Top Ten Achievements of Mideast Democracy Protests this Weekend

10. In the Sunni-ruled monarchy of Bahrain, which has practiced employment discrimination against the Shiite majority of citizens, the Ministry of Interior has announced it will create 20,000 security-related jobs, apparently intended to be filled mainly by Shiite Bahrainis with college degrees. The protest movement, however, is unlikely to be satisfied unless there are political, not just economic concessions. Bahrain is an absolute monarchy where the senate is Sunni and court-appointed and both king and senate can over-rule at will the elected lower house. Because of gerry-mandering, although the Shiite party got 60 percent of the vote in the last election, it gained only 18 of 40 seats there.

9. Women, including journalist and human rights activist Tawakkul Karman, are playing a central role in the protests against long-time strong man Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen.

8. Although president Saleh again refused to step down this weekend, several prominent members of his ruling Congress Party resigned in sympathy with the protest movement.

Aljazeera English reports on the resignations:

7. Some 5000 leftists and Muslim activists were able to protest in Amman, Jordan this weekend because the Jordanian cabinet has amended the Public Gatherings Law to allow peaceful assembly without prior government permission. Five other parties have put rallies on hold while they pursue political dialogue with the new prime minister, who was brought in to replace his unpopular predecessor as a result of the protests.

Aljazeera English reports on Jordanian calls for a constitutional monarchy in that country.

6. Sultan Qaboos of Oman has sacked three cabinet ministers and ordered the creation of 50,000 public-sector jobs under pressure of protests by oil workers in cities such as Sohar. This weekend oil workers in Haima demanded more government investment in their area, which is remote from the capital.

Aljazeera English reports on the Oman protests:

5. Tunisia’s provisional government has laid out a road map to the future, under pressure from continued protests. A constituent assembly will be elected this summer and a wholly new constitution will be drawn up by elected representatives of the people. This past week, protesters forced the resignation of the prime minister, as having been too close to ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

4. Egyptian protesters stormed the HQs in Cairo and Alexandria of the State Security Police, the dreaded secret police who used arbitrary arrest and torture to keep strong man Hosni Mubarak in power for decades. They said they had been afraid that security officials would shred documents implicating them in crimes, and they carried off many documents. Some were former prisoners who had been tortured in the cells of the building they invaded.

3. The invasion of the security police HQs forced Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to replace Mubarak crony Mahmoud Wagdi with Mansour al-Issawi as minister of Interior (the cabinet ministry in charge of police).

2. Former feared Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Adly, who had served since 1997, has gone on trial for alleged human rights abuses.

1. Libyan rebels precariously extended their sway to the oil and refining town of Ras Lanuf, launched a fierce firefight in the capital of Tripoli itself, and fought off three concerted attacks on the western city of Zawiya, as well as fighting off an attack on the large western city of Misurata / Misrata.

4 Responses

  1. top 10 achievements of mideast democracy protests this weekend…. there are some women also who plays a central role in the protest…..

  2. One is reminded of what happened after the Russian revolution. People invaded the Okhrana (secret police) and got away with the documents, which later on Stalin could use to get control over people who had something to be ashamed of. I think the best one could do with secret police document is to burn them asap. Otherwise they will always be used as blackmail.

  3. To call the pitiful bribes thrown to the masses by the masters in Bahrain an “achievement” is rather too generous, especially in light of the fact that it is becoming more apparent every day that the Obama policy concerning the protests in the region is to back the existing regimes as long as they pledge further allegiance to the US in the future. This is true for Bahrain, where admiral Mullen came last week to calm the nervous rulers, so it doesn’t matter that the third of the population comes out in protests, the matter is settled. Also apparently in Yemen, Jordan, Oman etc. Even the mainstream media is starting o come to this conclusion, here for example is an WSJ article:
    link to online.wsj.com

    Plus, how about the irony: jobs in the interior ministry in response to protest – to recruit some of the protestors to repress others in the future.

    In the meantime, to maintain “democratic” credentials, the US looks to back the rebels in Libya, who alone in the Arab world chose to take the path of civil war. Conveniently the regime there is one that the US and even the majority of other Arab rulers wouldn’t mind to see dismantled. By now however the gross imbalance of the early response by western leaders and media is now gradually becoming clear. More and more of the propaganda spin and outright lies by the rebels are exposed: The air strikes against civilians within cities – by now there has been more than enough time for the rebels and representatives of human rights groups on the ground to documents any such facts, but they have come up empty. Once more the tales of the “mercenaries” – we’ve heard about “Africans” and “Eastern-Europeans”, only evidence was utube videos of lynching of blacks that we are supposed to believe were mercenaries and several passports (to compare – when Iraqi insurgents got their hands on some real mercenaries they were able to produce more convincing proof… for example Blackwater ids). And yesterday – the HRW issues a statement that having studied the issue it came to a conclusion that at least “the majority” of the “mercenary” claims were untrue, this story however gets little traction with the mainstream media. Along the way there were plenty of smaller lies, for example the reported thousands of prisoners unearthed from a regime “secret prison” in Benghazi, of course – a total fabrication. A story by aljazeera a week ago sheds some light on whether this can be simply written off on the fog of war. One of the rebels in the cyber headquarters of the rebels was candid enough to admit to the reporter that “Some of it was well exaggerated,” but “if it helped the uprising’s cause, it was an acceptable distortion”, “It put more pressure on the international people, it made it even more horrific.” link to english.aljazeera.net
    To be fair, not all the rebels’ ridiculous claims get air time, for example the rebels are adamant that Qaddafi is aided by Israel in his hiring of mercenaries. Partly it stems from a gross error by one of the Arab outlets that first “reported” the story, but it appears that the rebels need little persuasion and appear to have believed it even before any “confirmation”.

    The latest from the rebels – the government forces are “using human shields”, this cynical claim after they themselves openly ride around in unmarked civilian vehicles including buses, mingle with civilians when government aircraft arrive over Ras Lanuf looking for targets, or mixing up ambushes with “nonviolent demonstrations” in other cities.

    Moreover, the overall impression from watching western news coverage – the reporters in Libya are often guilty of flagrant displays of bias. On air they fraternize with the rebels, at times hugging and comforting them, repeating their claims verbatim without first checking the facts. While in Tripoli on the other hand we see the opposite – all government claims are doubted and reported with palpable skepticism. The later approach is of course absolutely appropriate, but why do we not see more of it in the east of the country?

    We hear a lot of alleged abuses committed by the regime, but in fact there should be also considerable concern about the behavior of the rebels: The attacks against black Africans, as mentioned above, are reported by many migrants escaping the country. The treatment of captured members of the pro-government forces is also a concern, I have seen a report on Russian TV showing the rebels displaying several prisoners, they apparently plan to submit them to a trial (for what? – serving the government of their country? Not knowing that the president of the US apparently deemed that it lost legitimacy?), obviously the fairness of such proceedings is doubtful. But so far no voice has been raised calling for any kind of scrutiny of the rebels’ actions.

    As for the possible “excessive force” used by the Qaddafi regime to quell the rebels, apparently as some claim, unique in its violence and warranting outside intervention, let’s compare the current situation to a relatively recent analogy:

    Several years ago another country in the Middle East faced an analogous situation: a violent uprising in much of the country against the regime with doubtful legitimacy, several cities liberated (as it has become popular to say… although for some reason then I didn’t seem to hear the term as often) by the rebels, security forces either dispersed or going over to the side of the rebels. The response of the regime: by means of foreign troops (its own forces unable or unwilling to face the rebels) the cities one by one were reduced with hundreds of casualties among combatants and thousands among civilians. The city that had become a symbol of the uprising was finally retaken after determined resistance was broken by some 10 000 foreign troops, using overwhelming air power, heavy artillery, deployment of more than 100 tanks and IFVs, possibly even chemical weapons. Several thousand civilians were killed, tens of thousands displaced, 80% of the structures within the city were either destroyed or damaged. Years later the rate of birth defects in the city is higher than in Hiroshima.

    Has Qaddafi even come anywhere close to this?

    Certainly you remember that the year was 2004, the country was Iraq, the city was Fallujah.

  4. Can I just say Juan, thanks for all your effort lately, you’ve been practically a one-man middle east bureau. I mean that literally, it must take forever to pull all this together.

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