As waves of protest continue to spread, we try to keep you in the loop.
Two months ago, a Tunisian fruit vendor struck a match that started a fire that has spread throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East. Muhammad Bouazizi’s self-immolation prompted anti-government protests that toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Now, global attention is shifting to other ‘For the People’ protests in neighboring Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen. Here’s a slight breakdown (most information courtesy of CNN, for roots of unrest and further updates go here):
Tens of thousands of Libyans took to the streets Friday to air their discontent with four decades of Muammar Al-Gaddafi (not one source seems to agree on the spelling of this man’s name), the longest-ruling non-royalty head of state in the world, witnesses said. At least 20 people were killed and 200 were injured in the northern Mediterranean city of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest, said a medical source in Benghazi, who was not identified for security reasons.
In his first major speech since the unrest began, Gaddafi rambles on about how protestors are being drugged and given alcohol, influencing them in their ‘shameful’ actions. He states ‘I cannot leave my country, I will die a martyr’ and threatens (or reassures, depending on your take) his people with the message: ‘Anyone who undermines [the] state will be punished by death’.
As Gaddafi’s ambassadors and most of Libya’s UN mission resign (citing crimes against humanity and crimes of war by Gaddafi as their motive), two Libyan Air Force colonels, who refused to execute an order to bomb protesters in Benghazi, fled with their Mirage F1 jets to Malta, where they are presently seeking asylum.
New protests came a day after four people were killed and many wounded in the center of Bahrain’s capital Friday, where shots were fired after demonstrators gathered. What seemed like thousands of people — some chanting anti-government slogans — marched in the town of Sitra. The tiny island nation is a U.S. ally and houses the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Sanaa after Friday’s midday prayers, ushering in a second week of unrest to the Middle Eastern nation. It was unclear whether a call for calm by the country’s most influential religious cleric, Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani, would be heeded. The U.S. embassy also issued a statement voicing concern for what it called “a disturbing rise in the number and violence of attacks against Yemeni citizens gathering peacefully to express their views on the current political situation.” Meanwhile, the death toll from Thursday’s violence grew to four, government and hospital officials said.
President Barrack Obama has made official statements condemning the outbreak of violence in each nation.
These are times of great importance and I hope for the best in what is a very unclear future. Having been engrained with the belief that a government should be ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ I am excited to see people peacefully expressing their desire for it. However, I don’t think one can be as naïve as to expect an easy resolution, as it has been clear with Egypt’s situation, there is much to be worked on.
I can’t help but wonder how this will shape future History texts. We are often so disconnected from what we read; once something is written in the past tense we brush it off—it is officially the past. Yet, with the rise and influence of social media within the aforementioned protests, we are receiving constant updates from so many sources which are describing events as they happen that we are no longer allowed the luxury to remove ourselves from the equation—we’re all living this.
For after thoughts on Egypt go here.