Iranian Rial's Plunge, Turkey's Syria Strike, and More of This Week's Top News

REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

 

Iranian rial falls to all-time low as Western sanctions take hold

The rial has hit an all-time low against the American dollar, trading at 37,000 to the dollar this week, Future TV reported. And as objections against his government have risen, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the presence of a shortage of hard currencies in the Iranian market, and clarified that the Iranian rial was devalued because of international sanctions on Iran. He also said that he sees a psychological war accompanying this external international pressure, which led to the devaluation of the currency.

Tunisian woman accused of indecency after being raped by security forces

Dubai TV reported that the Tunisian judiciary charged a girl with public indecency on Wednesday, after police said they had arrested her in a car under what they described as "suspicious circumstances" this past September. The girl had accused security agents of raping her. After a number of protests worldwide, Tunisian President Moncef al-Marzouki offered a state apology to the girl, and viewed the security flaw as not being within the security institution, but rather in the mindset of some of its members.

Turkey strikes Syrian targets in retaliation for deadly shelling

Press TV reported that tensions simmered between neighbors Turkey and Syria, as Turkey hit targets on Syrian soil in retaliation for mortar shelling from Syrian territories that hit Akcakale in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa on Wednesday. At least five people were killed and over a dozen others injured.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera reported that Turkey's parliament agreed to allow the government to wage a military operation outside the border if found necessary. Following the decision, anti-war protestors gathered around parliament and clashed with riot police there. Turkey's shelling eventually stopped, but New TV reported that at an AKP gathering on Friday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a new warning to Syria of the consequences of another shelling in Turkish territory.

Jailed Bahraini activist Mohammed Mushaima dies in custody

On Tuesday, 24-year-old Bahraini activist Mohammed Mushaima died of an illness while in custody. Press TV reported that he was in jail serving a prison term of seven years for taking part in anti-regime protests. Manama officials said that he was suffering from a hereditary disease. Lawyers said that they asked the court to release Mushaima because of his health, but their request had been denied.

Al-Alam reported that Bahraini regime forces launched a crackdown on his funeral procession in Manama on Wednesday, which was attended by "tens of thousands" of protestors. Al-Wefaq Society accused the Bahraini regime of being behind Mushaima's death, through depriving him of medical treatment and fabricating accusations against him.

 

Thousands of Jordanians take part in Friday protests despite king's dissolution of parliament


On Thursday, Jordan's King Abdullah II decided to dissolve parliament and call for early parliamentary elections in his country, reported Dubai TV. This was likely a preemptive move to head off the massive protests being called for by opposition groups on Friday. However, BBC Arabic reported that thousands still gathered in Amman on Friday for a day of protests dubbed "Friday to Save the Homeland," as called for by the opposition parties, most notably the Islamic Action Front.

 

Image: Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against charges of indecency filed against a woman raped by two police officers, in front of the court in Tunis October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

 
 

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An Abridged Guide to Key Players in the Bahrain Uprising

This week, Amnesty International called on Bahraini authorities to release all "prisoners of conscience" ahead of the appeals of nine medical workers and human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. In light of the ongoing developments in Bahrain, here is a rundown of relevant events, activists, groups, and places that have been featured on Mosaic in recent months.

 

Al-Alam


The Arab Spring swept Bahrain in March 2011 with a series of demonstrations calling for greater political freedoms and more equality for the Shia Muslim minority. The government brutally suppressed the movement, resulting in the deaths of two protestors during rallies on February 14. The protestors' funerals led to an occupation of Manama's iconic Pearl Roundabout, which was destroyed by Bahraini security forces in a deadly raid on February 17. This sparked an uprising that is still underway, with the goal of bringing down King Hamad's regime.

The disheartening lack of change in the status quo since then has been attributed to multiple factors, notably neighboring Saudi Arabia's support of the regime, but also the overwhelming international silence on the issue. Global attention has been drawn away from Bahrain to similar uprisings in the region, and a media blackout, coupled with a crackdown on social media activists by Bahraini regime forces, keeps Bahrain's troubles out of the spotlight.

Activists

Nabeel Rajab: He is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and was arrested multiple times this April during protests against the Bahrain Grand Prix. Al Jazeera English has called him the "unofficial leader of the February 14 Movement." In early July, he was re-arrested shortly after posting anti-regime messages on his Twitter account, @NABEELRAJAB.

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: He is the co-founder and former president of the BCHR. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2011, and famously underwent a 110-day hunger strike that lasted until May 2012 to protest his sentence and draw international attention to Bahrain.

Zainab and Maryam Alkhawaja: The daughters of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja are prominent rights activists themselves. In May, Zainab was interviewed on Democracy Now! with Mr. Rajab following a recent arrest, and Maryam spoke at the UNHRC during Bahrain's human rights review. They tweet in both Arabic and English, as @AngryArabiya and @MARYAMALKHAWAJA respectively.

Groups

Al-Wefaq: This Shiite group is the largest political party in Bahrain, but is often outvoted by coalition Sunni parties. They, along with the February 14 Movement, have organized numerous demonstrations against the regime, despite a ban on rallies by the Interior Ministry. They are guided by their spiritual leader, Sheikh Issa Qassim.

February 14 Movement: This opposition youth group is led by anonymous social media activists. It was named after the date the popular uprising began, which was also the tenth anniversary of a charter that ended Bahrain's 1990s uprising and returned it to constitutional rule. The group has no set political or religious affiliations, but has organized marches with al-Wefaq.

Al-Khalifa Family: Bahrain's ruling family has managed to hold on to power in the midst of the unrest, with their Saudi-backed security forces repeatedly quelling the uprisings, but there is growing evidence of internal conflict.

Places

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia: Like 70 percent of Bahrain's population of 1.3 million, Saudi Arabia's largest province consists primarily of Shia Muslims who speak Bahrani Arabic, and most of its 4.2 million people share intimate historical and cultural ties with Bahrainis. Demonstrations in this region have been similarly suppressed by the Saudi military.

Saudi Arabia: On March 2011, Bahraini authorities called on the mostly Saudi Arabian Peninsula Shield Forces to help contain the uprising in their country. This May, Saudi and Bahraini officials proposed incorporating Bahrain into Saudi Arabia to formalize their growing alliance, but the planned move was met with widespread condemnation.

United States: The US has enjoyed a close military relationship with Bahrain since the 1990s, and the US Navy has been stationed in the strategic Gulf country for several decades. This may have something to do with the superpower's silence on the unrest in Bahrain so far, much to the chagrin of rights activists.

 

Image: Bahraini protestors marching for prisoners of conscience, July 25, 2012: Al-Alam

 
 

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Egypt Witnesses First Presidential Elections After the Revolution and More

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Millions of Egyptians vote in historic presidential elections

Al Jazeera - After decades or even centuries of single rule, Egyptians are on the verge of a new period of their history, voting for a new president for the country on a democratic basis. After counting 90 percent of the votes the Muslim Brotherhood group said that the candidate for the Freedom and Justice Party obtained 25 percent of the votes, as opposed to candidate Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister in Mubarak’s era, who obtained 23 percent. The group said  Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh ranked third place, with 20 percent and Hamdeen Sabahy came in fourth with about 19 percent.

Iran's nuclear talks moved to Moscow after reaching a stalemate

Dubai - Amid 'significant differences' between the P5+1 group and Iran, over the latter's nuclear program, the talks were moved to Moscow. This news comes after two days of intensive negotiations in Baghdad failed to bring about a solution to the nuclear crisis. Iran has agreed in principle, to discuss the issue of uranium enrichment at 20 percent, only if the UN recognizes its right to enrich uranium. The two sides agreed to hold a new round of talks in Moscow next month.

After suicide bombing, Yemen marks National Unity Day

Al Jazeera - It was the first time that a military parade was held to mark the unification of Yemen without Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was toppled by a popular revolution. President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi attended the parade that was held at the Institute of Aviation instead of the al-Sabeen area, which was subjected to a bombing that led to the deaths of dozens of soldiers, and injured hundreds, during the preparatory exercises for the parade. While the investigation into the al-Sabeen Street bombing continues, the head of the National Security Council confirmed that the al-Qaeda organization was behind the attack.

Bahrainis continue to protest against US arms shipment to al-Manama regime

Al Alam - Bahrain's revolutionaries called for demonstrations on the Friday of ‘rejecting the U.S. arming of the regime’, which crushed protests in numerous regions. The revolutionaries called for taking to the streets to express loyalty to political prisoners. The revolutionaries shut down some of the vital roads to protest the continuing arrest of women by the regime. The marches were soon confronted by the regime with gunfire and teargas, wounding a number of protesters and many others were arrested, mostly women. Bahraini cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, asserted that the crisis will not end until authorities submit to the people's demands. 

Israeli protesters attack African migrants in Tel-Aviv

 

Al Jazeera - Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated in central Tel Aviv, against the increasing numbers of illegal African immigrants in the country, and called for deporting them immediately. These protests came several days after the Interior Minister Eli Yishai called for arresting all African immigrants, and deporting them from Israel. Israeli sources estimate the number of Africans in Israel at 60,000 ranging from various countries. The scene was not free of aggression against Africans and local shops that employ them. The recent crimes and rapes committed by Africans instigated the Israelis to come out in protest.

 

Image: An Egyptian man folds his ballot paper before casting his vote in a school used as a polling station in Cairo May 24, 2012. Egyptians, choosing their leader freely for the first time in history, voted for a second day on Thursday in an election that is a fruit of last year's popular revolt against Hosni Mubarak. The words on the Al Ahly club jersey read, "Glory to the martyrs". REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

 
 

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Developments in Bahrain and the Rest of the Middle East

Pro-government protesters show Bahraini and Saudi flags tied together, symbol of the unity of the two countries, as they participate in a pro-government rally held in al Fateh Grand Mosque in Manama February 11, 2012. Thousands of pro-government supporters attended the rally, which was organised by The Gathering of National Unity society, holding Gulf countries flags condemning the acts by opposition groups of Bahrain. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Iranians rally to denounce Bahrain-Saudi Arabia union

BBC Arabic - Reuters agency reported that according to eyewitnesses, tens of thousands of Bahrainis protested outside of the capital al-Manama against the unity plan between the Arab Gulf countries. Also, thousands of Iranians protested in Tehran after Friday prayers against the unity plan between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which was described by the Imam of Friday prayers, Ayatollah Kazem Siddiqui, as an 'American-Zionist conspiracy'. Protesters gathered in front of Tehran University, raising the Bahraini flag and chanting condemnations of Saudi Arabia, America, and Israel.

U.N. Security Council demands Sudan pull out troops from Abyei

Al Alam - The UN Security Council has commanded Sudan to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from the border region of Abyei, the disputed area with South Sudan. But Khartoum said it would only withdraw after a joint monitoring military force is formed in the region. Khartoum occupied the Abyei region in May, 2011, after an attack from South Sudan on a convoy of Sudanese army personnel. The occupation has displaced tens of thousands of civilians. These developments are taking place after armed conflicts and continual tension between the two sides in the oil-rich, border region of Heglig.

Egypt's military ruler pledges fair presidential elections

Dubai - Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Military Supreme Council, vowed to secure an ideal election, worthy of post-revolution Egypt. Tantawi's vows flowed in the direction of the judiciary's statements, which aimed to disperse the Egyptian people's fears of fraudulent elections, following the numerous violations cited in several presidential candidates' campaigns. However,the election campaigns continue with vigor, amid accusations exchanged between the candidates that play on the weaknesses of each part

Israel and Iran beat the 'drums of war' ahead of nuclear talks in Baghdad

Al Jazeera - Israeli air force commander, Ido Nehushtan, said his forces are entirely ready to carry out any military operation it may be assigned to, including striking Iran's nuclear sites. On the other hand, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, warned the super powers of making any miscalculations and issuing statements that could harm the negotiations scheduled for May 23rd, in Baghdad, regarding Tehran's nuclear program. The US-Israeli statements on the matter were issued at a critical time, only several days before resuming the P5 +1 talks with Iran concerning its nuclear issue.

Iraqis mark national day for the martyrs of the mass graves


Al Forat - May 16th was chosen to be the annual day dedicated to the martyrs of the mass graves, after the first and largest mass grave was discovered in the al-Mahawil region, of northern Babil province in 2003, after the Saddam regime collapsed. Considered the bloodiest in modern history, the barbaric massacres claimed the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children, after they were buried alive or killed execution-style.

 

Image: Pro-government protesters show Bahraini and Saudi flags tied together, symbol of the unity of the two countries, as they participate in a pro-government rally held in al Fateh Grand Mosque in Manama February 11, 2012. Thousands of pro-government supporters attended the rally, which was organised by The Gathering of National Unity society, holding Gulf countries flags condemning the acts by opposition groups of Bahrain. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

 
 

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The Latest From the Middle East

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah



Bahraini activists demand a 'stop to bloody Formula One'

BBC Arabic - The Bahraini opposition escalated its protests, in a number of Shiite villages in and around al-Manama, on the eve of the opening of the Formula One car race. The demonstrations that started Wednesday night continued until Thursday morning. The authorities are heightening the security measures ahead of the event, but denying they expect the protests to impact the sporting event. Eyewitnesses say security forces were forced to use teargas and stun grenades to disperse protesters who threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the police in confrontations that left dozens injured.
 
Egypt rises against military rule on the 'Friday of self-determination'

Press TV reports that earlier this week, Egypt's electoral body rejected appeals filed by candidates disqualified from running for the May presidential election. Three main disqualified candidates are Egypt's former main intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Khairat al-Shater from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultra-conservative Salafist, Hazem Abu Ismail.

Future TV - Under the banner of self-determination, tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square, in the center of Cairo, to demand the protection of the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak over a year ago. This Friday's protest also demanded the transfer of power, and the unification of all political and revolutionary factions. Activists called for the protest today to demand that those who worked with the former president be prevented from running in the presidential elections, the first round of which will be held next month.

 

However, the Islamists joined the demonstration under the banner "protecting the revolution." And, as an indication that protesters are intent on pushing the ruling military council to fulfill the promise of transferring power to an elected president, the stage set up by the Muslim Brotherhood in the square included a banner that read, "power-transfer on June 30th."

Sudan declares 'liberation' of Heglig as Juba pulls out

Dubai TV -  The Sudanese defense minister has announced that Heglig was "liberated" from the grips of Juba's army, confirming the region was recaptured by force, ten days after South Sudan seized control of the area. This announcement was intended to refute a South Sudanese army statement claiming that its forces voluntarily withdrew from Heglig. Meanwhile, demonstrations broke out in a number of northern cities to celebrate the North's victory in the battle. President Omar al-Bashir stressed the victory marks the beginning of a war to liberate the South from the rule of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

UN chief calls for an expanded monitoring mission in Syria

New TV - On the fourth day of the international observers' presence in Syria, Damascus signed an initial agreement with the United Nations on the terms of the team's work. And in a closed-door meeting, the Security Council discussed sending an expanded monitoring mission to Syria, consisting of 300 observers, for three months. The team will monitor and encourage the halt of armed aggression in all its forms and from all parties, and comes as part of the Annan plan. The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed this agreement comes within Syrian efforts aimed at ensuring the success of Annan's plan, and facilitating the observers' mission within the context of Syrian sovereignty and commitment to the concerned parties. The spokesman for UN envoy Kofi Annan announced that his office is holding similar negotiations with representatives from the opposition on the obligations and responsibilities of the armed opposition.

 

Hunger Striker Khader Adnan's hometown celebrates his release

Palestine TV - It was "a national wedding," "a massive popular festival," "the festival of the dawn of freedom." These were the names given to the celebration in Jenin organized in honor of freed prisoner Khader Adnan, who underwent an open-ended hunger strike that lasted 66 days in protest of his administrative detention in an Israeli jail. Thousands of citizens from all provinces and political factions, both official and popular, attended the festival to honor him.

1,200 Palestinian Prisoners begin an open-ended hunger strike in Israeli jails

Al-Alam - In occupied Palestine, events were held to mark the Prisoners' Day. 1,200 Palestinian detainees in the Israeli prisons began an open-ended hunger strike in protest of their maltreatment and continual detention. Participants in the events demanded to release the prisoners. At the Prisoners' Day festival, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council called for escalating the armed resistance to free the prisoners.

 

Image: Protesters chant slogans after police used a flashbang stun grenade during an anti-government rally in Manama April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

 
 

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This Week's Headlines 4/13/12

REUTERS/Stringer


South Sudan refuses to withdraw troops from oil-rich town


Al Jazeera - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit refused to withdraw his forces,from the oil-rich region Heglig, and threatened to take over Abyei if the Sudanese forces do not retreat from the area. Sudan announced it will mobilize its forces to recover the Heglig region. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said the Sudanese army is capable of resolving any aggression on his country,in a response to South Sudan's People's Liberation Army's taking over Heglig. The UN Security Council called on Sudan and South Sudan to halt the border battles, and return to negotiations, in order to avoid further deterioration of the situation by the border.

Bahrain protestors rally to demand realse of dying activist al-Khawaja

Al-Alam - Bahraini regime forces crushed demonstrations, held across various provinces, in solidarity with detained activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months. Fourteen international organizations called for mounting pressure on al-Manama to release al-Khawaja. The rights groups said that the court's ruling against al-Khawajah, and other activists, is a blatant violation of their rights to freedom of expression, and the freedom to hold public gatherings and assemblies, under the provisions of the international law. Bahraini protestors are demanding the downfall of the regime, which has failed to bring about a solution to the political crisis in the country and are vowing to continue their mobilization, until all of their rights and demands are attained.

Clashes near Turkish border on second day of fragile Syria truce

BBC Arabic - Two days after a ceasefire took place in Syria,the Syrian Revolution's General Commission said eight civilians were killed in different parts of Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes erupted in the morning between Syrian forces and members of the Free Syrian Army in Idlib province, near the Syrian-Turkish border. Damascus said what happened near the border is part of the implementation of Annan’s plan, and a redeployment of its forces. As for the breach, it said it was caused by yesterday’s attack on a military vehicle.

Egyptians rally against former regime candidates

Al-Alam - Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrated in a million-man march to protect the revolution in Tahrir Square in the center of the Egyptian capital Cairo. This comes in response to a call by the country's Islamist parties and groups. The protestors affirmed the revolution is still continuing against anyone who tries to steal it, and they expressed their rejection to the idea of boycotting the presidential elections. They also stressed the Egyptian people will overthrow the regime's remnants through the ballot box.

Arab Hero Ahmed Ben Bella dies at 96

New TV - Ahmed Ben Bella was a figure more esteemed than a revolutionary hero, and seen as a prisoner with a will stronger than his warden's. He lives in the Arab consciousness as one of the most important figures of this nation’s recent history. Soaring from his position as a fighter in the Algerian million-martyr revolution, and reaching his destination as the first president of the republic established following the country's victory. He restored Algeria's natural status in the heart of the nation's struggle, and restored his people's stolen identity. Ben Bella departed the world as a history maker, and he goes down in history as one of the most glorious leaders of this nation. 

 

Image: Supporters of Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) take part in a rally in support of South Sudan taking control of the Heglig oil field, in Juba April 13, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

 
 

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Latest Headlines from the Middle East

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

 

Israel seals off West Bank and Jerusalem to celebrate Passover

Dubai TV - Tight security measures and restrictions characterize every Friday in the occupied territories, rendering the Palestinians' attempt to enter al-Aqsa mosque a difficult mission. But, this week, these measures were doubled under the pretext of celebrating Jewish holidays, but no consideration was taken for the Palestinian Christians' observance of Good Friday. Israel imposed a full security cordon on the West Bank, and raised the state of alert in occupied Jerusalem in an arbitrary measure that will extend until Sunday night.

Thousands rally behind dying 'godfather of human rights' in Bahrain

Al-Alam - Massive demonstrations were held in the areas of A'li and Jadhafs west of the Bahraini capital, al-Manama, in solidarity with human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. The demonstrators said they would hold the regime responsible for his death. The peaceful demonstrations were led by scholars, community leaders, and political figures. The participants called on the international community, notably the US, Britain, and countries that offer political support for al-Manama's regime, to take responsible action in Bahrain.

Mali's Tuareg rebels declare independence in the north

Al Jazeera - The independence of Azawad starting on April 6th, 2012. The declaration was followed by a movement leader's affirmation in Paris that the movement will not work with al-Qaeda and is not affiliated with any Islamist movement. Dozens demonstrated in the capital Bamako in protest of Azawad leaders' declaration of independence in northern Mali and the proclamation of the Azawad State. Protesters of northern descent chanted slogans calling for the country's unity, saying they would fight against those they referred to as separatists.

Egyptian Brotherhood presidential candidate says implementing sharia is 'main goal'

Dubai TV - Competition flared among prominent presidential candidates in Egypt as the closing date for the candidate nominations approaches this coming Sunday. Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak's former deputy, pulled out of the competition and announced in a statement that he did not plan to run for the nomination due to what he described as "administrative and financial obstacles". In turn, the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party candidate, Khairat Al-Shater, filed his nomination papers with the High Election Committee. Al-Shater confirmed that implementing Islamic Sharia law will remain his principal agenda.The ruling Military Council in Egypt pushed forward the process to transfer authority to a president-elect and to set a date for the handover in late June, regardless of whether the country's new constitution is ready or not.

Libya announces truce to end deadly tribal clashes

Al Jazeera - A ceasefire is now in effect in western Libya after intervention from the Supreme Council for the Revolutionaries, the National Army, and the High Reconciliation Committee. The National Transitional Council announced a state of emergency in the cities of Zuwarah, al-Jamil, and Rigdaleen, and declared these cities to be a military zone under the control of the Libyan army's chief-of-staff.

 

Image: Arab Christian worshippers hold a cross as they enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during a procession on Good Friday in Jerusalem's Old City April 6, 2012. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

 
 

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Bahrain Denies Journalists' Entry Ahead of One Year Anniversary

In the week leading up to the one year anniversary of Bahrain's February 14 Revolution, many journalists have been denied visas to the country. Journalists from the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Associated Foreign Press, and Al-Jazeera English were all denied visas because of what the government is calling a "high volume of requests."

 

"This refusal to allow access for such prestigious media organizations is another ominous signal from the Bahrain government about what might happen this coming week,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. "The days approaching the anniversary are tense and rife with rumor. Bahrain's refusal to admit human rights and media organizations only fuels suspicions that the government wants to hide the truth about its ongoing abuses."

 

It is unclear how many journalists are allowed to enter the country for the February 14 anniversary, but the Information Affairs Agency maintains they are allowing many foreign media outlets to cover the events.

 

A girl flashes the victory sign with her fingers amid fellow anti-government protesters waving Bahraini flags during a rally held by Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's main Shiite opposition, in Sanabis, west of Manama January 12, 2012. Thousands of anti-government protesters participated in the rally shouting anti-government slogans demanding the downfall of the ruling family.

As part of the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising, the protests in Bahrain were initially aimed at achieving greater political reforms and equality for the predominantly Shia population. However, following a bloody night raid on February 17, 2011 against peaceful protestors staging sit-ins at Pear Roundabout in Manama, the protestors raised their demands and called for an end to the centuries-long authoritarian rule of the Khalifa dynasty. On March 14, Hundreds of Saudi troops entered Bahrain to help protect government facilities amid escalating protests against the Sunni-led government.

 

Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, says his team has documented 60 deaths since February 14, 2011 and that the police's aggressive approach in countering activists has stiffened in the past two months. Meanwhile, hundreds of activists have been detained, injured, and tortured in the past year.

 

After almost a year, violence is still rife in Bahrain as the revolutionary youths remain resolute in their demands and Saudi-backed forces are increasingly brutal in their crackdowns. This week the February 14 Youth Coalition issued a "charter" saying the government crackdowns had gone too far. "The aim of this revolution has become to bring down the regime and decide our own fate after it became clear that trying to live with it and reform it has become impossible," it said.

 

As next week's anniversary approaches, many people are uncertain about how the events will unfold and worry of increased violence, chaos, and deaths. Emile Hokayen, Mideast Analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted, "Here in Bahrain, lots of uncertainty abt next week. Rumors galore, concern in some quarters, fatigue in others, real frustration among opp."

 

Photo: A girl flashes the victory sign with her fingers amid fellow anti-government protestors waving Bahraini flags during a rally held by Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's main Shiite opposition, in Sanabis, west of Manama January 12, 2012. Thousands of anti-government protesters participated in the rally shouting anti-government slogans demanding the downfall of the ruling family. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

 
 

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2011: The Year of the People

This time last year, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, sparking a popular uprising in Tunisia that spread to countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The uprisings have come to be known throughout the world as the "Arab Spring" and have caused more change in one year than the region has seen in decades. For months, chants across the Middle East echoed, "The people want the downfall of the regime." Only a month after Tunisians ousted Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, it took the Egyptian people only 18 days to overthrow Hosni Mubarak after being in power for 30 years. 

An anti-government protester displays paintings on her hand of other countries involved in the Arab Spring revolutions during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa October 26, 2011. The words read, "Go out." REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

 

Shortly after the downfalls of Ben Ali and Mubarak, Libyans took up arms against Muammar Gaddafi. After ten months of violent battles that took the lives of thousands of civilians, Libyan revolutionaries claimed victory when Gaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte. 

 

Protestors in Yemen hope to turn a new page after months of bloody crackdowns as embattled ruler Ali Abudllah Saleh belatedly signed the Gulf-brokered deal that will transfer power in the country by early next year. 

 

In Syria, anti-regime activists are unyielding in their ongoing fight against Bashar al-Assad. As the death toll has reached over 5,000 according to the UN, the international community is slowly boosting efforts to end the months-long bloody crackdown. 

 

Protests and subsequent crackdowns have spread through Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia but have received far less media attention.

 

In his article "From Tunis and Tahrir to Wall Street, and back again," UC Irvine Professor Mark Levine explains the common frustrations of people throughout the region. He states, "The lack of hope or possibility to find decent work, or overcome the corruption and repression there that defined life in [Sidi Bouzid, Bouazizi's hometown], was a microcosm of political and economic life in Tunisia under Zine Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt under Hosni Mubarak and most every other country in the region."  Khoda, a Syrian housepainter turned insurgent, had a different view: "In Egypt, the revolution started because of poverty and hunger," he said. "In Libya it started because of misuse of power. In Syria, the main purpose of the revolution is to gain back our dignity and our honour."


As the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are being hailed as successes by some, other observers aren't as optimistic that they will lead to the kinds of changes that protestors had hoped. Daniel Byman of the Washington Post predicts, "The Arab Spring may not bring freedom to much, or even most, of the Arab world. Even as the United States prepares to work with the region's new democracies, it also must prepare for the chaos, stagnation and misrule."


As we reach the one year mark of the start of the "Arab Spring," there are many lessons to be learned from the unparalleled and tumultuous revolutions that rocked the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. Mohamad Al-Ississ, a professor of economics at the American University of Cairo, says the fight is not over and that "this is the moment where we go forward or we go back to ground zero." Levine warns that "democracy is a means, not an end," pointing to our own Western system today that is "so dominated by money and power that inequality and corruption are reaching 'third world' levels."

 

Huguett Labelle, chair of Transparency International and author of  "The keys to change across the Arab world," offers wise words of advice to the future leaders of the Arab world: "listen to the people, or risk being overtaken by them."

 

Photo Credit: An anti-government protestor displays paintings on her hand of other countries involved in the Arab Spring revolutions during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on October 26, 2011. The words read, "Go out." REUTERS/Louafi Larbi 

 

 
 

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Bahrain Jails Medics for Treating Injured Protestors

BBC Arabic reported that a Bahraini military court sentenced one protestor to death for killing a policeman during an anti-regime protest in March. The court also issued harsh prison sentences to 20 medical professionals working at al-Salmaniya Hospital in Manama during the protest movement. Thirteen medics were sentenced to 15 years in prison. According to the Bahrain News Agency, the medics are being charged with "forcefully occupying Salmaniya Medical Centre…possessing unlicensed arms and knives, incitement to overthrow the regime, seizing medical equipment, detaining policemen, and spreading false news." Several written testimonies of the sentenced doctors indicate that they were physically and psychologically abused, tortured, beaten, sexually harassed, and humiliated while in custody.  

Doctors form a human chain at Salmaniya Hospital fearing an attack by riot police in Manama

 

On June 14, after Bahrain started the trial of 48 medics, journalist Robert Fisk dispatched an eyewitness account from the hospital to The Independent. He wrote that he saw doctors desperately trying to save the lives of injured protestors shot by Bahraini forces, describing the charges as "a pack of lies."

 

One of the sentenced doctors, Dr. Fatma Haji, told the BBC that the medics' only crime "was that we helped innocent, helpless people who were just protesting and got injured." In a video to her three-year-old son, she maintained her innocence and expressed hope that when he is old enough to understand, he will be proud of her.

 

Amnesty International condemned the Bahraini regime for its harsh sentences against the health practitioners. Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme described the charges against the medics as "ludicrous." The Dublin-based human rights organization Front Line also condemned the sentencing after a "deeply flawed and unfair trial." It declared that medical care has been "criminalized" in Bahrain.

 

In July, Human Rights Watch issued a 54-page report documenting the government's abuses against citizens since February, and called on the Bahraini regime to immediately end its systematic policy of arresting and abusing medical personnel and patients.

 

(Photo: Doctors form a human chain at Salmaniya Hospital fearing an attack by riot police in Manama, on March 15/ Reuters)

 
 

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