies ahead against formidable odds
for success, but nothing was ever achieved without sustained, determined
trying. A better world is possible, maybe first in some unlikely places,
but never easily, quickly, or without great cost.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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