Tag Archives: Libya

Current Middle East Uprisings

The current events in the Middle East are disturbing for many reasons. Gruesome, indiscriminate violence by dictatorial regimes against their citizens is nothing new, nor is the desire by dictators to squash democratic uprisings. But never have so many democratic efforts occurred in the region simultaneously.

Uprisings in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Yemen come on the heels of successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. You can read my post on the causes of the democratic effort in Egypt here, and my thoughts on the start of events in Libya in my show notes from Tim Corrimal‘s Episode 157, here.

Let me begin where I left off with Libya, then I’ll discuss Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, last.

As noted previously, the current situation in Libya began with a series of protests and demonstrations on February 15. Within a week these protests had spread and Gaddafi’s regime was significantly challenged. Similar to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the primary goal of the protests in Libya was the cessation of Gaddafi’s 42-year-long regime. Gaddafi has responded to the uprising with brute military force, censorship, and the blocking of communication outlets.

What has occurred since February 15 is essentially the devolution of Libya into civil war. Gaddafi has seen segments of his armed forces defect to a coalition of rebel organizations (a mixture of international entities (it’s alleged the Tunisia and Egypt are assisting financially and militarily), Libyan tribes, National Transitional Council, Free Libyan Air Force, Libyan People’s Army, etc). He has also seen the eastern third of his country fall out of his control and into the control of the hands of the opposition (this control is maintained in the coastal town of Benghazi). Gaddafi has maintained control of the western and central thirds of Libya and has maintained the largest city, Tripoli. I hesitate to call Tripoli the “capital” since it is becoming clear that Libya is divided in civil warfare and Benghazi is now the “capital” of the opposition forces’ National Transitional Council.

Gaddafi has tried to negotiate with the opposition leaders. But his continued use of international paid mercenaries, his violent attacks on his own citizens, and his and his son’s continued public petulance to calls for their resignation have kept the opposition leaders away from negotiations. The UN has taken several measures against Gaddafi and numerous members of his inner circle: freezing their bank accounts and restricting their travel. This was followed up with a resolution by member states to enact a no-fly zone over Libya. This was led, as we all know by now by France and the US (among others) before the US handed off control to NATO.

The efforts to squash political unrest in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt is no different then what is happening in the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan and Syria. Military dictators ruling in the Arab/Islamic World since the 1960s and 1970s under “emergency law” are rampant and have enacted vicious, heinous police states upon their people for decades. They have systematically raped their countries of financial resources and and have syphoned money away from their citizens and into their own pockets.

This is echoed through out the Middle East and is at the heart of the current uprisings. Take Bahrain, for example, a Sunni monarchy that presides over a predominantly Shiia population. While Bahrain is different from it’s neighbors, in that it’s protests are based prominently on religious minority ruling over a different religious majority, the concern is still over-extended leadership and the dangers that poses to a country’s citizenry. Bahrain’s protests were based on greater political freedoms and calls to end the monarchy. After all, as of 2010, more than half of the serving cabinet members in Bahrain came from the ruling family.

After a month of camping out in the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the Bahrani capital, the monarchy called in troops to violently confront the protestors. On March 15, Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa declared martial law and a three-month state of emergency. This pattern of cause and effect – protestors gather, present their demands, state responds by trying to squash protestors, violence ensues, martial law or emergency law is enacted as last resort – has been used consistently by Middle East dictators and despots to control cyclical uprisings.

In Yemen, the current protests began on the heels of the Tunisian revolution and simultaneous to the Egyptian revolution. Starting in Sana’a on January 27, a protest of 16,000 Yemenis kicked off the effort which has been aimed at addressing concerns about unemployment, economic conditions, corruption, and the government’s attempts to modify the state constitution. Protests soon escalated to calling for the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to resign.

Following the lead of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on February 2 that he would not seek reelection in 2013, but instead he would pass the role to his son. The following day, February 3, outraged Yemenis took to the streets by the tens of thousands in Sana’a and Aden, in a “Day of Rage” called for by Tawakel Karman. There were counter-protests organized in in Sana’a by pro-regime forces and organizations. Fridays of protests in Sana’a, in particular, but in other cities have continued throughout February and March.

The same concerns about a over-reach and a regime ruling under emergency law propelled Syria to unprecedented protests beginning at the end of January. After the Ba’athist overthrow in Iraq in 1963, the party took control in Syria. Hafez al-Assad and then his son Bashar have ruled Syria under emergency rule since 1970. Almost all of the constitutional rights afforded Syrians are squashed under emergency rule. It also squelches opposition to the party and the al-Assads. Furthermore, when Hafez al-Assad died in 2000 a controversial amedment was pushed through to lower the age requirement for president so Bashar could succeed his father. This kind of corruption and squelching of rights and free elections are at the heart of not only the current protests in Syria, but as I have discussed, all the protests, demonstrations and revolutions in the Middle East since the start of the year.

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Filed under Culture, Islam, Middle East, Politics

Tim Corrimal Show, Episode 157 – February 27, 2011

I had the pleasure of joining Tim Corrimal (@TimCorrimal on Twitter) again this week on his weekly podcast (“The Tim Corrimal Show“). This week Tim was joined by his co-host Dave von Ebers (@Dave_von_Ebers on Twitter), Ian Boudreau (@iboudreau on Twitter), and David Simmons (@My1BlueEye on Twitter).

I say it every week and every week I mean it even more, if you’re not tuning into Tim’s show on a regular basis you’re really missing out. Tim does a wonderful job week in and week out gathering together smart people for observant, witty, and on point conversations about current events, politics, culture, media, etc.

This week’s topics were DOMA, Wisconsin protests, and Libya. The show opened with Dave’s discussion of DOMA and the Justice Department’s decision to no longer defend it. I confess now to being shamefully ignorant on the matter of DOMA and the Justice Department’s role in previously defending it and deciding to no longer defend it now. Dave von Ebers is capable of speaking intelligently on this topic and I can’t say enough about his smart discussion on the podcast and his recent blog post about the DOJ’s decision.

Next topic for discussion was the protests in Wisconsin (and across the country for that matter) regarding Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to bust public sector unions. Really, hasn’t this become a non-issue? Is it not clear that union busting is the objective here? The fact that dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Walker gave a 20 minute foot-in-mouth interview with a Buffalo, NY reporter posing as David Koch merely cements the under-handed bullshit that’s happening in Wisconsin. The GOP hasn’t changed their playbook in decades. Every time they have an opportunity to blame anything and everything on a math teacher in Kenosha, they do. Walker wants the teachers’ unions and public sector employees’ unions to take it up the ass right after he gave business more tax cuts! Only a Republican can think that plan makes any sense at all. Seriously.

The unions have already come to Walker and said they will pay more towards health insurance and pension benefits. The monetary issues have been resolved. But Walker is still pushing for the unions to give up their collective bargaining rights. Without collective bargaining rights unions aren’t unions. How can anyone really believe that this isn’t about union busting? That’s all it is about.

Last topic on the podcast this week was Libya. What is happening in Libya is no different than what happened in Tunisia and Egypt: citizens fed up with corrupt regimes, high unemployment, high cost of living, housing crisis, and police brutality. The first step in galvanizing momentum in Egypt was the June 7th beating death of Khaleed Said in Alexandria last year. The first step in galvanizing momentum in Tunisia was Sidi Bouazizi immolating himself on December 17th last year. Protest and a handful of other young male suicides followed in mid-December. Following Bouazizi’s death in early January protests began to spread across Tunisia and into the capital. And now, the first step in galvanizing momentum in Libya are the arrest of human rights activist Fathi Terbil and political commentator Jamal al-Hajji along with the government blocking access to YouTube so as to prevent people from seeing video of protesting families of Abu Salim massacre victims. The crushingly oppressive regimes of the Arab world are at the root of every protest in the Middle East right now. Their corruption and cronyism that has economically raped their countries for decades has resulted in staggering unemployment (between 20-30% across the region), a housing crisis, and has exacerbated the rising cost of consumer good and food supplies. Protesters in Libya have been spurred on by the successes of their neighbors, but their hardships are equally heartbreaking.

The violently crushing police state in Libya is no different than that of Egypt. The notoriety of Egypt’s state prisons and army is mirrored in Libya. The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called repeatedly for investigations into conditions at Libya’s Abu Salim prison. In 1996 1,270 prisons were massacred at Abu Salim. No real investigation (that I know of, I am hungry for details if anyone has them) has been performed to find out why this massacred occurred, but it has become a defining example of the violence of the Libyan government and army over her people.

As always it was a blast being on Tim’s show. Look forward to joining him again some time in the future. Give Tim, David, Dave, and Ian hearty follows on Twitter and check out all their blogs.

UPDATE: Please check out Ian Boudreau’s Tumblr for great posts. I’ve added it to the blogroll, too.

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Filed under Middle East, Politics, US