Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Spillover Effect

After the demonstrations and riots in Tunisia forced Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile, demonstrations sprang up in several other corners of the Middle East where economic conditions are a mess and the sociopolitical situation is similar (autocratic regimes with little to no representation and repression of opposition). The most serious of these demonstrations is occuring in Egypt, where thouands of protesters continue clashing with police.
Protests by thousands of anti-government demonstrators in Egypt's capital are turning violent with police firing tear gas and a water canon to disperse the crowds.

Protesters attacked the water canon truck, opening the driver's door and ordering him out of the vehicle.

Police responded by beating protesters with batons as they tried to break cordons to join the main downtown demonstrators.

Protesters massed Tuesday at several locations in the Egyptian capital on what is being called the "Day of Rage," chanting against President Hosni Mubarak and calling for an end to poverty in the first Tunisian-inspired protest in the country.

Other reports said the protests were being called the "Day of Revolution."

The demonstrators chanted, "Long Live a Free Tunisia" and "Down with Hosni Mubarak."
The Muslim Brotherhood has said that it wouldn't participate in the demonstrations, but tens of thousands of people have still turned out to oppose Mubarak. Mubarak's security apparatus is seen as being more entrenched and effective than Tunisia's, but then again, Egypt was viewed as being more volatile than Tunisia, before the protests sent Ben Ali into exile. Five Arab regimes are ripe for demonstrations and riots that could lead to the overthrow of the governments, including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Sudan, according to Foreign Policy - and much of the unrest in these countries stems from lack of economic opportunities and food shortages.

Speaking of the Tunisians, the head of the Tunisian military said that the military would not stand for a political vacuum, and that they would not allow for an overthrow of the interim government, which is stocked with many Ben Ali holdovers and allies:

Yemen has released political activists in the wake of protests, in the hopes of thwarting demonstrations along the lines of those seen in Tunisia and Egypt.

Protesters continue engaging in self-immolation to spread their message
, following in the footsteps of the unemployed Tunisian whose immolation sparked the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia.
In Egypt, at least six cases of self-immolation have been reported, including a man arrested last Thursday while trying to set himself on fire outside the Egyptian parliament in downtown Cairo. Over the weekend, a Moroccan man set himself on fire in Casablanca as did a Mauritanian man who set himself on fire and died in hospital on Saturday. In Algeria, four men have reportedly set themselves on fire. Even in Saudi Arabia, whose people are insulated from poverty and inflation by oil wealth, a man in his 60s set himself on fire in the town of Samitah. He died in hospital on Sunday.

Even as cities across the region are struck by mass demonstrations, the images of people committing suicide by setting themselves afire may be doing more than anything else to spread protests across the Arab world, said Michael Biggs, a lecturer in sociology at Oxford University, who has studied the phenomenon of self-immolation.

“It’s very clear that death of Bouazizi had major political impact, and the cost for him was very high, but the political benefit seems to be high as well,” Biggs told The Media Line. “It’s the ultimate altruistic act. It shows that some people care enough about political change that they think it’s worth making that terrible sacrifice.”
Arab regimes fear a bread intifada - an uprising against their regimes over a lack of basic rations (and higher food costs). (HT: obdicut at LGF)

Video from the demonstrations via the BBC - remarkable scenes as protests were far larger than the security forces thought would take place.

More video of the protesters taking on security forces, including thwarting a water cannon vehicle:

The Muslim Brotherhood is in a position to take advantage of the situation if Mubarak loses control and his security forces can't contain the protests. They are very well coordinated and well entrenched despite efforts by Mubarak to eliminate the group.

It would be a dark day for Egypt if the Brotherhood rises to power as a result of these demonstrations despite how awful Mubarak has been for the Egyptians.

The protesters have marched on the Egyptian Parliament building and there are reports that at least two of the protesters have been killed in skirmishes with security forces in Egypt.

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