Tag Archive | "Protests"

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The Yemeni Civil War

Posted on 01 June 2011 by hashimilion

A few years ago study was published under the title ” Sustaining civil war – Yemen as a case study.” The study concluded that Yemen had been in a state of civil war since 1962. One of the main objectives of the study was to defuse the threat of civil war, which was and is still being used by the regime in order to avert all efforts at changing the country. Hence, Yemen will remain in a state of civil war, as long as the current regime remains in place.

Ali Saleh’s regime was built on the bodies of innocent, which has incited cvil wars for over 50 years. But today’s revolutionaries will end any future prospect for civil war.

Those that claim that Yemen is a stable country and that any change will ultimately lead to civil war fail to realise that Yemenis have nothing to lose. If violence does erupt, the regime will be the biggest loser. The regime’s threat of civil war is empty.

Today’s revolution calls for regime change and not civil war. It’s the best way out of the destruction caused by Ali Saleh and his sons.

This is a historic moment for Yemen, it is a great opportunity to build an inclusive political system, which was brought about by the revolution. The spectre of civil war in Yemen has all but ended.

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Demonstrations in Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University

Posted on 05 May 2011 by hashimilion

Hundreds of women took part in demonstrations in Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh Saudi Arabia today after failing their English exam.

The students felt hard done by the results, which were marked subjectively without a clear academic criteria.

The University President tried to stop the demonstration but to no avail. The women were chanting we will continue to demonstrate  until the President resigns.

The University President retaliated by saying: “that all those who have failed their english exams will repeat the whole year and retake all their subjects. They will start from scratch because they’ve caused a lot of chaos and humiliated the university staff. This will be a lesson to all students, not just in this university but in all universities around the country.”

The woman’s revolution in Saudi Arabia is up and running.

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Saudi Authorities Arrest the Political Activist Kamil al-Ahmad

Posted on 28 April 2011 by hashimilion

Kamil al-Ahmad

 

The Saudi Authorities arrested the political activist Kamil Abbas al-Ahmad and his nephew Abdullah al-Ahmad in the city of Safwa. This is the second time that both were detained since protests erupted two months ago in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Based on family sources, their exact locations are unknown.

Kamil al-Ahmad was arrested at the start of April and sent to Dammam where he was interrogated before being released the next day.

It is worth noting that Kamil al-Ahamd has spent more than 11 years in Saudi jails since 1996.

Saudi Authorities have recently cracked down on shiite protestors and arrested 25 people in the Qatif area for organising demonstrations.

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Saudi Shi’ite Clerics Call For End To Protests

Posted on 22 April 2011 by hashimilion

Shiite Cleric Hasan Saffar

Leading Saudi Shi’ite clerics called on Thursday for protesters to end two months of demonstrations in the kingdom’s oil-producing Eastern Province, in an apparent bowing to government demands.

In at least two eastern towns, however, young Shi’ites ignored the call and took to the streets again to demand the release of prisoners and political reforms, activists said.

Inspired by Arab uprisings in Egypt or Tunisia, Saudi Shi’ites have been staging small protests in the Eastern Province, defying a demonstration ban and government pressure.

The Sunni Muslim monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and major U.S. ally, does not tolerate any form of public dissent and the kingdom has not seen the mass uprisings seen in other countries in the region.

After meeting government officials, leading Shi’ite clerics issued a statement asking activists to end demonstrations.

“We urge our beloved brothers … to calm the streets for the sake of brotherly cooperation that will help achieve our demands,” said the statement signed by 51 Shi’ite clerics and other personalities.

“We stress our demands to officials to address the issues and deliver on legitimate rights raised by a group of young people.”

A Shi’ite activist said the statement would probably not halt protests as young people were demanding reforms promised for years.

“It might reduce the number of protestors but I don’t think it will end it,” said the activist, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Saudi Shi’ites have long complained of difficulties getting government jobs and benefits enjoyed by the country’s majority Sunni population, a charge denied by Riyadh.

On Thursday, dozens of Shi’ites staged protests in the main Shi’ite city of Qatif and neighbouring village of Awwamiya, an activist said.

Saudi authorities have been increasingly nervous about protests, arresting participants and making independent travelling for journalists more difficult in the Eastern Province.

More than 160 Saudi activists have been arrested since February, Human Rights Watch said in a report this week.

On Sunday, Saudi authorities arrested a Shi’ite Muslim intellectual al-Saeed al-Majid, two days after protests in the Eastern Province.

 

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Yemen: Timeline of 2011 Protests

Posted on 14 March 2011 by hashimilion

Nationwide protests demanding an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have entered their sixth week, but the Yemeni leader is refusing to step down until 2013. About 30 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes with government troops or Saleh supporters. Below is a timeline highlighting key events since the protests began:

2 February 2011: Thousands of Yemeni opposition supporters take to the streets of Sana’a, Aden and Taiz on the “First Day of Rage”, protesting against the government’s constitutional amendment allowing Saleh to run for another term. In a speech, Saleh promises not to run for president again or hand power to his son Ahmad, the Republican Guards’ commander. Saleh urges dialogue and engagement in “a national unity government”.

3 February: Tens of thousands of protesters in Sana’a on “Second Day of Rage” decry government corruption, and Saleh’s control of power and resources. Saleh again calls for dialogue with the opposition.

10 February: Thousands of Southern Movement (SM) supporters march in several parts of the south in protest at a military siege imposed by the government. They demand the release of all political prisoners detained for their involvement in SM, which is accused by the government of promoting secession.

11 February: Thousands of SM supporters staged protests in the southern cities of Aden, Abyan, Dhalea and Shabwa demanding Saleh leave power. Local NGO Yemen Human Rights Observatory (YHRO) says the government arrested at least 10 protesters. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns.

12 February: Thousands in Sana’a celebrate Mubarak’s downfall, call for Saleh’s ouster, but are confronted by pro-Saleh demonstrators in al-Tahrir Square. Thousands of university students head towards Egyptian embassy calling for an end to Saleh’s rule; two are injured after being attacked by Saleh supporters with daggers and sticks.

13 February: Tens of thousands rally in front of Sana’a University as well as in Liberty Square in Taiz. They are confronted by pro-government demonstrators in both cities. Government security forces arrest 120 protesters in Taiz, according to Yasser al-Maqtari, a human rights activist from Taiz.

15 February: Around 2,000 Saleh supporters, backed by undercover police, attack over 3,000 student protesters in front of Sana’a University, using sticks and electric batons, Khalid al-Ansi, executive director of the National Organization for Defending Human Rights and Freedoms (a local NGO know as HOOD), tells IRIN.

16 February: Around 500 protesters in Aden demand Saleh’s ouster. Two protesters killed in Sana’a.

17 February: At least 25 injured in clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in front of Sana’a University.

18 February: Four killed, 11 injured when the authorities attempt to disperse thousands of protesters in Aden in a demonstration called “Friday of Start”. A local council building, police station and several police vehicles are set ablaze, Mohammed Salim, a riot police officer, tells IRIN from Aden. At least three killed and another 87 injured when a grenade is thrown at tens of thousands of protesters in Taiz’s Liberty Square. Ten injured in another protest staged in the southern city of Mukalla.

19 February: One protester killed and another 15 injured in clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators in front of Sana’a University. Another protester killed in Aden.

21 February: The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), an opposition coalition, and Houthi followers in the north declare their support for the young protesters demanding Saleh’s ouster. Tens of thousands take to streets of Sa’dah, demanding same.

22 February: At least five students injured in clashes with Saleh supporters in front of Sana’a University.

23 February: Ten MPs resign from ruling General People’s Congress in protest at the government’s crackdown on protesters. Two protesters killed and 23 injured in Sana’a.

25 February: Hundreds of thousands of protesters stream onto the streets of Sana’a, Taiz, Ibb, Amran, Sa’dah, Aden, Dhalea, Mukalla, Lahj, Shabwa, Abyan, Dhamar, Marib, al-Jauf and Hodeida on the “Friday of Immovability”. At least 7 killed and dozens of others injured in Aden, according to HOOD.

26 February: Senior sheikhs from Yemen’s main tribes (Hashid and Bakil) declare their support for the protesters. “Saleh and his regime must leave now,” said Sheikh Fasail al-Dheli from the Hashid tribe. “How is it possible for a regime to reform things in two years after it failed to do so in more than three decades?” he asked.

27 February: Eight killed, 36 injured in Aden protests, raising death toll since 2 February to 26, according to YHRO.

1 March: Hundreds of thousands rally in most main cities to express solidarity with the families of protesters killed in Aden in a day named “Tuesday of Rage”. “Ending Saleh’s rule is the only option for us. We will not leave this place until Saleh steps down,” former MP Fuad Dihaba tells IRIN.

4 March: Two killed, six injured when army attacks anti-government protest in war-torn Harf Sufyan District, Amran Governorate.

6 March: Some 25 protesters injured in Ibb after being attacked by ruling party supporters.

8 March: Some 70-80 students injured and one killed after government troops fire at protesters in front of Sana’a University. “The troops used a toxic gas against the protesters,” said Hussein al-Shawjali, a volunteer neurologist at a mobile clinic providing medical services to protesters at the university. “Dozens are comatose or suffering spasms… Their lives are at high risk as we don’t have information about this toxic gas to prescribe the right serum for the victims,” al-Shawjali tells IRIN the following day. Sixty injured (20 of them police) in clashes between prison inmates and police in Sana’a central prison.

10 March: Saleh goes on TV to announce plans to change the constitution to move to a parliamentary system.

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Saudi Shi’ites Protests in Oil Province

Posted on 09 March 2011 by hashimilion

Saudi Shi’ites have started staging small protests in the kingdom’s Eastern Province, the source of much of the Gulf Arab state’s oil wealth.

The top oil exporter and U.S. ally has so far avoided unrest like in Egypt or Tunisia but Shi’ite protests have made markets worried whether Saudi Arabia is insulated from larger anti-government demonstrations.

Saudi Arabia applies the Wahhabi austere version of Sunni Islam, and minority Shi’ites say that, while their situation has improved slightly under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face many restrictions and discrimination. The government denies these charges.

WHAT DO SAUDI SHI’ITES DEMAND?

Shi’ites have long complained of second class status in the absolute monarchy. They also want the release of Shi’ite prisoners, some of whom were arrested during previous protests.

Shi’ites, who make up to 15 percent of the 19 million Saudi population, say they are not represented in the cabinet, they struggle to land senior government and security jobs and are viewed as heretics or even agents of Iran by the Saudi authorities and hardline Sunni clerics.

Despite being home to most of Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, the Eastern Province is less affluent than the capital Riyadh or other Saudi cities. The government has announced investments in the Shi’ite main Gulf coast stronghold of Qatif, but Shi’ites say their villages are underdeveloped and neglected.

Under reforms started by King Abdullah, Shi’ites say they can now practice their faith relatively freely in Qatif but want recognition and equal benefits enjoyed by Sunni counterparts.

In petitions and meeting with top officials, Shi’ites have demanded for years to open mosques and worship places outside Qatif. The port city of Dammam has only one Shi’ite mosque and nearby Khobar none despite many Shi’ites living there.

Authorities have closed at least nine places of worship in Khobar and the Ahsa region, the U.S. government said in a report in November. Shi’ite activists say authorities have signalled since protests started that places of worship in Khobar might be allowed but caution that similar promises were made in the past.

 

CAN SHI’ITES PROTESTS GET LARGER?

Since protests started in the Qatif area the marches have grown, drawing up to 200 each time and spreading to Hofuf, more than 100 kilometres south of Qatif.

Moderate Shi’ite leaders say they struggle to restrain frustrated young people emboldened by protests of their brethern against the Sunni Al Khalifa ruling family in nearby Bahrain.

“All the oil comes from here but we don’t benefit. We want jobs, housing,” shouted a young man at a protest in Qatif last week.

But the protests are still smaller and more peaceful than in 2009 when hundreds of Shi’ites clashed with police after firebrand preacher Nimr al-Nimr broke a taboo by suggesting that Shi’ites could one day seek their own state — a call heard only rarely since the 1979 Iranian revolution, which stirred unrest among Saudi Shi’ites.

Shi’ite leaders who went into exile after the 1979 protests returned in the 1990s under a deal with the government.

But Iran’s rising influence, especially since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which empowered that country’s Shi’ite majority, has also revived official fears that Shi’ites could become a fifth column against the Saudi state.

Protesters this time have held up posters saying they do not want to overthrow the government.

Several Shi’ite leaders have signed petitions together with moderate Sunni activists across the country asking the king to hold elections in the absolute monarchy which has no elected parliament.

Many young Shi’ites say they back a general call by activists on Facebook to stage a “Day of Rage” across Saudi Arabia on Friday but it is unclear how many will respond as the government has warned that such protests are illegal.

 

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF PROTESTS AFFECTING OIL FACILITIES?

Many Shi’ites in the eastern province work in the oil industry, especially at state giant Saudi Aramco so they have no interest in disrupting oil flows and their livelihood. Their conditions are better than Shi’ites in Bahrain or Iraq as they still benefit from a welfare state though complain they get less than Sunnis. An estimated 10,000 Shi’ites study abroad on government grants.

HOW MANY SHI’ITES LIVE IN SAUDI ARABIA ?

There are no official figures. Government officials say less than 10 percent of Saudis are Shi’ites but human rights activists and diplomats put it up to 12-15 percent. Most Shi’ites live in the east near Bahrain, where Shi’ites challenge the Sunni government but there are also Shi’ites living in the holy city of Medina and some in Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia.

Shi’ites of the Ismaili sect are in the majority in Najran near the Yemen border, where no protests have been reported yet. Their community leaders say they face restrictions in getting senior state jobs but authorities have reached out more to them to win their loyalty in the volatile Yemen border region.

 

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Saudi Arabia is Losing Its Fear

Posted on 09 March 2011 by hashimilion

In Riyadh the mood is tense; everyone is on edge wondering what will happen on Friday – the date the Saudi people have chosen for their revolution. The days building up to Friday so far have not been as reassuring as one would like.

On 4 March, there were protests in the eastern region and a smaller protest here in Riyadh. The protests in the eastern region were mainly to call for the release of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, who had been detained after giving a sermon calling for a constitutional monarchy.

The protest in Riyadh was started by a young Sunni man, Mohammed al-Wadani, who had uploaded a YouTube video a few days before, explaining why the monarchy has to fall. After the protests, 26 people were detained in the eastern region and al-Wadani was taken in soon after he held up his sign near a major mosque in Riyadh.

It’s not just the people who are on edge; apparently the government is also taking this upcoming Friday seriously. Surprisingly, Sheikh Amer was released on Sunday, while usually political detentions take much longer.

All this week, government agencies have been issuing statements banning protests. First it was the interior ministry that promised to take all measures necessary to prevent protests. Then the highest religious establishment, the Council of Senior Clerics, deemed protests and petitions as un-Islamic. The Shura Council, our government-appointed pretend-parliament, also threw its weight behind the interior ministry’s ban and the religious decree of prohibition. But you can’t blame the clerics or the Shura for making these statements – the status quo is what’s keeping them in power and comfortable.

Saudis are now faced with a ban on any form of demonstration, and the blocking and censorship of petitions. Moreover, four newspaper writers who had signed one of the petitions are now suspended.

Saudis feel cornered, with little means of self-expression and at the same time exposed to news and opinions that only add salt to the wound. For example, Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, the king’s half-brother, went on BBC Arabic TV to state his support for a constitutional monarchy and warn that anything less will lead to “evils” (his word).

Meanwhile, a newspaper reported that an expatriate was sentenced to 14 months in prison and 80 lashes for stealing part of a chicken from a restaurant. In response to the news, Abdulrahman Allahim, an award-winning Saudi human rights lawyer, tweeted that in his experience he had never come across a case in Saudi courts where a defendant was given a verdict of not guilty.

In Jeddah, a committee that has spent more than a year investigating the disappearance of millions of public funds assigned to the municipality to build a sewerage system has yet to make one formal accusation against anyone.

Another article revealed that the unemployment benefits recently decreed by the king have been whittled down from 3,000 riyals (£490) a month to 1,000 riyals (£165) and will probably only be given to unemployed men but not women.

The official unemployment rate of men is 10%, although many estimate it to be higher. The unemployment rate for women is yet to be officially announced but a study in 2010 estimated it at more than 26%.

It’s also estimated that about 60% of the population is under 30. These young, unemployed people live with many constrictions on their freedom. In addition to extreme gender segregation, single men are banned from entering shopping malls, and women cannot process their own papers, get a job or even access transport without male accompaniment and approval.

There’s no denying that the country is fertile ground for a revolution. However, I am concerned that the revolution might be hijacked by Islamists. Sa’ad al-Faqih, a London-based anti-monarchy activist, is claiming the revolution for himself. His TV programme, which is accessible via satellite in Saudi, is organising protest locations and revving up viewers to participate. Another contender is the new Islamic Umma party, whose founding members are imprisoned until they renounce their political aspirations (they have so far refused). Although the founding members are not free, the party’s online activity grows day by day. Both groups make use of a rhetoric that is dear to many average Saudis – attacking US foreign policy and the royal family’s misuse of the nation’s wealth while threading both issues within an Islamic theme.

On the other hand, the king is popular. All the petitions call for a constitutional monarchy, rather than the fall of the monarchy. Those who signed the petitions are mostly loyal to the king, but want access to decision-making and an end to corruption.

Also, many of the signatories are thinkers, writers and academics – generally an elite group of Saudis. From what I’ve read, nothing indicates they will go out to protest. However, one political activist who has been imprisoned several times for writing petitions was noticeably absent from recent lists of signatories. When a close friend of mine asked him why, he said, “now is not the time to sign petitions, now is the time to act”.

It’s very difficult to predict what will happen on Friday. My guess is that there will be protests. The larger protests will be in the eastern region and mostly by Shia Muslims. I also expect smaller protests in Riyadh and Jeddah. What tactics the security forces use will greatly influence not only the demonstrators but also the people watching from their homes. If undue violence is used against the demonstrators, it could possibly ignite the same fuse that led to full-blown revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Whether or not it comes to that, we as a people have changed for ever. No longer do I see the frightened hushing of political discussion – everyone is saying what they believe and aspire for out in the open without fear. As Fouad Alfarhan, a prominent Saudi activist, tweeted:

“Probably not much will happen, however the biggest gain is the awareness raised in a large faction of our young people of their human and political rights in this post-Bouazizi world.”

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Saudi Arabia Bans All Marches As Mass Protest Is Planned on Friday

Posted on 08 March 2011 by hashimilion

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer and the regional domino whose fall the West fears most, yesterday announced that it would ban all protests and marches. The move – the stick to match the carrot of benefits worth $37bn (£23bn) recently offered citizens in an effort to stave off the unrest that has overtaken nearby states – comes before a “day of rage” threatened for this Friday by opponents of the regime.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said the kingdom has banned all demonstrations because they contradict Islamic laws and social values. The ministry said some people have tried to get around the law to “achieve illegitimate aims” and it warned that security forces were authorised to act against violators. By way of emphasis, a statement broadcast on Saudi television said the authorities would “use all measures” to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order.

Already, as The Independent reported yesterday, the ruling House of Saud had drafted security forces, possibly numbering up to 10,000, into the north-eastern provinces. These areas, home to most of the country’s Shia Muslim minority, have been the scenes of small demonstrations in recent weeks by protesters calling for the release of prisoners who they say are being held without trial. Saudi Shias also complain that they find it much harder to get senior government jobs and benefits than other citizens.

Not only are the Shia areas close to Bahrain, scene of some potent unrest in recent weeks, but they are also where most of the Saudi oil fields lie. More than two million Shias are thought to live there, and in recent years they have increasingly practised their own religious rites thanks to the Saudi king’s reforms.

But the day of protest called for this Friday was – perhaps still is – likely to attract more than restive Shias in the east. There have been growing murmurs of discontent in recent weeks; protesters have not only been much emboldened by the success of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, but online channels of communication by those contemplating rebellion have been established. Some estimates indicate that as many as 20,000 were planning to protest in Riyadh, as well as in the east, on Friday.

The jitters of the Saudi regime will be at least equalled in many parts of the world where sympathy for democracy movements is tempered by a reliance on petrol, which most people – for all the special pleading of the haulage industry – can just about afford. Saudi Arabia sits on a fifth of the world’s oil reserves.

The past week, with conflict disrupting all but a trickle of Libya’s oil production, has seen the Brent barrel price climb to $103, with UK pump prices swiftly going up to £1.30 a litre. The rise in the price per barrel was caused not just by the Libyan strife – the country produces only 2 per cent of the planet’s oil needs – but also by the prospect of further unrest in the region, although not the threat of full-scale breakdown in Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, alarmist voices were not slow to exploit fears. Alan Duncan, an international aid minister and a former oil trader, raised the prospect in an interview with The Times of the price of crude rising well beyond 2008’s record of $140 a barrel, to $200 or more.

“Do you want to be paying £4 a litre for petrol?” he asked. “I’ve been saying in government for two months that if this does go wrong, £1.30 at the pump could look like luxury.” He outlined a “worst-case scenario” in which serious regional upheaval could propel the price to $250 a barrel, and thence to British drivers paying £2.03 a litre. London is now considering not imposing the planned 1p rise in fuel duty.

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