Photo: Anti-government protesters' reflections are seen on a car that was hit by bullets during an operation by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military forces to remove protesters from Pearl Square in Bahrain, March 17, 2011. (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan)
Bahrain awoke to a violent crackdown by police on demonstrators camped out at the country's iconic Lulu (Pearl) roundabout on Wednesday. That afternoon, I boarded a flight from Doha, Qatar to Bahrain, to see for myself what was unfolding in the island nation I once called home.
Hours later, I found myself on a flight back to Doha, without having been allowed to set foot out of Bahrain's airport in Muharraq.
The flight itself was quite uneventful. The plane - an Airbus A321, with a listed 177 passenger capacity - carried less than 30 people. A short line to immigration meant I was at the desk in minutes. Immigration officer asks, "Where are you coming from? Qatar? OK, 5 Bahraini Dinars."
Thumbing through my passport, he suddenly stops and looks me in the eye. "Wait, where are you from? Who do you work for? ... Please have a seat - over there." I can't be sure if it was the Iraq visa, the India visa, or the numerous Qatar & Saudi visas in my American passport he found suspicious. Or perhaps it was my telling him in Arabic that "my origin" is half Indian, half Hispanic.
So my wait began. There were quite a number of other people on the benches too. Anyone who'd arrived with the intention of driving across the King Fahad causeway into Saudi Arabia was being told they'd have to fly. There is a curfew in effect on Bahrain's main highway from 4pm-4am, and last I heard, the bridge to Saudi was closed indefinitely. This of course, due to the month-long protests against the government by opposition groups calling for democratic reforms, a constitutional monarchy and basic human rights.
After about an hour of waiting, and checking in a couple times to see if there was any problems, one of the immigration officers asked, "You used to work for Al Jazeera, right?"
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Al Jazeera has announced that one of its cameramen, Ali Hassan Al Jaber, was killed after a reporting team for the Arabic-language channel was ambushed by government forces near the town of Benghazi.
The news sparked an outpouring of emotion and support for the network and the slain cameraman.
Wadah Khanfar, the director general of the Al Jazeera Network, announced the death in broadcast remarks, saying "the network will not be silent after death of our cameraman" and would seek to prosecute the perpetrators.
Read a longer account, with archives of tweets from people close to the story, here.
Photo by Arabist, via TwitPic
In Egypt, six days of massive demonstrations against the government look set to continue.
Two days ago, the country's president of 30 years sacked his government. Yesterday, he named a new one - and for the first time during his reign, picked a vice president. Today, protesters continue to rally, calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Like during Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" just a few weeks earlier, there's been an outpouring of support and interest on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. But, inevitably, with all the cheerleaders and nay-saying being bandied about, so too is a slew of ... less than reliable tweets.
Hearing UNCONFIRMED info that the Egyptian Army getting ready to announce President Hosni Mubarak is stepping down. #Egypt #Jan25
OR the more nuanced version:
Ben Wedeman @bencnn reported on air just now #Mubarak is preparing to step down, quoting sources inside regime #Egypt #Jan25
Well, needless to say, we're still waiting for that to happen... but here's what the New York Times Lede blog published Wedeman actually saying:
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Every year—on exactly the same days, as far as Muslims are concerned—literally millions of people descend upon the original Meccaâ„¢ of Saudi Arabia and its surrounding holy sites in pilgrimage.
Notable for infidels though, is that Muslims use a lunar calendar (based on the moon's cycle, like werewolves), which is about 11 days shorter than the standard Gregorian Calendar - so named for its 16th century patron Pope Gregory XIII (still wondering why Muslims don't use it?).
Non-believers can thus be excused for thinking that Hajj falls on a different date each year. In 2010, things got under way in the holy land over the weekend.Read the rest