Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Riots Continue In Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia As Crackdown Commences

Video from Egypt shows demonstrators that have been bloodied and riot troops firing off tear gas while water cannons spray the protesters to little effect.

Up to 200 demonstrators have been arrested in Egypt
, and Twitter has apparently been shut down by the Egyptian government to quell the protests.
"The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper," a White House statement said.

Events in the region were a reminder that "all people yearn for certain things," such as free speech, a say in government and the rule of law, the White House added.

Twitter, the Internet messaging service that has been one of the main methods used by demonstrators to organize, said it had been blocked in Egypt. In a message, the company wrote: "We believe that the open exchange of info & views benefits societies & helps govts better connect w/ their people."

Thousands of demonstrators had earlier said they planned to stay out in Tahrir square until the government fell. Some protesters and police shared food and chatted on Tuesday evening after a day of protests that closed many Cairo roads to traffic.

Demonstrators tore up pictures of the president and his son, Gamal, who many Egyptians say is being groomed for office. Both Gamal and his father deny any such plan.

'Day of wrath'
"Tomorrow, don't go to work. Don't go to college. We will all go down to the streets and stand hand in hand for you our Egypt. We will be millions," wrote one activist on a group on Facebook, which has been a key tool mobilizing demonstrators.

Tuesday was a national holiday and ministries were closed. A government source said ministers had been told to ensure staff returned to work on Wednesday and did not join protests.
Tahrir Square in Cairo is the epicenter for the protests, and photos continue to show significant crowds despite riot police efforts to disperse the crowds. In the end, the riot police brought out the rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons, and several people were killed, including one police officer:
After hours of struggling to disperse the thousands of defiant protesters who had congregated in Tahrir Square since midday, security forces resorted to firing rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and water cannons just after midnight.

According to the Front to Defend Egypt Protestors yesterday’s protests accross the country left “three dead in Suez, tens injured and hundreds arrested.” They also said that injured protesters who sought medical attention in the hospital were questioned. Another protester from Suez died from his injuries Wednesday morning.

Yesterday Egypt witnessed nationwide protests with the largest taking place in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in the centre of the city where thousands of protesters gathered from around 3:00 pm. Most of those who congregated in Tahrir Square had marched there from other protests in the city taking place in Shubra, Dokki, Imbaba and Mohandeseen.
Nearly half of Egyptians live under the poverty line, which is defined as $2 a day.

The situation in Lebanon is not much better, as Hizbullah has all but completed its takeover of the government to the detriment of all Lebanese. The terror group's takeover is directly related to thwarting efforts to investigate and name the assassins involved in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and Hizbullah's thugs were expected to take top billing alongside Syrian and possibly Iranian officials. It's doing just enough to stake its claim to power, but not enough to get other countries to lift an eyebrow.

The protests and riots have ebbed for the moment, but don't expect that situation to last, particularly in coming weeks as the Hariri tribunal works towards announcing the indictments.

Tunisia is now seeking Interpol's assistance in arresting and extraditing ousted thug Ben Ali to face charges of looting the country's treasury. He's hunkered down in Saudi Arabia, so it isn't clear whether Tunisia's pleas will be heeded:
Tunisia has asked Interpol to help arrest ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family so they can be tried for theft and currency offences, the justice minister said on Wednesday.

The French-based international police organization has been asked to bring to justice Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other family members who have fled the country, Lazhar Karoui Chebbi told a news conference.

Ben Ali went to Saudi Arabia this month after weeks of violent protests against poverty, repression and corruption. He amassed vast riches during his 23 years in power, with his family controlling many of Tunisia's biggest companies.

Meanwhile, Algeria is boosting its food imports to head off the possibility of riots that led to Ben Ali's exit and ongoing problems in Egypt. Food riots formed the underlying basis of the Tunisian uprising against Ben Ali, so this shouldn't be an unexpected move. Whether it works remains to be seen.

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