Tremors of revolt continued to shake the Arab world on Thursday, as a handful of
long-standing authoritarian regimes scrambled to put down popular unrest
inspired by the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
protesters took to the streets in four cities in what activists have dubbed a
“day of rage,” amid reports that at least 20 demonstrators have been killed in
clashes with pro-government groups.
Thousands of Yemenis protest nationwide
Eight killed in Libya, Bahrain in anti-gov't protests
Anti-government protests spread to Gaddafi’s Libya
In Bahrain, troops and tanks locked
down the capital after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed
into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault that uprooted
their makeshift camp and that medical officials said cost the lives of four
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Libyan internal
security forces had arrested at least 14 people. Hundreds of pro-government
demonstrators also rallied in the capital, Tripoli, blocking traffic in some
areas, witnesses said.
An opposition website and an activist working
against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime said unrest broke out during marches in four
Libyan cities on Thursday. Organizers were using social networking sites such as
Facebook and Twitter to call for nationwide demonstrations.
website Libya al-Youm said four protesters were slain by snipers from the
Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of Beyida, which saw protests on
Wednesday and Thursday. It’s not clear when the protesters were killed. The
website also said there was a demonstration on Thursday in Benghazi, Libya’s
second-largest city, and that security forces had shot and killed six people
with live ammunition.
Switzerland-based Libyan activist Fathi al- Warfali
said 11 protesters were killed in Beyida on Wednesday night, and scores were
He said the government had dispatched army commandos to quell
Libya al-Youm said protesters set out on Thursday, after
the funeral for those killed a day earlier, toward the State Security building,
chanting, “Free Libya, Gaddafi get out!” Shmuel Bar, director of studies at the
Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, noted that Libya differed starkly
from its North African neighbors that had already overthrown their respective
leaders. Tunisia and Egypt, he said, have large populations of college-educated
young people frustrated by a paucity of jobs and eager to institute political
and economic reforms. Libya, with its minuscule middle class, may well have to
wait longer before it deposes its own decades-long leader.
government has moved quickly to try to stop Libyans from joining the wave of
uprisings in the Middle East that have ousted the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
It has proposed the doubling of government employees’ salaries and released 110
suspected Islamic insurgents who oppose him – tactics similar to those adopted
by other Arab regimes facing recent mass protests.
An autocrat who has
ruled for more than 40 years, Gaddafi also has been meeting with tribal leaders
to solicit their support. State television reported on Tuesday that Gaddafi
spoke with representatives of the Ben Ali tribe, one of Libya’s biggest clans
and one that has branches in neighboring Egypt.
The official news agency
JANA said Thursday’s pro-government rallies were intended to express “eternal
unity with the brother leader of the revolution,” as Gaddafi is
Witnesses in the capital said many government supporters were
raising Libyan flags from their cars and chanting slogans in favor of Gaddafi.
They said it was otherwise business as usual in the capital and stores remained
In Bahrain, meanwhile, just hours after the attack on Manama’s main
Pearl Square, the military announced a ban on gatherings, saying on state TV
that it had “key parts” of the capital under its control.
Minister Khalid al-Khalifa justified the crackdown as necessary because the
demonstrators were “polarizing the country” and pushing it to the “brink of the
sectarian abyss.” Speaking to reporters after meeting with his Gulf
counterparts, he also said the violence was “regrettable.”
days of holding back, the island nation’s Sunni rulers unleashed a heavy
crackdown on Thursday. In the surprise assault, police tore down protesters’
tents, beating men and women inside and blasting some with shotgun sprays of
birdshot. It was a sign of how deeply the Sunni monarchy – and other Arab
regimes in the Gulf – fear the repercussions of a prolonged wave of protests,
led by members of the country’s Shi’ite majority but also joined by growing
numbers of discontented Sunnis.
Bahrain’s rulers and their Arab allies
depict any sign of unrest among their Shi’ite populations as a move by
Shi’ite-majority Iran to expand its clout in the region.
Shmuel Bar of
the Institute of Policy and Strategy said the protesters in Bahrain are seeking
not the ouster of the ruling regime, but merely enfranchisement. He noted that
the United States has tended to withhold support from anti-government movements
in states hostile to it, for fear that support from Washington would render the
The US, he said, is “softer on anti-American regimes”
than on its allies.
“How can America, which supported a change of
government in Egypt, not support people who are saying, ‘We’re 70 percent of the
population and we’re disenfranchised?’” Bar asked.
Nonetheless, he noted
that the implications of a government overthrow in Bahrain for both the US and
Israel would be serious. With a majority Shi’ite population, he said, Bahrainis
would be likely to vote in a government more distant from the US and closer to
Iran. Last month, a commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards caused a diplomatic
incident between Tehran and Manama by describing Bahrain as Iran’s “14th
Thursday’s assault may only further enrage protesters, who
before the attack had called for large rallies on Friday. In the wake of the
bloodshed, angry demonstrators chanted “The regime must go,” and burned pictures
of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa outside the emergency ward at Salmaniya Medical
Complex, the main hospital.
The Obama administration expressed alarm over
the violent crackdown. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Bahrain’s
foreign minister to register Washington’s “deep concern” and urge restraint.
Similar criticism came from Britain and the European Union.
came early on Thursday with little warning, demonstrators said. Police
surrounded the square and then quickly moved in. Some lined up on a bridge
overhead, pumping down volleys of tear gas, as others waded into the camp,
knocking down tents and swinging truncheons at those inside.
‘We are peaceful! Peaceful!’” said protester Mahmoud Mansouri. “The women and
children were attacked just like the rest of us.”