Repression, resistance rocks Arab world

Bahrain protesters flee security forces in February.

While the mainstream media have focused on the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya, democracy movements in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain have deepened despite severe repression.

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Yemen's capital Sana'a on September 4, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said the next day. They demanded the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Thousands were prevented from rallying by military roadblocks. Five protesters were wounded when government troops opened fire on the rally.

Anti-government protests have taken place daily across Yemen since February. They have brought together diverse groups ranging from students to rural tribesmen in a display of unity not seen before in the notoriously fractious country.

Historian and commentator Fawwaz Traboulsi said in an interview with Jadaliyya.com on September 2: “Yemen is a very large dispersed country. Yet all the Yemeni localities were a part of the movement. Both autonomous and secessionist demands receded.

“Compared to other countries, this has been the longest revolution with the longest presence in the streets. They don’t just come out on Fridays, they are always in the streets!

“And they have continuously been in the streets in all the major cities of the country ...”

Despite this, Saleh has managed to cling to power.

Saleh's government is a key US ally in its “war on terror”. It has allowed the US to conduct bombing raids against alleged al Qaeda fighters on Yemeni soil, and carried out its own raids on the US's behalf.

The Yemeni government killed 31 civilians and injured 23 others in a bombing raid in Jaar on September 5, CNN.com said the next day.

The raid hit a government compound, which contained a mosque, homes, a hospital and government offices.

Yemen is also important for Western interests due to its geographical position on an important transport route for oil shipments and its hosting of the US Navy's fifth fleet.

Protests are a daily occurrence across Syria, calling for the downfall of the Baath Party government of Bashar Al-Assad.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said at LCCSyria.org that the protests involve thousands of people each day, despite intense repression.

LCCSyria.org described the scene in Homs on September 7, where 21 protesters were killed that day.: “Homs, the city that has become the centre of the revolution for the last three months ... is now experiencing a new wave of violence as Shabiha [thugs] and security forces have indiscriminately killed more than 20 martyrs in the last 2 days... [as well as] arbitrary arrests of dozens of people during violent raids of houses or mass arrests at security barriers.”

Dp-news.com said on September 8 that “residents said snipers posted on the rooftops of government buildings and public schools were firing at pedestrians and cars”.

LCCSyria.org said: “However, all this violence could not stop or even reduce the number and size of demonstrations which took off in several neighbourhoods across the city and was accompanied by a general strike in the city.”

LCCSyria.org has been posting daily reports alleging brutality and killings by the military and pro-government thugs.

It says mass arbitrary arrests are also a common occurrence across the country.

On August 29, it estimated 20,000 people had been arrested since the start of the uprising, and “most activists who started the revolution are now behind bars”.

There have been reports of summary executions inside military detention, LCCSyria.org said on August 14.

The United Nations says 2200 people have been killed since protests started in March, Dp-news.com said.

Traboulsi told Jadaliyya: “The regime's crackdown began with a very haughty sense of Syrian exceptionalism ― a feeling that they we’re not like the others and could successfully impose security by repression, while worrying about longer-term stability later ...

“But I think the Syrian people have surprised everyone. Not only did they break their fear barrier, they even got more and more militant as the repression intensified.”

The regime has offered meagre reforms that have little chance of satisfying the people.

Traboulsi said: “People want real change, be it the resignation of the president or a new constitution. They want a real reformulation of the relationship between rulers and the ruled.”

Western countries, such as the US and France, have condemned the Syrian regime and increased economic sanctions. But the likelihood of a Libya-style military intervention is low at this stage.

Despite using anti-Israeli rhetoric when it suits it, the Assad regime has provided Israel with a secure northern border ― something not guaranteed under any potential new government.

Israel's unhindered functioning as an imperial outpost in the Arab world is more important to the West than a change of government in Syria.





As the Syrian regime resorted to brute force, street protests have re-emerged in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

An earlier round of mass protests were repressed in a brutal crackdown by the Bahraini monarchy's forces and Saudi Arabian soldiers.

Hundreds of arrests followed the crackdown, which left at least 30 people dead and thousands injured.

Neighbourhoods inhabited by Shia Muslims were terrorised by the military and pro-government thugs, in attempt to maintain the power of the Al Khalifa monarchy and the privileged Sunni Muslim minority that supports it.

Protesters rallied in Sitra on September 4 after a teenage boy was killed by security forces during an anti-government rally four days earlier, Presstv.ir said on September 5.

More than 100 political prisoners are on hunger strike, Associated Press said on September 7. Twenty doctors among the hunger strikers were arrested for treating wounded protesters.

The latest protests come after Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said on September 4 that he would pardon some detained protesters.

He also promised to reinstate some of the Shiite workers fired from their jobs and students expelled from their colleges for their sympathy with the protests. 

Presstv.ir said on September 5 that the king “admitted that security forces had abused the protesters, saying that compensation would be paid to the victims of abuse and the families of those killed during demonstrations”.

Comments

The caption under the picture posted in this article reads: "Anti-regime protest in Syria."

This is incorrect since this picture is of anti-Syrian Lebanese marchers in Lebanon!

Yes, the caption under the original photo posted here was incorrect. The photo has since been changed. Apologies for the error and any confusion caused.