The Tsunami Of Revolts Has Begun
Buoyed by the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East have begun to protest against their oppressive regimes - Here is a rundown on all the latest action that is going on in Africa and beyond.
On February 12th, defying a 20-year ban on demonstrations, about 2,000 people took to the streets to protest against 73-year old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria with an iron fist, since 1999. The relatively small uprising was quickly quelled by 30,000 policemen who saturated the area - But that doesn't seem to have discouraged the young people seeking 'democratic change'. More protests are in the works for Saturday, February 19th.
Following the events in Egypt, President Gaddafi who has been at the helm for 40 years, quickly took some pro-active measures to prevent a similarly uprising - He released over a hundred political prisoners, had one-on one conversations with tribal leaders to solicit their support and even shut down the internet for a few days, to prevent organized protests.
However, none of this has deterred the people. As with the other countries, the protests that started with small groups of people, is now showing signs of escalating - On Thursday, February 17th, thousands of people took to the street in five Libyan cities to ask Mr. Gaddafi to step down. While the 'Day of Rage' was instantly disrupted by the troops, activists are promising more demonstrations in the future.
The rumblings in this impoverished country of 24 million people began about the same time as the protests in Egypt - However, the youth in this country are not as technologically savvy as the ones in the other countries and have been unable to organize themselves using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Having said that, the movement has definitely gained momentum since Egypt's liberation. On Friday, February 18th, 20,000 people, streamed out of Friday prayers and marched in protest to the Presidential Place, demanding President Ali Abdullah to step down. Dubbed 'Friday of Fury', this was the country's largest demonstration so far - And more may be on the way.
The issue in this tiny island nation is more related to religious divide than oppression - The ruling monarch and his inner circle are all Sunni Muslims, while the majority of Bahrain's population belongs to the Shia sect. What began as a peaceful request asking the king to step down, has now escalated to a full-on revolution, with the number of protestors increasing each day.
Despite warnings from the government, thousands of protestors took to the streets on Monday, clashing with the military and police in Tehran. What is ironic about the whole situation is that the Iranian government was very supportive of the protests in Egypt, but does not seem to favor them as much, in their own country.
Syria and Jordan have managed to appease their people by making some changes before things got out of hand. Northern Sudan, which recently separated from the south, is also trying its best to stop a widespread revolt.
Will these countries be as successful as Egypt and Tunisia? Nobody knows, but experts believe that the dynamics in each of them will determine whether there will be a true change in regime - For instance, a poor country like Yemen doesn't have the power to pull together the same cohesiveness as Egypt, largely because a lot of the people are not technologically savvy. In Libya, the anti-government protestors had to contend with people who were pro-government. Also, for the revolutions to be truly successful, the people have to gain support from the military, which hasn't happened in any of the countries, as yet.
Will more countries join in? Probably! We will all have to wait and see how these unprecedented events sort themselves out. However, one thing has been made crystal clear - In order for the autocratic leaders to survive, some radical changes will have to be made soon!
Resources: guardian.co.uk,temeskreview.com,huffingtonpost.com, bloomberg.com. CS Monitor.com