Ash Pemberton

About 6000 people rallied in Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-occupied West Papua on May 2 demanding a referendum on independence. The demonstration also commemorated the illegal occupation of West Papua in 1963. West Papua Media Alerts reported on May 2 that West Papua National Committee (KNPB) spokesperson Victor Yeimo said: “We want to show Indonesia and the international community that we are not just a handful of people who want independence. All people of West Papua want to be free.”
The release of secret US Department of Defense files on prisoners held by the US as part of the “war on terror” confirms, in the US government’s own words, the shoddy and unreliable nature of the “evidence” used to condemn prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay torture camp. The files released by WikiLeaks also show the mentality of the US government in its attempts to prosecute and gather information about “terrorists” to justify its wars of aggression. Apart from those known to be innocent by their US captors, many others were condemned on the flimsiest of pretexts.
The Bahraini government has ordered the dissolution of two opposition political parties. The move is part of its crackdown against the pro-democracy movement that broke out in February. The al-Wefaq and al-Amal parties were ordered to dissolve for “threatening peace”. The order is in response to their involvement in the protests that called for the removal of the Khalifah royal family, which has ruled the country for more than 200 years, the April 14 Washington Post said.
Pro-democracy protesters in Yemen have shown their determination for real change by rejecting a proposal that would allow hated President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave power on his own terms and escape prosecution for his crimes. In the face of ongoing repression, the opposition rejected a proposal from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and maintained their demand that Saleh leave immediately, Al Jazeera said on April 11.
“As Palestinians were preparing for their weekend this Thursday afternoon,” said on April 7, “all of a sudden barrages of Israeli artillery fire and air raids by warplanes struck several regions of the Gaza Strip”. “Five Palestinians were killed and about thirty more injured. Israeli shells struck farm land, homes, a mosque and an ambulance.” Israel has threatened to escalate its military assault on the Gaza Strip. said on April 4 that more than 20 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli attacks since the start of March.
The pro-democracy movement in Bahrain has been severely weakened by the brutal wave of repression that began on March 15. Attempts to reignite pro-democracy protests have been broken up by government security forces and strikes have been called off. Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered Bahrain on March 14 to help the Bahraini government “restore order” by attacking thousands of pro-democracy protesters.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied across Yemen on April 1 in the largest mobilisation so far calling for the removal of President Ali Abdulla Saleh, Associated Press said that day. Protests took place in at least 14 provinces. Saleh’s unwillingness to stand down has claimed m ore lives. Protesters have blamed Saleh for an explosion in an ammunition factory that killed about 150 people on March 28. Protesters said Saleh’s government allowed the factory to be overrun by supposed al-Qaeda members who left the factory open for looters, said on March 30.
Despite their talk about democracy, the governments of the US and other Western nations are very interested in stopping the wave of democratic uprisings across the Arab world. The threat of real democracy is not compatible with the system of economic dominance and political control that the US enforces across the world. The US will do everything it can to stop the resource-rich Arab countries from escaping its clutches, especially when it has already spent so much effort on propping up tyrannical governments across the region.
Emboldened by the successes of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, a number of Arab regimes have escalated crackdowns on pro-democracy protests while the world’s media was focused on the earthquake disaster in Japan. With the exceptions of Libya and Iran, the governments brutally cracking down on their citizens have received minimal criticism from the West. Calls for “restraint on both sides” obscure the fact that it is governments armed with weapons made in the West ruthlessly attacking mostly unarmed people.
Protest in Bahrain, March 18.

The government of Bahrain unleashed a brutal crackdown and invited in foreign troops on March 14 in an attempt to end pro-democracy protests that have lasted for more than a month.

The pro-democracy protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have the potential to have a huge impact on world politics. The stakes are very high. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s tiny island neighbour, protesters have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands for weeks to demand the Khalifah royal family be removed from power. Bahrain is of great strategic importance for the West. It hosts the US Navy's fifth fleet and a US airbase. This helps ensure US control of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the ability to maintain a constant threat against Iran.
The government in Yemen is becoming more desperate amid continuing protests across the country calling for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Tensions came to a head when security forces fired on protesters at a university in the capital Sana'a, killing one person and wounding many others, said on March 9. Security forces also gassed the crowd with what is alleged to be nerve gas, said on March 10. Despite the attack, thousands of protesters defied police and continued occupying the university square, said.