Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Unrest Spreads, Some Violently, in Middle East

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From northern Africa to the Persian Gulf, governments appeared to flounder over just how to outrun mostly peaceful movements, spreading erratically like lava erupting from a volcano, with no predictable end.

The protests convulsed half a dozen countries across the Middle East on Wednesday, with tens of thousands of people turning out in Bahrain to challenge the monarchy, a sixth day of running street battles in Yemen, continued strikes over long-suppressed grievances in Egypt and a demonstrator’s funeral in Iran turning into a brief tug of war between the government and its opponents.

Even in heavily policed Libya, pockets of dissent emerged in the main square of Benghazi, with people calling for an end to the 41-year rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Iraq, accustomed to sectarian conflict, got a dose of something new: a fiery protest in the eastern city of Kut over unemployment, sporadic electricity and government corruption. And the protesters in Bahrain were confronted Thursday morning by riot police officers who rushed into the main square in Manama firing tear gas and concussion grenades.

The unrest has been inspired partly by grievances unique to each country, but many shared a new confidence, bred in Egypt and Tunisia, that a new generation could challenge unresponsive authoritarian rule in ways their parents thought impossible.

Leaders fell back on habitual, ineffective formulas. A ban on strikes announced by the week-old military government in Egypt was ignored. The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, called his Bahraini counterpart, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, to commiserate about the region’s falling victim to “foreign agendas,” according to the state-run Saba news agency.

“There are schemes aimed at plunging the region into chaos and violence targeting the nation’s security and the stability of its countries,” the news agency quoted Mr. Saleh as telling the king.

On one hand, each protest was inspired by a distinctive set of national circumstances and issues — dire poverty and a lack of jobs, ethnic and religious differences, minority rule, corruption, or questions of economic status. Read more in The New York Times.

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Written by Theophyle

February 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

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