Middle East Protests Continue for Unmet Demands

So far, weeks of regional protests achieved nothing. Despite ousting Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, their regimes remain in place, offering nothing but unfulfilled promises.

On February 26, Egyptians again protested in Tahrir Square. This time, however, military forces confronted them, Reuters headlining, “Egypt military angers protesters with show of force,” saying:

“Soldiers used force on Saturday to break up a protest demanding more political reform in Egypt, demonstrators said, in the toughest move yet against opposition activists who accused the country’s military rulers of ‘betraying the people.'”

New York Times writer Liam Stack headlined, “Egyptian Military Forces End to New Protest,” saying:

“Tens of thousands of protesters returned Friday to Tahrir Square… to keep up the pressure on Egypt’s military-led transitional government.”

Violence followed, including beatings, use of tasers, and live firing in the air, threatening perhaps harsher action if protests continue. Al Jazeera said: “Protesters left the main (square) but many had gathered in surrounding streets…. Witnesses said they saw several protesters fall to the ground, but it was not clear if they were wounded or how seriously.”

Participant Ashraf Omar said: “I am one of the thousands of people who stood their ground after the army started dispersing the protesters, shooting live bullets into the air to scare them.”

He said soldiers wore black masks to avoid being identified. Military buses were used for those arrested. It’s “a cat-and-mouse chase.There is no more unity between the people and the army.”

In fact, there never was, only the illusion that unsympathetic generals were populists at heart. In fact, they’ve been regime hard-liners for decades, rewarded handsomely for backing state repression.

“They were using tasers and (batons) to beat us without any control,” said Omar. “I thought things would change. I wanted to give the government a chance, but there is no hope with this regime. There is no use. I am back on the street. I either live with dignity or I die here.”

Egyptians want the military junta-led government to resign and immediately release all political prisoners. They’re outraged by no reforms, and because Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq reshuffled his cabinet, leaving Mubarak cronies in power.

As a result, battle lines are again drawn. “Counterrevolution” comments are heard, protesters chanting:

We do not want Shafiq any more, even if they shoot us with bullets…. Revolution until victory, revolution against Shafiq and the palace…. We won’t leave! He will go!” This isn’t “what hundreds of people died (for). Shafiq is a student of Mubarak. We have demanded a new beginning, and (he’s) not part of it. We refuse him.

Reuters also said many thousands demonstrated in Ismailia, Arish, Suez and Port Said. Moreover, strikes continue across the country for better wages, decent living conditions, ending corruption, and workplace democracy. Involved are miners; steel, textile, chemical and pharmaceutical workers; others at an agricultural processing facility; teachers; bus drivers and other transport workers; religious endowment workers; and others long denied rights all workers deserve. They rarely get it anywhere, including in developed countries.

Egypt’s junta called the strikes illegal, saying it won’t let them continue because they “pose a danger to the nation, and they will confront them.” It also said “(t)he current unstable political conditions do not permit a new constitution.” Their expertise is repression, not democratic governance. None will be forthcoming.

Protests in Jordan

Barely noticed in the West, especially by America’s major media focusing largely on Libya, Haaretz writer Avi Issacharoff headlined on February 25, “Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated in Amman for sixth consecutive Friday,” saying:

Over 5,000 “demand(ed) political reforms and the dissolution of the lower house of parliament.” A week earlier, plainclothes thugs attacked them. Six or more were injured. Jordan’s government denied involvement. Many are skeptical. They demand change, shutting Israel’s Amman embassy, and restoring Jordan’s 1952 constitution, allowing representative government. In recent decades, democratic rights severely eroded. Protesters want them back. King Abdullah II promised reforms, so far not delivered and won’t be without continued pressure.

Mass Iraq Protests

On February 25, tens of thousands rallied throughout the country against occupation, oppression, corruption, unemployment, impoverishment, better services (including clean water, electricity and healthcare), inadequate food and high prices, and overall human misery after eight years under Washington’s rule.

Violence resulted, Iraqi security forces using live fire in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, and elsewhere. At least 15 were reported killed, dozens wounded. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani spoke on Al Sumaria Television against demonstrations, saying it would benefit “infiltrators.” Moktada al-Sadr shamelessly said:

State forces “are attempting to crack down on everything you have achieved, all the democratic gains, the free elections, the peaceful exchanges of power and freedom. So I call on you… to thwart the enemy plans by not” demonstrating.

In fact, occupied Iraqis have no rights, no democracy, no freedom, few jobs, horrid living conditions, and no possibility for change without seizing it. One man spoke for many, denouncing the al-Maliki government, calling him a liar, and saying:

“I’m a laborer. I work one day and stay at home for a month. (Maliki) says (we’re better off than) under Saddam Hussein – where is it?” Tens of thousands across the country now demand it. Look for protests to gain momentum.

Tunisia Protests

Days earlier, new protests rocked the country, tens of thousands in Tunis demanding Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and other Ben Ali holdovers resign. Police fired in the air to disperse them. Helicopters circled overhead. Marchers chanted “Leave!” and “We don’t want the friends of Ben Ali!”

The Interior Ministry banned protests, saying participants would be arrested. Washington and other Western countries back Ghannouchi’s regime, saying it guarantees stability when, if fact, it leaves old policies in place, largely under the same officials. Visiting Tunisia a week ago, Senator John McCain (one of the Senate’s four most reactionary members by his voting record) told Reuters: “The revolution in Tunisia has been very successful and it has become a model for the region. We stand ready to provide training to help Tunisia’s military to provide security.”

In fact, nothing in Tunisia changed, nor in Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere in the region. Regime holdovers remain in charge. Moreover, only uprisings occurred, not revolutions. They’re far short of violent, convulsive, insurrections, removing old orders for new ones, except perhaps ahead in Libya where opposition forces now control parts of the country. More on that below.

Protests in Yemen

On February 26, Reuters headlined, “Two more die after protests in Yemeni city of Aden,” saying:

Security forces killed them and two others, wounding dozens. Weeks of protests have continued, daily since February 17 in cities and provinces throughout the country. “Unrest has been especially intense in the once-independent south, where many people resent rule from the north.”

Large demonstrations continued in the capital Sanaa after Friday prayers, protesters shouting, “The people demand the downfall of the regime.” Local media said up to 80,000 participated, including women, chanting, “Out, out!”

Large numbers of police and military forces confronted them. After weeks of protests, dozens have been killed. Yemenis, however, remain resolute, one on Friday saying “We are coming to take (Saleh) from the presidential palace.” Others said this is “the beginning of the end for the regime.”

So far, neither side’s yielding, but if demonstrations continue and grow, either Saleh and his cronies will go, or more bloodshed in the streets will follow. Resolution one way or other remains uncertain.

Protests Rage in Libya

On February 26, Al Jazeera said pressure is building for Gaddafi to step down. “Within the country, anti-government protesters said the demonstrations were gaining support,” including soldiers reportedly deserting the ranks to join them. So far, Libya’s Khamis Brigade, an army special forces unit remains loyal to the regime, fighting opposition forces.

Violence has been extreme. Hundreds are reported dead, many others wounded. Libya’s east is largely in opposition hands. “Security forces… fire(d) on anti-government protesters in the capital, Tripoli, after” Friday prayers. “Heavy gunfire was (also) reported (in) Fashloum, Ashour, Jumhouria and Souq Al.”

On February 26, Haaretz headlined, “US imposes unilateral sanctions on Libya, freezes Gaddafi’s assets,” saying, Obama did it by Executive Order against him, his family, top officials, and Libya’s government.

On February 26, New York Times writers Helene Cooper and Mark Landler headlined, “Following US Sanctions, UN Security Council to Meet on Libya,” saying:

Under consideration is imposing international sanctions, including an arms embargo and travel ban against Gaddafi, his family and all key government officials. “The tougher American response came nine days” after protests erupted. “American officials are also discussing a no-flight zone” to prevent use of military aircraft on threat of NATO intervention, meaning undeclared war if it happens besides others in the region.

At issue, of course, is defending Libya’s oil assets and the interests of Western oil giants in the country. As in Egypt, throughout the region, and elsewhere, it has nothing to do with replacing despots with democracy.

A Final Comment

Of special note is how America’s media react, especially television where most people get what passes for news and information. For weeks, demonstrations have occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, and now Libya, as well as labor protests in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Only Egypt and Libya got extensive coverage, against their leaders, not regimes or policies.

Moreover, in recent days, large protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, and Friday’s in Egypt were largely ignored, except for occasional print accounts reaching small audiences by comparison.

In addition, except against Mubarak, no major broadsheet ran editorials like the New York Times‘ February 24 one headlined, “Stopping Qaddafi,” saying: “Unless some way is found to stop him, (he’ll) slaughter hundreds or even thousands of his own people in his desperation to hang on to power.”

What about stopping other regional despots maintaining close Washington ties. What about denouncing America’s imperial madness, responsible for killing millions throughout the region (and elsewhere), directly or indirectly, since the 1980s alone.

What about defending democracy, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and Palestinian rights under brutal Israeli occupation, oppressed daily by belligerence, land theft, mass arrests, targeted assassinations, and torture, as well as beleaguered Gazans under siege since mid-2007, suffering severely as a result.

What about supporting right over wrong and denouncing lawless US policies, including at home, instead of:

  • ignoring unmet human needs;
  • record numbers impoverished, homeless and hungry;
  • sham elections;
  • deep corruption at the highest government and corporate levels;
  • colluding with corporate interests, federal, state and local governments are waging war on organized labor;
  • a deepening social decay; and
  • many other symptoms of national decline, recognized more abroad than internally, while, at the same time backing monied interests, imperial wars, and many other unprincipled policies.

Why not editorialize against American policies, calling for “harder (efforts) to stop mass atrocities,” and that “(t)he longer the world temporizes, the more people die.” Where more than in countries Washington occupies where Times coverage airbrushes out popular suffering, focusing only on leaders Washington opposes, not policies, it wants left unchanged.

Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on February 27th, 2011 at 8:59am #

    “In fact, there never was, only the illusion that unsympathetic generals were populists at heart. In fact, they’ve been regime hard-liners for decades, rewarded handsomely for backing state repression.”

    at the time i did not know this; nevertheless, wrote that i expected army wld side with fascists.
    and not to mention world supremacists [fascists, if u like].

    they have money [thus can buy killers], tanks, jets, etc. and above else brutality to stop any movement, protest?

    i wonder if passive, but dogged massive resistance, involving at least 70% of pop wld help?

    in u.s., one wld need at least 1oomn adults to passively resist present govt in order to evince a change for better! tnx

  2. bozh said on February 27th, 2011 at 9:13am #

    “Violence resulted, Iraqi security forces using live fire in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, and elsewhere. At least 15 were reported killed, dozens wounded. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani spoke on Al Sumaria Television against demonstrations, saying it would benefit “infiltrators.” Moktada al-Sadr shamelessly said:”

    i never thought even fleetingly that islam wld side with justice, peace, caring-sharing society.

    in millennia or eons to come, ulema-imams-beys-amirs may put on a human face, but not today.

    this evaluation is valid for other cultic ‘sciences’; which declare selves infallible or a priori true for all time. tnx

  3. Don Hawkins said on February 27th, 2011 at 9:15am #

    100mn people how about one third pf the people and this whole privatize profits and socialize losses any out rage? We didn’t want to do it but we held our nose’s the devil made us do it but we went to confession on Saturday and now feel much better feel that light wind coming from the west.

  4. bozh said on February 27th, 2011 at 9:26am #

    “What about stopping other regional despots maintaining close Washington ties. What about denouncing America’s imperial madness, responsible for killing millions throughout the region (and elsewhere), directly or indirectly, since the 1980s alone.”

    “god bless america” = a proclamation that no matter what u.s. system of rule does to ‘aliens’ and domestics, it cannot do a single wrong.

    an individual may make mistakes and be sacrificed to the altar of american infallibility— not ever the governance!

    there is only one god and not two or more. the god is american. the god is one; the planet is one; it belongs to god!

    did anyone, who casts the widest look possible, ever thought for a second that american god and hisher supremacists wld be satisfied with just a quarter of ‘their’ planet? tnx

  5. Don Hawkins said on February 27th, 2011 at 9:40am #

    Privatize profits and socialize losses and this was done Worldwide from the little angles granted a few worldwide went along with it and now want to do it again although that could get rather tuff to do in our present stage of development. Why was it done one reason was so we could have the Oscar’s freedom, really.

  6. hayate said on February 27th, 2011 at 11:15am #

    So far, in spite of all the hoopla, very little has changed in Egypt and Tunisia. It’s refreshing to read a piece which discusses this, rather than the ones exaggerating the gains the people made, which I see far too many of.

  7. bozh said on February 27th, 2011 at 11:17am #

    yes, we need at least 1oomn adults to passively oppose infallibility of u.s. constitution and perfect system of rule which arose out of it.

    how far to go to an edequate-viable-effective passivity? well, for me, hunger to death, if necessary, wld be just fine.

    but i am not an american. being 80 yrs old is verrry easy for me to die.
    however, my wife wld never let me do that. she needs her driver, floor scrubber, cook, washer, and the like.
    besides, i’d die from her screams much sooner than from hunger.

    the other day she asked me, Bob, [she can’t pronounce my name] do u know what feb 14th is? i said, I don’t know, dear! Whhaat?, said my smallhead! Are u once again gonna forget to get me the valentine card??!!

    i said, ok, ok. u can get the card or sex, but not both. so, choose wisely! and she chose what?
    seriously now: i don’t send out cards– i am thus saving at least one tree? tnx
    btw? anyone sending out cards, deserves a gaddawful for hisher ruler.

  8. Rehmat said on February 27th, 2011 at 7:58pm #

    This trouble all over the Middle East has made more urgent for Israel to join NATO for its survival.


  9. shabnam said on February 27th, 2011 at 10:26pm #

    Press TV: I’m glad you mentioned the situation of the people in these countries as you mentioned in Egypt as well such as poverty etc… These US sanctions, the United States said it will impose unilateral and multi-lateral sanctions. Will they just make life worse for those poor people and not affect Gaddafi at all?

    Shoenman: You know sanctions are an act of war. The function of these sanctions whether directed against Libya or Iraq or for that matter against Iran. The same sanctions are being directed against Iran as we speak. Their purpose is to facilitate Western industrial control of the resources of the region by cutting off the population from access to needed exchange of goods and material. They impose a political agenda on people who are in revolt against those very same conditions. The intervention in Libya is a godsend for imperialism. Imperialism has been thrown on its heels by this mass uprising. It is the entering of the masses on this historic stage and country after country in the Arab regions and in North Africa. The intervention in Libya is their means of reestablishing colonial control by whatever name. We have to be very clear about this.

    Press TV: So you say this is a godsend for US imperialism. Where do you see this ending up, and will Libya if Gaddafi were to step down not be a free country? Would they just replace him with another autocratic ruler?

    Schoenman: Well of course they would. The reason I say the mobilization of public opinion against Gaddafi is a godsend for imperialism is because Gaddafi has the image in the minds of large number of peoples because of decades past of being an anti-imperial voice. Consequently, by virtue of the fact they are ascribing to Gaddafi a brutal suppression of his people it gives them a cover for an open colonial intervention. I put the question to you.

    Do you believe that the regime in the United States, which has killed 2 million people in Iraq, and over a half a million people in Afghanistan, which is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths of civilians in Pakistan gives a damn about the fate of the Libyan people? Do you think they are concerned about 15 million people being killed by Muammar Gaddafi? Is it plausible that as we speak genocidal operations of the United States with their drone attacks, with their CIA killings and their targeted assassinations across the entire region are suddenly hand on heart and morally upset about the Libyan people? Did they ever raise their voice about the fate of the Libyan people until they rebelled? Never.

    Their intervention is not because of the Libyan people’s aspirations for freedom and self-determination, and for social ownership of the means of production. That’s what the oil workers in Libya are demanding. It’s control over their oil for national well being. The United States, Great Britain, Germany and Italy–Berlusconi who uses the money he makes out of Libyan oil to create a national harem for himself is not interested in the well-being of the Libyan people. Like Gaddafi, his interests are below his waist.

    People must expose the closet zionists and ‘progressives’ who are helping war criminals at the White house and State department to invade Libya. Expose the Judeofascists who are pushing for NO FLY ZONE, like in Iraq, which led to Bombing of that country, 1.5 millions deaths, and soft partition of the country.

    Americans must rise up now to destroy zionism/imperialism and US government front, the ‘progressive’ camp.

  10. shabnam said on February 28th, 2011 at 7:06am #

    Unlike in Egypt, where it was clear that all of society with the exception of a tiny comprador elite opposed Mubarak, there is comparatively little information about the remaining base of support for Col. Moammar Gaddafi. If it is substantial, the country could fall into civil war with a scale of violence that far exceeds that seen in Egypt. If such a tragedy ensues, a variety of political forces—from liberal to neoconservative—will begin to call for the U.S. government to “do something.” This could take the form of sanctions, U.N. intervention, or the imposition of no-fly zones.

    Already some, like neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraqi genocide, are advocating for such a “pro-active” approach. Sen. John Kerry, another pro-imperialist politician, is calling for sanctions, despite the horrific toll such a policy took on the Iraqi people during the 1990s.

    Such threats must be absolutely rejected by progressive people. For one, the West would love to get boots on the ground in the region, with which they could influence and pressure the emerging Arab revolution. Secondly, these measures would be perceived as, and amount to, acts of war. The “peacekeeping” missions of the United States in Somalia and Yugoslavia were nothing other than bloody and destructive wars that widened conflict instead of solving it. Ask the people’s movements in Haiti or Palestine if the United Nation’s blue-helmeted occupations are any better.