North Africa and Middle East convulsions

This item appears on page 17 of the March 2011 issue.
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In January, after massive protest marches by the people of Tunisia, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who had controlled the country since 1987, fled. An interim government was formed, and elections were promised to be held within six months. The new cabinet, with some members of the previous regime, was not widely accepted, but mass protests did decline.

The rapid fall of the government in Tunisia inspired antigovernment protests in several other countries in the region, including Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Syria and Palestine, with reports of protests planned in Bahrain and Libya. As of press time, most of the protests had been in each country’s capital and a few primary cities. Many foreign governments were warning against travel in these places and had chartered flights to help their citizens leave.

In Egypt, hundreds of thousands of citizens crowded the streets and squares in Cairo and Alexandria to demonstrate against the government controlled by Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian army declared it would not use violence against the protesters, but there were some violent clashes between Mubarak supporters and the protesters. Mubarak declared he would not seek reelection at the end of his term in September.

In Algeria, protesters demanded the lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency plus the right to establish political parties and more freedom of expression. A broad coalition of secular and religious groups made this uprising different from previous ethnic and religious protests.

Peaceful demonstrations in Jordan against the way the government was handling the country’s economic crisis resulted in the King’s appointing a new prime minister and calling for the formation of a new government. Protesters demanded elections of parliament and that the prime minister be elected, not appointed by the King.

After protests in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed not to run again for election nor to place his son as his successor. Economic and social reforms were promised.

Urging both the citizens in Syria and Syrians living abroad to protest against the government’s corruption and repression of human rights, students used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests. The focus was not on deposing the current government but on ending the emergency law that the country has been living under since 1963 and on easing restrictions on political freedoms.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In January, after massive protest marches by the people of Tunisia, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who had controlled the country since 1987, fled. An interim government was formed, and elections were promised to be held within six months. The new cabinet, with some members of the previous regime, was not widely accepted, but mass protests did decline.

The rapid fall of the government in Tunisia inspired antigovernment protests in several other countries in the region, including Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Syria and Palestine, with reports of protests planned in Bahrain and Libya. As of press time, most of the protests had been in each country’s capital and a few primary cities. Many foreign governments were warning against travel in these places and had chartered flights to help their citizens leave.

In Egypt, hundreds of thousands of citizens crowded the streets and squares in Cairo and Alexandria to demonstrate against the government controlled by Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian army declared it would not use violence against the protesters, but there were some violent clashes between Mubarak supporters and the protesters. Mubarak declared he would not seek reelection at the end of his term in September.

In Algeria, protesters demanded the lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency plus the right to establish political parties and more freedom of expression. A broad coalition of secular and religious groups made this uprising different from previous ethnic and religious protests.

Peaceful demonstrations in Jordan against the way the government was handling the country’s economic crisis resulted in the King’s appointing a new prime minister and calling for the formation of a new government. Protesters demanded elections of parliament and that the prime minister be elected, not appointed by the King.

After protests in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed not to run again for election nor to place his son as his successor. Economic and social reforms were promised.

Urging both the citizens in Syria and Syrians living abroad to protest against the government’s corruption and repression of human rights, students used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests. The focus was not on deposing the current government but on ending the emergency law that the country has been living under since 1963 and on easing restrictions on political freedoms.