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Protests in Bahrain and Libya

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  • #61
    Bahrain detains 7 opposition figures
    By BARBARA SURK and REEM KHALIFA, Associated Press Barbara Surk And Reem Khalifa, Associated Press 2 hrs 53 mins ago

    MANAMA, Bahrain – Bahrain's Sunni monarchy detained at least seven prominent opposition activists Thursday, and Iran recalled its ambassador to protest the Gulf troops backing the government against the Shiite protests that forced martial law-style rule in the island nation.

    Bahrain's government is gambling that it can survive the sectarian faultlines that splinter the region, with Sunni leaders in the Gulf sending forces to bolster a regime that they — and the U.S. — see as a bulwark against Shiite Iran's expanding military ambitions.

    The Sunni monarchy and its backers are using everything at their disposal to retain power, while Shiites hope their overwhelming population advantage will be their most potent weapon to bring the leadership to its knees. Clashes broke out in a village on the outskirts of the capital Manama.

    In Brussels, the European Union and NATO urged Bahrain's authorities to refrain from violence and try to settle the crisis through dialogue.

    But Bahrain's ruling system — which once appealed for negotiations — now appears to be shifting to efforts to crush the opposition.

    Bahrain's crackdown widened with the detention of at least seven activists, a rights group and relatives of the arrested said. Bahrain has imposed a three-month emergency rule that gives the military wide powers to battle the pro-democracy uprising that began in mid-February in the strategic nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

    Security forces had an overwhelming presence in parts of central Manama, a day after overrunning a protesters' camp in the capital and clashing with Shiites elsewhere. At least five people were killed — two policemen and three protesters — in Wednesday's assault on the encampment in Pearl Square, according to opposition groups and the government.

    The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said those taken into custody in the pre-dawn raids Thursday include Hassan Mushaima and Abdul Jalil al-Sangaece — who were among 25 Shiite activists on trial on charges of trying to overthrow the nation's Sunni rulers.

    The case was dropped to calm tensions last month, but the latest sweeps suggest authorities have abandoned efforts at dialogue and are trying to silence opposition leaders.

    Riot police fired tear gas on several dozen protesters trying to organize a march in the mostly Shiite Manama suburb of Jidhafs, which is less than a half mile (one kilometer) from Pearl Square. As the clash unfolded, residents tried to block police vehicles with makeshift barricades including metal tables, pieces of wood and even gym weights.

    The Youth Society group said the detained include Shiite activists Abdul Wahad Hussein and Hassan Hadad and Sunni liberal leader Ibrahim Sharif, who had joined with Bahrain's majority Shiites to demand the Sunni monarchy loosen its grip on power.

    "I saw men in black pointing a machine gun at my husband saying just one thing: `We are from the state security,'" said Sahrif's wife Farida Guhlam.

    A senior opposition leader, Abdul Jalil Khalil, also said Abdul Hadi al-Mokhdar of Wafa was taken into custody. Also in custody was Saeed al Nouri from the Haq movement.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBS News that the introduction of Gulf forces was "the wrong track."

    It was a rare hint of agreement with Iran, which has called the Saudi-led reinforcements in Bahrain "unacceptable."

    In mostly Shiite southern Iraq, more than 3,000 demonstrators marched in the holy city of Karbala in the second consecutive day of rallies against the outside forces in Bahrain.

    Tanks and armored personnel carriers outfitted with machine guns watched over strategic intersections. Soldiers, wearing black ski masks and helmets, manned checkpoints and searched cars. Agents in civilian clothes patrolled wearing green vests and masks.

    The remnants of the protesters' barricades — barrels, plywood and trash bins — were strewn over some streets. Nearly all stores and banks were closed and traffic was light. Very few people were walking the streets in the center of the capital.

    An 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew was in force and movement was restricted around the country.

    Doctors at the country's main hospital said the facility was controlled by security forces, blocking physicians from leaving. The Salmaniya hospital complex has become a political hotspot. The mostly Shiite personnel are seen by authorities as possible protest sympathizers. The staff claim they must treat all who need care.

    "We are under siege," said Nihad el-Shirawi, an intensive care doctor who said she had been working for 48 hours. "We cannot leave, and those on-call cannot come in."

    Officials in the hospital said they took in more than 400 people injured in violence Tuesday and Wednesday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

    Britain has urged all its citizens to leave Bahrain unless they have a "pressing reason" to remain. Charter flights were arranged to Dubai.


    Associated Press writers Brian Murphy and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.
    Copyright 2011 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved

    Bahrain police round up opposition leaders and take over hospital
    Ben Farmer
    By Ben Farmer, Manama 5:55PM GMT 17 Mar 2011

    Security forces again clashed with Shia demonstrators as the Sunni monarchy sought to quell the month-long protest movement, which is calling for constitutional reform. The Bahraini capital Manama was tense but calm as troops in armoured vehicles funnelled traffic into checkpoints at key bridges and junctions.

    Security forces took control of Salmaniya medical centre, Manama’s main hospital. Doctors and opposition figures alleged that wounded Shia protesters were denied treatment and staff were harassed.

    Seven opposition figures were rounded up in raids including Hassan Mushaima, the leading Shia dissident, who had recently returned from exile in London.

    They have been accused of contacting foreign states and inciting murder and vandalism, according to a statement from the island state’s military officials.

    The United Nations condemned the hospital takeover as “shocking and “a blatant violation of international law”. Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the Wefaq, the largest opposition group, called for a UN investigation and urged Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces from Bahrain. More than 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered the country on Monday at the request of King Hamad after a weekend of violence.
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    William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said Britain deplored “the loss of life and the escalation of violence”. The Government has advised the 7,000 Britons in Bahrain to leave on scheduled flights and has provided two charter flights to ferry more than 300 people to Dubai. However, all fleeing Britons took commercial flights. Hundreds of expatriate workers have left.

    Mohammed al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said the crackdown had so far failed to snuff out the protest. “We need at least three or four days to see if the movement is crushed, but so far it isn’t. They are still protesting,” he said.

    West of the city, police fired shotguns and tear gas to disperse several hundred protesters in the village of Deih, although there were no reports of casualties.

    Government troops remained in control of the Pearl Monument Roundabout, which was the focus of demonstrations until a makeshift protest camp was swept away on Wednesday morning with the use of armoured vehicles and tear gas.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


    • #62
      18 March 2011 Last updated at 11:16 ET
      BBC News - Yemen unrest: 'Dozens killed' as gunmen target rally
      Yemen unrest: 'Dozens killed' as gunmen target rally
      A medic helps an injured anti-government protester in Sanaa (18 March 2011). Doctors said that most of the injuries were to the neck, head and chest of protesters
      Continue reading the main story
      Related Stories

      * Mid-East: Will there be a domino effect?
      * Yemen: Security and the collapsing state
      * Yemen country profile

      Unidentified gunmen firing on an anti-government rally in the Yemeni capital Sanaa have killed at least 39 people and injured 200, doctors told the BBC.

      The gunmen, said to be wearing civilian clothes, fired from roof-tops overlooking the central square.

      State media say the security forces had nothing to do with the violence and blamed it on "clashes among citizens".

      President Ali Abdullah Saleh has declared a state of emergency across the country.

      Speaking after a month of violence which rocked Yemen, he reportedly expressed sorrow for the violence in Sanaa, which began after Friday prayers.

      Yemen's opposition condemned the shooting and urged Mr Saleh to leave.

      "There is no longer any possibility of mutual understanding with this regime and he has no choice but to surrender authority to the people," Yassin Noman, rotating president of Yemen's umbrella opposition group, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

      According to Reuters, tens of thousands of protesters also gathered in other cities across the country, from the southern port of Aden to Hodeida in the west.

      Popular revolts

      "Most of the wounds were to the head, neck and chest," one doctor told AFP about Friday's shooting.

      Yemen is one of a number of countries in the region that have seen unrest since the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia were ousted in popular revolts.
      Continue reading the main story
      Middle East unrest: Yemen
      Map of Yemen

      * President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power since 1978
      * Population 24.3m; land area 536,869 sq km
      * The population has a median age of 17.9, and a literacy rate of 61%
      * Youth unemployment is 15%
      * Gross national income per head is $1,060 (655) (World Bank 2009)

      * Protests: Country-by-country

      Thousands of people have turned out for regular demonstrations in cities including Sanaa, Aden, Taiz and elsewhere, calling for corruption and unemployment to be tackled and demanding the president step down.

      Some 40% of the population live on $2 (1.20) a day or less in the country, and a third face food shortages.

      The protests have often been met by riot police or supporters of President Saleh armed with knives and batons.

      On 9 March one person was killed and at least 80 were injured when forces opened fire on a similar protest by a group which has been camped out in front of the university since mid-February.

      The president has been in power for 32 years, facing a separatist movement in the south, a branch of al-Qaeda, and a periodic conflict with Shia tribes in the north.

      He has said he will not seek another term in office in 2013 but has vowed to defend his regime "with every drop of blood".
      To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


      • #63
        Bahrain demolishes Pearl Monument, site of protests
        By the CNN Wire Staff
        March 18, 2011 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
        Bahrain demolishes Pearl Monument, site of protests -
        Manama, Bahrain (CNN) -- Security forces in Bahrain on Friday demolished the Pearl Monument, a landmark that had been the site of massive recent anti-government protests.

        Friday evening, pieces of the modern white structure lay like a pile of bones in the center of the Pearl Roundabout, according to pictures broadcast on Bahrain state television.

        The government explained the demolition by saying that it was "out of the government's keenness to optimize services and improve the infrastructure" and that it would "boost flow of traffic in this vital area of the capital," according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

        Thousands of people congregated at the Pearl Roundabout during the height of anti-government demonstrations last month. The highway leading to the roundabout was clogged with protesters this week, though it was clear Friday and streets were quiet after a government crackdown on protesters.
        Clinton: Bahrain response 'alarming'
        Security forces attack protesters
        Ajami reflects on Libya, Bahrain

        * Bahrain
        * Amnesty International
        * Protests and Demonstrations

        Members of the opposition expressed their disappointment at the demolition of a structure the government itself had described as one of the kingdom's "most striking landmarks."

        "I think it's a stupid act from the authorities that they think by removing this it will be removed from history," said Khalil Al Marzooq, a leading member of the Wefaq party. "But unfortunately what they have created is a historical feeling and records that will not be wiped out. They will continue to be rulers of this country by the tanks and Saudi troops, not by the feeling of the people."

        Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates moved into Bahrain on Monday to "protect the safety of citizens," the Bahraini government said. The troops arrived under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an association of six Gulf Arab states.

        The monument consisted of six curved white beams that met at the top to hold a white sphere, or "pearl." The beams were meant to symbolize the sails of a dhow, or Arab boat, with the number designating the six countries of the Gulf, according to a description on a Bahrain government website four years ago.

        "Situated at the end of the Manama-Muharraq Causeway, the monument never fails to leave visitors with a grand and spectacular impression," the government wrote at the time.

        The sculpture also represented the importance of pearls to Bahrain's economy before the discovery of oil in 1932.

        CNN's Leone Lakhani contributed to this report.
        To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


        • #64
          March 16, 2011
          Bahrain Pulls a Qaddafi

          It is heartbreaking to see a renegade country like Libya shoot pro-democracy protesters. But it’s even more wrenching to watch America’s ally, Bahrain, pull a Qaddafi and use American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement — as we stay mostly silent.

          In Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters — and in the last few days it has gotten much worse. Saudi Arabia, in a slap at American efforts to defuse the crisis, dispatched troops to Bahrain to help crush the protesters. The result is five more deaths, by the count of The Associated Press.

          One video from Bahrain appears to show security forces shooting an unarmed middle-aged man in the chest with a tear gas canister at a range of a few feet. The man collapses and struggles to get up. And then they shoot him with a canister in the head. Amazingly, he survived.

          Today the United States is in a vise — caught between our allies and our values. And the problem with our pal Bahrain is not just that it is shooting protesters but also that it is something like an apartheid state. Sunni Muslims rule the country, and now they are systematically trying to crush an overwhelmingly Shiite protest movement.

          My New York Times colleague Michael Slackman was caught by Bahrain security forces a few weeks ago. He said that they pointed shotguns at him and that he was afraid they were about to shoot when he pulled out his passport and shouted that he was an American journalist. Then, he says, the mood changed abruptly and the leader of the group came over and took Mr. Slackman’s hand, saying warmly: “Don’t worry! We love Americans!”

          “We’re not after you. We’re after Shia,” the policeman added. Mr. Slackman recalls: “It sounded like they were hunting rats.”

          All this is tragic because the ruling al-Khalifa family can be justly proud of what it has built in Bahrain, including a prosperous and dynamic society, a highly educated work force and a society in which women are far better off than next door in Saudi Arabia. On a good day, Bahrain feels like an oasis of moderation in a tough region.

          Yet you can parachute blindfolded into almost any neighborhood in Bahrain and tell immediately whether it is Sunni or Shiite. The former enjoy better roads and public services. And it’s almost impossible for Shiites to be hired by the army or police. Doesn’t that sound like an echo of apartheid?

          It is true that Bahrain’s protesters have behaved in ways that have undermined their cause. They frequently chant “Death to al-Khalifa” — a toxic slogan that should offend everyone. And some protesters have targeted Pakistanis and other South Asians who often work for security services.

          This slide toward radicalization and violence was unnecessary. The king could have met some of the protesters’ demands — such as fire the prime minister and move to a Jordanian- or Moroccan-style constitutional monarchy. Most protesters would have accepted such a compromise. Instead, the royal family talked about dialogue but didn’t make meaningful concessions, and the security forces remain almost as brutal as any in the region.

          I wrote a few weeks ago about a distinguished plastic surgeon, Sadiq al-Ekri, who had been bludgeoned by security forces. At the time, I couldn’t interview Dr. Ekri because he was unconscious. But I later returned and was able to talk to him, and his story offers a glimpse into Bahrain’s tragedy.

          Dr. Ekri is a moderate Shiite who said his best friend is a Sunni. Indeed, Dr. Ekri recently took several weeks off work to escort this friend to Houston for medical treatment. When Bahrain’s security forces attacked protesters, Dr. Ekri tried to help the injured. He said he was trying to rescue a baby abandoned in the melee when police handcuffed him. Even after they knew his identity, he said they clubbed him so hard that they broke his nose. Then, he said, they pulled down his pants and threatened to rape him — all while cursing Shiites.

          The Arab democracy spring that begun with such exhilaration in Tunisia and Egypt is now enduring a brutal winter in Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The United States bases the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and we have close relations with the Bahraini government. We’re not going to pull out our naval base.

          Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rightly deplored the violence in Bahrain, and the administration as a whole should speak out forcefully. If the brave women and men demanding democracy in Bahrain have the courage to speak out, we should do so as well. 

          Gail Collins is off today.
          To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway