Glued to events in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain

Events in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain are moving fast, but the Guardian's moment-to-moment coverage has me glued to my screen today:

View Mapping Pro-Democracy Protests in Libya in a larger map

• Libya: Security forces in Benghazi have shot dead at least one person and injured a dozen after opening fire on mourners at a funeral for protesters killed in earlier demonstrations. Special forces stormed a protest camp in the eastern city at 5am.

• Bahrain: Thousands of protesters have retaken Pearl Square in the Bahraini capital after Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa ordered troops off the streets.

• Yemen: One protester was killed and seven were hurt in clashes with security forces in the capital, Sana'a.

• Algeria: Riot police in Algiers have broken up a planned march by thousands of pro-democracy campaigners.

Libya and Bahrain protests - Saturday 19 February

YouTube channel -- Libyan protests (Warning: contains graphic violence and death)

Mapping Pro-Democracy protests


  1. Not sure how these protests, which I cheer, are “pro-democracy.” I see them as “anti-ruler.” Who knows what’s going to happen next?

    1. Well, for starters, the Bahraini opposition party (the most cohesive force in the protest movement) is calling for Constitutional reform to establish a constitutional monarchy that would give legislative authority to the largely ceremonial elected parliament. In other words, they are asking for legislative and executive authority to be devolved from a hereditary autocrat to an elected parliament. You don’t get much more “pro-Democracy” than that.

    2. Teller said:’ I see them as “anti-ruler.”
      “Ruler” is too mild a word for someone like Qadhaffi who is using snipers against his people. Bully is perhaps a better word.
      So, perhaps you would agree with “anti-bully”?

  2. Perhaps ironically, these protests demonstrate by contrast that maybe the recently-changed Egyptian administration wasn’t quite so horrible. Far less horrible than some of these other regimes, at least, if you measure by number of protesters killed (not that I’m trying to defend Mubarak).

    1. How is that true? The death toll in Egypt was about 300 people, wounded in their thousands, excluding the thousands that were arrested and tortured (like Wael Ghonim).

      In Bahrain, officially six, probably more, until now seems < 20. In Libya, who knows where it will end. But Gaddafi is also extremely brutal, and Libya has been much more oppressed than Egypt. But saying that Mubarak looks good "by comparison" ... no, he would happily have stomped harder if he could. In the end he couldn't because things got out of hand for his security thugs, but it wasn't through lack of trying.

      1. Maybe I’m misinformed. The news coverage I had seen made Egypt look relatively peaceful compared to a lot of the more recent stuff.

    2. Think tribal, or better yet think “social affiliation,” if that sounds like I’m being too American-elitist-we-don’t-have-tribes.

      In Egypt, the army refused to fire upon the unarmed citizenry. Would you fire on your neighbors and friends? Would you fire on people you grew up with and their parents know your parents and brothers and sisters? That’s tribalism working at its best.

      In Libya, think hired guns from other parts of the country who have no qualms following orders, who just want to get paid, and have no appreciable social or personal repercussions. Why even engage people from the ground when they can take them down from the air?

      There are different constructs at play here. The age-old method of genocide is for a dictator to contract unaffiliated mercenaries who will act unquestioningly. The people have to organize, if they hope to successfully oppose such tyranny.

  3. Bahraini blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif (originator, I think, of the slogan: “No Sunni, no Shia – just Bahraini”, against sectarianism) summarized the demands like this:

    “1. Bilateral Constitutional amendments which are binding to address the contentious current Constitution of 2002
    2. The immediate release of political prisoners, some 450 are incarcerated many of whom are children under 18 years of age
    3. Release and increase press freedoms, repeal Law 47/2002
    4. Guard and increase personal freedoms and freedoms of expression
    5. Investigate corruption and return stolen wealth into the state coffers
    6. Repeal Law 56/2002 and bring torturers to justice”

    This means, more or less: Constitutional reform, release political prisoners, freedom of speech and a free press, stop corruption, no torture.


    That’s pro-democracy enough for me.

    As for Libya, I heard a couple of eye witnesses in Benghazi on Al Jazeera English an hour ago. They said a massacre has taken place, but their demands echo that of their Egyptian counterpart: Freedom, rights, freedom of speech, better economic conditions, freedom and more freedom. That is also “pro-democracy” enough for me. There’s also this awesome Moroccan protest video:

  4. In Bahrain’s case, I saw it more as a Sunni/Shia class struggle where the Sunnis will eventually offer concessions w/o ceding too much power. And I thought Wefaq was the biggest Shia opposition party. Wrong again, I guess.

    1. @Teller: Yes, kind of wrong. The sectarian devil does exist in the island, but is not behind these protests. Here’s a (long) tweet from Mahmood Al-Younis, whom I quoted before:

      “This evening, people at Pearl Roundabout will pray behind a Shia cleric. Tomorrow behind a Sunni Cleric and will also have Mass and remembrance behind a Christian cleric. How cool is that? Sectarianism doesn’t have a place in this lovely country. We ARE one! #bahrain #feb14”

  5. Pro Democracy does not equal Pro American. I wonder what the political landscape will be (in regards to support of the USA) after all of these overthrows?

    1. “Pro Democracy does not equal Pro American. I wonder what the political landscape will be (in regards to support of the USA) after all of these overthrows?”

      Looks like you’ve got some catching up to do. The populations of these places are generally “anti-American” because their leaders are too “pro-American,” in a bad way — too in-the-pockets of U.S. imperial power.

      If the U.S. pulls back on throwing around that might (which it’s long been doing by condoning abuse of said populations, as long as the U.S. keeps getting ready access to cheap resources and strategic access to geography), those populations, and any truly democratic governments they manage to elect, will be far, far less anti-American. They may not still like our cultural norms and ways, but next to none of them would be willing to die fighting with us over them.

      Methinks the Major’s got it exactly right:

      “Folks in glass empires ought not fly drones.”

  6. Half of these countries will end up with *democratically elected*
    islamic goverments. The US will FAIL as it did by denying the palestinian election results it didn’t like. Hypocracy can only
    be camouflaged so much.

    Democracy is two wolves and sheep deciding on dinner.

    The US/Israel empire is decaying rather quickly now, no?

    Just my two yuan.

    Folks in glass empires ought not fly drones.

  7. It stands to reason that competition will do us Capitalist Pigs some good. Competition in the form of having to bargain as an equal for scarce natural resources, rather than to put dictators in our pockets and proceed on that unequal playing field. Someday an actual fire will be under us to develop homegrown alternatives. What it will most likely come to is the USA and China will pollute and cripple the planet. And then we will be forced to change. Until then, all of this is just mental freewheeling. When the massive consumption and reckless disposal of our waste is under systematic control, we’ll be making progress. I hope for real democracy in the Middle East. At the same time, I see only partial democracy here in the US and Europe …and a whole lot of ignorance everywhere on the planet.

  8. Steve Hargadon, of Classroom 2.0 and Ellumnite, put this very interesting site together: about all the actions happening in the Arab world. It offers resources, Twitter Feeds, and Google News Feeds for Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

    As Amy Goodman’s Aljazeera guest mentioned the other day, some of these protests have been brewing for years without any media attention.

  9. The protests in Bahrain are slightly different because the people there are so peaceful. What was done to them was criminal. It’s like manners in Japan where they would politely say “we would like to respectfully ask for something a bit better”, I mean they were only asking for sugar at one point.

    1. Yes, and I think that’s one reason the hospital staff were so absolutely horrified and enraged with the crackdown: Bahrain is normally a peaceful place, and they are absolutely not used to that kind of violent emergency.

      That, and the fact that their demands are so eminently reasonable. When such people, even chanting “peaceful, peaceful!” are gunned down with live rounds in an otherwise peaceful place there *must* be a baclash.-

      The sheer horror at the unaccostumed violence must have been an important part of the turnaround which right now seems like the protesters are heading for at least a partial victory.

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