Numerous Middle Eastern and North African countries are protesting their governments. It started with Tunisia and Egypt, and in the months that followed, protests also broke out in Djibouti, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Jordan, Palestinian Territories, Libya, Syria, and even China. In most cases, citizens want two things: to oust their respective country’s leader, and freedom. Many of these countries are also fighting against the rising unemployment and food costs as well. Nevertheless, most governments are fighting back, some using violence to silence governmental opposition, others dispersing crowds peacefully.
What’s Happened so Far
Algerian Protests :
On Feb. 19, Algerian citizens made their way to May 1 Square, to protest the country’s leader President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his 11-year rule, despite the 19-year-old law against demonstrating and government threats against them. Police responded by attempting to break up demonstrators, using only batons and other riot gear to do so.
Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Iran’s fourth President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was arrested by for attempting to stage a protest on Feb. 20 in response to the Valentine’s Day protests, which ended with gunfire and two killings. The government fought back, violently beating people and using teargas to disperse them. The Feb. 14 protests hoped to oust President Ahmadinejad, Iran’s ruler of 32 years.
Libyan police have sided with the nation’s protesting residents after fighting them, and, on Feb. 20, government forces opened fire at a funeral of dead protesters, killing 15 more. Initial protests began to oust Moammar Gadhafi and his 42-year rule. He retaliated by ordering security forces to fight back. A day earlier, the government ordered the Internet shut off, and the annihilation of an encampment housing protesters. Other retaliations included threatening text messages and officials making open threats against protesters implying that those who oppose the government will be silenced. Protests continue and security forces continue to fight back as of Feb. 21.
The Moroccan government issued a statement that it would give 1.4 billion Euros to help price hikes stabilize. However, protesters were out in the thousands on Feb. 20 rallying against King Mohammed VI and his corruption in Rabat, chanting, “Freedom, dignity, justice.” Calling for political change, protesters want a democratic constitution to be instated. Other rallies in Casablanca , Marrakesh and the port of Tangier were mostly peaceful, but, as they ended and protesters dispersed, about 200 looters broke windows of local shops and public buildings in Marrakesh and Larache. In Al Hoceima, however, protesters set cars ablaze and police retaliated by using teargas.
On Feb. 19, 2,000 Amman protesters rallied against the government after seven weeks of protests, hoping to gain freedom, “constitutional reforms,” more power to make decisions, democratic elections, less power for the King, and lower food prices. However, the government retaliated and eight people were wounded when government supporters beat protesters with batons and threw rocks while police allowed the violence to happen. Protesters say they will continue unit their demands for freedom are met, but a government spokesperson insists the government commits to upholding freedom of speech and assembly and that they were “surprised” at the attacks on protesters.
Palestinian Territories Protests:
On Feb. 20 in West Bank, more than 3,000 protesters rallied in opposition of President Obama’s veto of the Israeli settlement resolution proposed by Palestinian leaders and passed by the Security Council. Protesters, some president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party members, who instigated the protest, shouted, “Obama, you despicable man, we want self-determination!” The demonstrations were entirely peaceful, while supporting Palestine and the “brave leadership” of the Arab people, while rallying against “America’s false claims of freedom.” The government is wondering where the American democracy is in light of the veto, which the Fatah party says restricts the freedoms of the Palestinian people.