Popular uprisings in the Arab world are continuing to spread to other authoritarian and corrupt regimes with unstoppable ferocity and determination.
Following the resignation of Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak, we are witnessing the domino effect with such clarity, that every dictatorship in the region is now shaking with fear of popular movements. But the fear of these unrepresentative regimes manifests itself in the harsh use of violence by the security forces against the protesters, and we can see this in Bahrain, but above all in Libya.
Popular revolts have spread on a massive scale since the beginning of the protest last Wednesday - especially when protesters called on citizens to observe the day after as a "Day of Rage". The same day, a group of prominent Libyans and members of human rights organisations were demanding the resignation of Gaddafi. The demands came in the form of a statement signed by 213 personalities from different segments of Libyan society, including political activists, lawyers, students, and government officials.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi appeared on state television to signal his defiance in the face of the mounting revolt late on Monday night, and again on Tuesday afternoon. He refused to stand down, saying he would die in Libya "as a martyr." He denounced the protesters as "rats" and threatened to use more violence against them. He even drew a comparison with the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989, saying: "The unity of China was more important than the people of Tiananmen Square."
Over the weekend the population's sense of hostility towards the regime continued to increase. On Sunday, the fifth day of the uprising, protesters rallied in the streets of the capital and other places such as Benghazi, Libya's second biggest city; tribal leaders verbally attacked Gaddafi, while a unit of the army rallied behind the opposition movement in Benghazi.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the dictator, appeared on Libyan television on Sunday night and warned the protesters that the army would maintain order in the country at any price. He accused the Libyans in exile of organizing the violent clashes, before promising to open a dialogue with the protest movement on reforms and higher wages.
Nevertheless, the protesters were back in the streets all over the country on Monday to continue demonstrating. At the end of the day, the protesters had seized several cities, including Benghazi, Sirte and the border town of al-Zawiya. In Tripoli, demonstrators attacked the headquarters of the state television station overnight and set fire to the offices of the People's Committees - the backbone of the government.
The eastern region, Benghazi, has always been a source of opposition against the regime. Dozens died in protests in 2006. Two tribes have withdrawn allegiance to Gaddafi's regime - the Wirfallah tribe, which he has excluded from his economic and political favours since the mid-1990s, and the Tabu tribe in the country's southeast, which has suffered considerable discrimination.The areas liberated by the popular movement are also the poorest regions or neighbourhoods in Libya. Cities like Al-Baida, Derna, or Ijdadia are all marginalised and do not see Gaddafi favourably, as they have not gained from his rule. Tripoli’s poorest suburbs, Zintan and Zawiya, which have come under heavy fire, are leading the rebellion in the capital.
In clear attempts to retain its power at all costs, the regime redoubled its acts of violence against the people. A huge anti-government march in Tripoli on Monday afternoon came under attack by security forces using fighter jets and live ammunition, while according to some reports the security forces killed scores of people in Benghazi. Libyan authorities have also cut all landlines and wireless communication in the country.
Planes from the Libyan air force launched bombing raids on military bases and areas liberated by the protest movement in a bloody attempt by the regime to reassert its control.
The International Federation for Human Rights says that as many as 400 people have been killed so far since last Wednesday. Nevertheless, on Monday protesters called for another day of defiance against Gaddafi, despite the harsh security crackdown by the government. Signs of Gaddafi's decaying regime are numerous. On Monday night, for example, two Libyan air force jets defected after refusing to obey orders and attack civilians protesting in Benghazi; they landed in Malta, where the pilots asked for political asylum. Several Libyan diplomats at the country's UN mission also called on Gaddafi to step down.
The protest movement has affirmed its determination carry on the revolution until the regime is overthrown. Hugely frustrated with high unemployment, lack of housing and basic services and other socioeconomic factors that have also driven the uprising elsewhere in the region, Libyans want to put an end to their corrupt and authoritarian rulers.
The uprising in Bahrain has entered its ninth day. At least eight people have been killed and hundreds injured since then. A group of protesters, the "young people of February 14, " called for the overthrow of the ruling royal family in Bahrain, whereas the main political opposition party, Al Wefak, which did not launch the demonstrations but only followed it, would accept that the ruling family can stay in exchange for the transfer of much of its powers to the Parliament.
On Tuesday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Pearl roundabout in Manama, while thousands of government loyalists rallied in Manama in support of the monarch. Hundreds of demonstrators spent Sunday night on Pearl Square, and on Monday some 10,000 protesters, including 1,500 teachers on strike, gathered on the square. The teachers were chanting slogans such as "No classes until the government falls" and protesting as well against their poor living conditions.
On Sunday, a general strike by opposition groups and workers' unions was called off; they claimed that their demands for the right to peaceful protest had been accepted. Indeed, the Bahraini regime declared on the same day that protesters would "absolutely" be allowed to stay in the Pearl Roundabout area and that "all political parties in the country deserve a voice at the table,” in a clear attempt to start negotiation with the movement of protesters.
Last Friday and Thursday, the army units intervened violently against the protesters: they streamed towards Pearl Square, killed four protesters, injured more than 250 people and prevented protesters from gathering there. Nevertheless, each time security forces withdrew from Pearl Square and the protesters swarmed back to confidently set up camp for a prolonged stay.
The leader of the opposition Haq movement, or the Movement of Liberties and Democracy, Hassan Mashaima, who is based in London and faces charges of terrorism in his native Bahrain, said he would return to Manama on Tuesday, as protesters gear up for a rally they hope will bring tens of thousands to the Pearl Roundabout.
Bahrain holds particular importance to the United States as the host of the US Navy's 5th Fleet, which Washington sees as the main military counterweight to Iran's alleged efforts to expand its armed forces and reach into the Gulf.
Yemen and Jordan
People in Yemen entered their eleventh consecutive day of protest and thousands of people staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz on Sunday, demanding the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who renewed his call for opposition parties to pursue a dialogue with the government. The parliamentary opposition announced its decision to join the protest movement, which is mainly led by students, saying it would not resume dialogue with the government under arms. Since the beginning of the protests, more than 14 people were killed and a few hundreds injured by the regime's security forces and thugs.
In Jordan, clashes between protesters and government thugs erupted last Friday in Amman, the capital, during a demonstration. The protesters were demanding more freedoms and lower food prices. At least eight people were injured. Some 2,000 people demonstrated, including leftists, conservatives and students calling for King Abdullah II to shed some of his power.
Egypt and Tunisia
The revolutionary process in both countries is ongoing and the movements of protests are still in the streets to achieve their demands.
In Tunisia, 40,000 protesters demonstrated on Sunday and called for the resignation of the current government. It was the second consecutive day of street demonstrations in the capital, despite the ban on rallies and demonstrations. The protesters had gathered in the morning before the offices of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, shouting "Leave!" and "We do not want friends of Ben Ali”.
Security forces have repeatedly fired warning shots into the air, while two military helicopters flew over the demonstration. In the aftermath of its adoption by the Council of Ministers, a Decree-Law on general amnesty (a key demand of the opposition) was signed on Saturday by the Tunisian interim president, Fouad Mebazaa.
In Egypt last Friday millions of Egyptian demonstrated throughout the country to continue the revolution and make clear what their demands are. On Monday, members of traditional opposition parties to Hosni Mubarak, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been appointed to the transitional government after a reshuffle - a government that is a far cry from the expectations of the popular movement.
More articles from this author
- The fight to keep the guard on the train continues
- The Corbyn Project was defeated by the historic strengths of conservatism and liberalism
- What caused Labour's decline: 2019 vs 2017
- Our world is burning
- Australia fires: where climate inaction leads to
- From New Labour to a second referendum: why the north turned blue
- Socialists don't do nukes