SANAA – The demands for political reform in the Arab world continued to
intensify on Sunday.
In Sanaa, Yemeni police police armed with sticks and
daggers beat back thousands of protesters marching through the capital in a
third straight day of demonstrations calling for political reforms and the
resignation of the country’s US-allied president.
Seeking democracy, settling for caliphate
Government opponents, supporters rally in Yemen
The protests have
mushroomed since crowds gathered on Friday to celebrate the ouster of Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak after an 18- day revolt fueled by similar
On Sunday, uniformed police used truncheons to stop
protesters, many of them university students, from reaching Sanaa’s central Hada
Witnesses said plainclothes policemen wielding daggers and sticks
joined security forces in driving the protesters back.
set several conditions on Sunday for joining talks with the government,
including a definitive timetable for “constitutional, legal and economic
The parties also demanded that President Ali Abdullah Saleh
remove his sons and other relatives from army, security and government
Saleh has tried to defuse the unrest by promising not to run again
when his term ends in 2013 and guaranteeing that he will not seek to pass power
to his son.
Several people were injured in Sunday’s demonstrations, and
police detained 23 protesters, witnesses said.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the internal security forces, accused the
protesters of “spreading sabotage and chaos” and “threatening security and
The crowds took up the protest cry that became famous in
Tunisia and then in Egypt, shouting, “The people want to overthrow the
They have also tried to reach a square in the capital with the
same name as the plaza that became the epicenter of Egypt’s protest movement:
Tahrir, or Liberation, Square.
Seeking to stop them, the police have
ringed the square with barbed wire and bused in government supporters to set up
a tent camp and occupy and defend the square around the clock.
Algiers, the organizers of a pro-reform protest that brought thousands of people
onto the streets of the capital over the weekend called on Sunday for another
rally on Saturday.
The Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria – an
umbrella group for human rights activists, unionists, lawyers and others – has
called for Saturday’s demonstrations to take place throughout the
Last Saturday’s rally took place only in Algiers. Organizers
said around 10,000 took part in the gathering, though officials put turnout at
Iran’s opposition on Sunday renewed its call for a rally in
support of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, despite a government warning of
repercussions if demonstrations take place, a reformist website
In a statement published on Kaleme.com, the opposition urged
its supporters to rally on Monday in central Teheran and accused the government
of hypocrisy for voicing support for the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while
refusing to allow Iranians to stage a peaceful demonstration.
Wary of a
reinvigorated opposition at home, Iranian authorities have detained several
activists and journalists in recent weeks, and opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi
was put under house arrest, apparently in connection with the request to stage
The statement on Kaleme.com said further restrictions on
Karroubi and fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi were a sign of the
“increasing weakness and fear of the government about the most peaceful civil
and political rights” of Iranians.
In another report, Kaleme said many
university students as well as a reformist cleric group have promised to attend
the protest. But it was not clear whether the rally would actually take place.
Many opposition calls for demonstrations in the past months have gone
Still, the opposition’s persistence has placed the government
in a bind.
Iran’s hard-line rulers – who have tried to capitalize on the
uprising against their regional rivals in Egypt’s US-allied regime – are seeking
to deprive their opponents at home of any chance to reinvigorate a movement
swept from the streets in a heavy military crackdown.
Both Mousavi and
Karroubi have compared the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia with their own
post-election protest movement in 2009, which the Iranian government eventually
quashed. Mousavi said Iran’s demonstrations were the starting point for the
recent revolts in Cairo and Tunis, and that all the uprisings aimed at ending
the “oppression of the rulers.”
The protests that swept Iran in the
months after the 2009 presidential vote grew into a larger movement opposed to
the ruling system. It was the biggest challenge faced by Iran’s clerical
leadership since it came to power in the 1979 revolution that toppled the
Hundreds of thousands peacefully took to the streets in
support of Mousavi, and some powerful clerics sided with the
However a heavy military crackdown suppressed the protests,
and many in the opposition – from midlevel political figures to street
activists, journalists and human rights workers – were arrested. The opposition
has not been able to hold a major protest since December 2009.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh dismissed the idea that his government
would fall in a similar fashion to Egypt’s regime, saying “Jordan is Jordan,
Egypt is Egypt... We enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of
Judeh’s comments came in an interview with CNN’s Wolf
Blitzer that aired on Saturday.
“I’m watching all the media outlets and
I’m seeing the comparisons and I’m seeing the expectations. And one would
confidently say that here in Jordan, we had demonstrations, as we have every
year when it comes to economic issues and government’s adopting policies that
are unpopular,” Judeh said.
“We have economic hardship, but we still have
economic stability and political stability and political reform that is
initiated by his majesty, the king, by the government. We’re
Judeh expressed hope that the Egyptian army would ensure continued
stability in the country.
“Egypt is a pillar of regional security, and I
think that what we have to watch out now for is the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces ensuring that the transition period leads Egypt into a new era that
ensures Egypt’s continued growth in the region,” he said.
Jordan is in
agreement with the Obama administration’s conviction that democracy will bring
more, not less stability to the region, according to Judeh.
“We in Jordan
have been very, very stalwart in our political and economic program, and as
initiated by his majesty, the democratization process is well on track and his
majesty is committed to that... We just had our parliamentary elections here. We
will have municipal elections hopefully sometime this year. So, yes,
democracy is very much the order of the day,” he said.
Judeh added that
he was reassured by the Egyptian military’s announcement that they would honor
their peace treaty with Israel.
“We still believe even at this particular
moment in time that this historic juncture that – at least is key to resolving
many other challenges that we all face in this region. And the establishment of
the independent Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel is still the
goal we all seek,” he said.