International briefs

February 26, 2011

Iraq: Protesters met with bullets

“Soldiers and riot police fired on citizens rallying for jobs, public services and clean government across occupied Iraq,” the British Morning Star said on February 25. The article said at least 13 civilians were killed and many more wounded.

Thousands of workers took to the streets in Baghdad, Mosul, Ramadi, Basra, Fallujah and Tikrit despite a curfew.

Baghdad was locked down, with soldiers deployed en masse across the city centre, the Morning Star said. However thousands of flag-waving demonstrators managed to get into the square, where they shouted “No to unemployment” and “No to the liar Maliki”.

Protesters tore down two concrete blast walls that blocked access to a bridge leading to the Green Zone, only to be beaten back by riot police.

In the northern town of Hawija, police fired on a crowd of marchers as they tried to break into the city's local council building, killing at least four and wounding 15. In Mosul, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the provincial council building demanding jobs and better services, but guards opened fire, killing five protesters.

In Basra, 10,000 people demonstrated in front of the office of Governor Sheltagh Aboud al-Mayahi. Basra military chief Major General Mohammad Jawad Hawaidi emerged to tell the crowd the governor had agreed to resign.

Thousands of demonstrators also clashed with police in Fallujah, and in Tikrit police reportedly killed at least four protesters.

Afghans say 64 civilians killed in NATO raid

“More than 60 civilians, including women and children, were killed in four days of operations by NATO-led troops and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said,” Reuters reported on February 20.

Governor Fazlullah Wahidi told Reuters 64 civilians were killed by ground and air strikes in the Ghazi Abad district of eastern Kunar province.

NATO disputed the figure, Reuters said.

The article reported: “A United Nations report late last year found that civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose 20 percent in the first 10 months of 2010 compared with 2009, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded by insurgents.

“The report found there were 6,215 civilian casualties in the period, including 2,412 deaths.”

Greece: General strike against austerity

A general strike, the ninth since the start of 2010, took place in Greece on February 23, said that day. The article said protesters announced their intention to stay at Syntagma Square “until the government of Papandreou has gone”. said: “Transports and public services are apparently almost totally interrupted, whilst a joint rally organized by the civil servants’ union ADEDY and GSEE, representing the general confederation of trade unions, with more than 250,000 people is taking place in the center of the city …

“The general strike against the imposed austerity measures comes a day after the parliament had pushed through legislation an extensive liberalisation of a number of professions, including lawyers, architects, engineers and notaries.”

This is part of the laws demanded by the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank in excange for the “rescue package” these institutions negotiated with Greece to deal with its deficit.

Thailand: Thousands of Red Shirts march

“Traffic in prime business areas in the Thai capital became impassable as anti-government protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) marched from Ratchaprasong intersection to the Supreme Court and ended up at Democracy Monument on Saturday”, said on February 19.

The protest, which involved tens of thousands of “Red Shirt” UDD supporters, was held to commemorate the 9 month anniversary of the brutal crushing of Red Shirt protests in Bangkok by government security forces.

The march follows a January demonstration involving 50,000 Red Shirt protesters — the largest show of force against the regime of Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva since the May crackdown.

Letters from imprisoned UDD leaders were read to the crowd. said the jailed UDD leaders complained of harsh treat in jail, where they are being held on terrorism charges.

Germany: Christian Democrats crushed in Hamburg poll

The ruling party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was resoundingly defeated in state elections in Hamburg on February 20.

The right-wing Christian Democrats’ (CDU) vote nearly halved from 42.6% to only 21.9%. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) won 48.3% — enough to govern in their own right.

The result — after 10 years of rule — was the worst for the CDU in Hamburg since World War II.

The Green Party, which had been in coalition government with the CDU in Hamburg, won only a modest increase to 11.2%.

The pro-market Free Democrats won 6.6%, re-entering parliament after several years absence. Far-left party, Die Linke, kept its eight deputies, winning 6.4%.

In what is being called a “super-election-year” with polls in several key states before a Federal Election in 2012, the results bode ill for Merkel’s conservative government.

Germany: Police attack anti-Nazi march

On February 19, more than 21,000 anti-fascist protesters took to the streets to stop about 3,000 neo-Nazis from commemorating the Allied firebombing of Dresden during World War II.

The police again protected the fascists, but for the second year running, the anti-fascists successfully stopped the march. The victory was marred by police violence against the anti-fascists. Police broke into the offices of several organising groups, including the Dresden headquarters of left-wing party Die Linke — Germany’s fourth largest parliamentary party. Some reports say police were carrying chainsaws.

Everyone present was detained without access to lawyers while the police rifled through the offices, seizing papers and computers, before releasing everyone without charge. A number of people were injured in the process. Police engaged in near-identical behaviour before last year’s rally.

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