Demonstrations continue across the Middle East this week, hitting Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Iraq.
Protesters in Yemen took to the streets for the seventh day in a row Thursday, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation two weeks after the president said he would not run in the country’s next election in 2013 and promised economic and political reforms. The protesters were met with violence, however, from government supporters. Seeking to hold on to the momentum, activists have called for a “day of rage” Friday.
After days of protests in Bahrain, the government responded Thursday morning with a brutal pre-dawn crackdown. Hours after thousands gathered in the capital’s Pearl Square to demand greater political freedoms and more jobs, police surrounded the makeshift encampment – where many protesters, including women and children, were asleep – and launched tear gas and rubber bullets. Four were killed in the attack. The military has since taken control of the capital and has banned gatherings.
Yemeni anti-government protesters, February 14, 2011
In Libya, protesters took to the streets of four cities for a “day of rage” Thursday, demanding the end of leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s 41-year reign. On Wednesday, fierce clashes between Libyan security forces and demonstrators ensued and, according to reports, snipers on rooftops shot at protesters. At least four have been killed.
Iraq has also witnessed protests over the last few days in several cities. In most of the demonstrations, people are calling for better government services, but some are demanding the resignation of their provincial governors. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the protesting is a positive development as it “was one of our dreams” under Hussein, although he cautioned against violence.
While the uprisings are spreading across the region in a domino-effect, Washington should not expect the leaders of Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and other countries witnessing protests to fall like dominoes after Tunisia and Egypt’s presidents. Each Middle Eastern country differs from the next, from the peoples’ demands to the governments’ and militaries’ desire to repress the protesters – facts that make all the difference when it comes to toppling a regime.