Christians & Muslims Protest
Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia
Oppose Oppressive Rule - Want Change
(March 17 Update)
Clashes of military against protesters have left many dead while thousands continue to turn out in different countries to protest against oppressive regeims and to mourn for protesters killed in government crackdowns.
Libya - Ally of USA, whose once-ostracised long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi, has tried to mend ties with the West, the authorities have cracked down hard.
Egypt - While millions of Egyptians celebrated their ouster of Hosni Mubarak after 30 years, meanwhile elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, inspired by their success, Muslim and Christian protesters were engaged in fierce struggles against their own longstanding authorities.
Yemeni security forces and pro-government loyalists clashed with crowds demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule in several cities in Yemen.
One protester was shot dead as police tried to disperse crowds in the southern city of Aden, witnesses said and another person was killed and seven wounded when a hand grendade was thrown from a car into a crowd in Taiz, south of the capital.
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters thronged Taiz, where pro-government crowds also turned out, and there were smaller rival demonstrations in the capital Sanaa.
Saleh, a U.S. ally against a Yemen-based al Qaeda wing that has launched attacks at home and abroad, is struggling to end month-old protests demanding political change and jobs flaring across his impoverished country.
Libya - Soldiers deployed in the streets of Libya’s second city Benghazi after thousands of people demonstrated overnight over the killing of what U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said were at least 24 protesters on Wednesday and Thursday.
The deaths in Libya happened after opponents of Gaddafi, leader of the North African country for more than 40 years, designated Thursday a day of protest to try to emulate uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
In the early hours of Friday, Gaddafi appeared briefly at Green Square in the centre of Tripoli where he was surrounded by crowds of supporters, but he did not speak.
Two Libyan exile groups said on Friday that anti-government protesters had seized control of the eastern city of al Bayda after they were joined by some local police.
“Al Bayda is in the hands of the people,” Giumma el-Omami of the Libyan Human Rights Solidarity group told Reuters.
The reports could not be independently verified.
Local sources had earlier told Reuters that at least five people were killed in al Bayda. The funerals of those killed were expected in Benghazi and al Bayda on Friday and could act as catalyst for further unrest.
Bahrain - Thousands of Shi’ites turned out to bury their dead after four protesters were killed on Thursday when riot police drove activists from a makeshift camp in Pearl Square in Manama, the capital. More than 230 were wounded.
Bahrain’s most revered Shi’ite cleric, Sheikh Issa Qassem, described the police attack as a “massacre” and said the government had shut the door to dialogue, but stopped short of calling openly for street protests.
Thursday’s violence was the worst in the Saudi-allied Gulf island kingdom in decades and a sign of the nervousness felt by the Sunni royal family, long aware of simmering discontent among the majority Shi’ites.
Thousands gathered at a mosque in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, for Friday prayers and the funerals of three of the dead. “The people want the fall of the regime,” they cried. “Justice, freedom and constitutional monarchy.”
In a loyalist demonstration in Manama, hundreds of pro-government supporters, waving flags and pictures of the king, streamed through the streets, local TV footage showed.
The army in Bahrain, a country of 1.3 million people of whom 600,000 are native Bahrainis, has issued a warning to people to stay away from the centre of the capital and said it would do whatever was needed to maintain security.
The sectarian tension in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet which projects U.S. military muscle across the Middle East and Central Asia, could fuel discontent among the Shi’ite minority in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.
In Egypt, a “Victory March” to celebrate Mubarak’s overthrow a week ago was also a reminder to the new military rulers of the power of the street and a memorial to the 365 people who died in the 18-day uprising.
Protesters across the Arab world have been following events in neighbouring countries, many via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
In Iraq on Thursday, two people were killed and 47 injured when police opened fire on anti-government protesters in the northern city of Sulaimaniya.
Leaders from the Gulf to the Atlantic have announced a variety of measures to ease rising food prices and unemployment and to enhance political participation.
The United Arab Emirates said on Thursday it would treble the number of people the rulers would choose to vote for members of an advisory body that serves as a form of parliament.
Western powers have been caught in a dilemma between backing rulers whom they see as bulwarks against anti-Western Islamists and at the same time being seen to promote democracy.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington supported “real, meaningful” change in Bahrain, which she called a friend and ally, and urged the government to show restraint.