Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rebellions continue across North Africa, Middle East

Rebellions continue across North Africa, Middle East*

By Gene Clancy
Published Mar 21, 2011 9:42 PM

The ferocious storm of uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East continues to stymie the efforts of the U.S. and other Western powers to suppress or contain them. There are ongoing significant protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq, all places with a substantial U.S. military presence.

Also ominous for the Pentagon planners are protests in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, countries which at this time lack the presence of large numbers of U.S. troops, but whose rulers have been long-time clients of U.S. imperialism.

As Rami Khouri, a professor in Beirut, Lebanon put it: “The U.S. doesn’t know how to deal with freedom-loving Arabs.” (CNN, March 13)

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Yemen on March 11, drawing record crowds in Sana’a, the capital, to show President Ali Abdullah Saleh that his reform offers failed to weaken their demand for his immediate departure.

A Wikileaks document recently revealed that Saleh told his people that his own government had carried out drone attacks that were really U.S. military actions in Yemen in violation of Yemeni sovereignty. (BBC, Dec. 10, 2010)

Yemenis flooded streets and alleys around Sana’a University in the biggest protest to hit the capital since demonstrations began in January. The protests followed by only one day a deadly predawn raid by the security forces on an encampment in a central square in the capital which killed three people and wounded 250.

In the southern port city of Aden, police fired on thousands of marchers, trying to disperse them. They wounded three people. Six were overcome by tear gas.

Aden is a strategic port near the Straits of Hormuz which control the entrance to the Persian Gulf and is an important port of call for the U.S. Navy. The USS Cole was attacked there in October 2000.

Unidentified armed men killed four soldiers on patrol east of Mukalla city in Hadhramaut province in southeast Yemen. About 30 people have been killed in Yemen since January.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been gripped by the worst unrest since the 1990s when protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that unseated entrenched autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

Thousands of opposition activists stormed toward Bahrain’s royal court. Carrying Bahraini flags and flowers, the protesters began walking from the Aly area to Riffa, a district of Manama, the capital, where many of the wealthy and members of the royal family live.

More than 200 riot police armed with batons blocked off the road with barbed wire. Medical sources said one person was seriously injured. Seven people have been killed in clashes with security forces, and thousands of the February 14 Youth Movement still occupy the Pearl roundabout, a busy intersection in the capital.

In Kuwait, the launching point for two major invasions of Iraq by U.S. forces, elite anti-riot police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of stateless Arab protesters who were demanding citizenship and other rights.

Demonstrators took to the streets in Jahra, west of Kuwait City, the capital, following Friday prayers on March 11, despite a stern warning against protests from the new interior minister. “Stateless since 50 years, we demand citizenship” read a huge banner in English as protesters chanted, “We will not leave without a solution.” (Reuters)

There were other protests in Sulaibiya, southwest of Kuwait City, and in the oil-rich city of Al-Ahmadi, south of the capital.

Stateless Arabs, known locally as bidoons, protested last month for three consecutive days until officials gave them assurances that their grievances would be addressed. As in many of the smaller Gulf states, in Kuwait a large proportion of the population (often a majority) are foreign-born workers with practically no political or economic rights.

But on March 8 parliament refused to debate a draft bill that would give the bidoons civil rights.

In the latest challenge to the government in Iraq, thousands of protesters are demanding jobs and better basic services. Protesters turned up in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on March 11, with similar demonstrations in the cities of Fallujah west of the capital, Sulaymaniyah in the north and Basra in the South. Iraq’s government has been shaken by a string of rallies across the country since the beginning of February.

The Arab revolt spilled over into Burkina Faso in Central Africa, which has been wracked by student protests and strikes ever since Justin Zongo, a student in Koudougou, a city in the west of the country, died while in police custody in February.

As of March 10, according to the Bourkinabé internet news service Senego, at least six people died in the protests, including three university students, a high school student and a cop. Many people have been seriously hurt. Four police stations have burned, allowing prisoners to escape. Protests have taken place throughout the whole country. (

At a March 11 mass protest in Ougadougou, the capital, which went to National Police headquarters, signs called for “Truth and Justice,” “No to injustice,” “Cops and untenable unemployment, both kill!” and “Cops = armed bandits.”

G. Dunkel contributed to this article.

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