Feb 162011
 



Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets of Libya and Bahrain as Arab unrest spreads through the Gulf region and North Africa.


Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets of Libya and Bahrain as Arab unrest spreads through the Gulf region and North Africa.

Witnesses say protesters in the Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi chanted slogans demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

The rioting was a rare show of unrest in Libya, which has been tightly controlled by leader Muammar Gaddafi for over 40 years but has also felt the ripples from revolts in its neighbours Egypt and Tunisia.

Overnight protesters armed with stones and petrol bombs had set fire to vehicles and fought with police in Benghazi and later posted videos on YouTube.

Family members and supporters of Fadel al-Matrook transport his coffin from the mortuary for a funeral in Manama, Bahrain.

The funeral procession of protester Fadel al-Matrook, killed in Bahrain

Libyan activists are using Twitter and Facebook to call for “a day of rage” protests on Thursday after 14 people were injured in clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Benghazi.

In what is seen as an attempt to ease popular dissent, the government is set to free 110 Islamist militants of the banned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, according to a local human rights activist.

Meanwhile, increasingly large protests in the Gulf state of Bahrain, urging political reform, have shaken its rulers as a sit-in of the capital’s landmark square in an Egypt-style occupation continues.

We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom – whether they’re technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online – will eventually find themselves boxed in

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Security forces armed with tear gas pulled back sharply – apparently on orders to ease tensions – after clashes left at least two people dead and dozens injured.

Thousands of people spent the night in a makeshift tent camp in Manama’s Pearl Square, which was swarming with demonstrators a day earlier.

The protests began on Monday as a cry for the country’s Sunni monarchy to loosen its grip, including hand-picking most top government posts, and give more opportunities for the country’s majority Shiites, who have long complained of being blocked from decision-making roles.

Protesters in Pearl Square in Manama, Bahrain

Increasingly large crowds have thronged Manama’s Pearl Square

Protesters turned increasingly angry on Wednesday as a funeral was held for demonstrator Fadel al-Matrook, who had been killed during Tuesday’s protests.

Bahraini internet access was thwarted in the wake of protests, affecting some public and banking sectors, and forcing foreign correspondents to use satellite phones.

Above a protester with a Bahrain flag in Manama’s Pearl Square

The UN has spoken out against state violence towards Bahraini protesters

US foreign policy is increasingly embroiled in popular uprisings, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging greater internet freedom for restrictive societies like China and Iran, but ignoring those in strategic allies like Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain is the home port of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

“We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom – whether they’re technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online – will eventually find themselves boxed in,” Mrs Clinton said.

Protesters in Pearl Square in Manama, Bahrain

Bahraini protesters have staged a three-day sit-in at Pearl Square

“They will face a dictator’s dilemma, and will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price to keep them standing,” she said.

:: The US has announced it will spend $45m (£28m) this year on projects to help people evade government internet limits and break down barriers imposed by repressive governments.



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