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Jordanian protestors demand a change in policies instead of governments
BBC Arabic - Demonstrations were held in several Jordanian governorates with a variety of slogans and chants, and diverse affiliations and demands. But they were united in their call for accelerating the reform process and combating corruption. The protestors also sharply criticized the council of ministers, and the way in which governments are formed in Jordan. In the capital Amman, the Islamic Action Front had a prominent presence in the protests and participated alongside different popular and youth movements. The protests come one day after the Awn al-Khasawneh's government resigned, and after the Jordanian king, Abdullah II, appointed Fayez al-Tarawneh to form a new government.
Deadly bombing rocks Syrian capital
New TV - A suicide bombing shook the neighborhood of al-Midan in the center of the Syrian capital Damascus. At least nine people were killed as a result, and dozens were injured with body parts seen scattered across two medical centers. The same site had witnessed a similar explosion in January that led to the killing of 27 people. The official news agency SANA described the blast as a terrorist operation carried out by a suicide bomber. Syrian TV raised the death toll to 11, adding that 28 civilians and members of the security forces were injured, broadcasting videos of the explosion site under al-Midan's bridge, near Zein al-Abidin Mosque.
Humanitarian crises in Sudan and Yemen
Dubai TV - The war between Khartoum and the northern command of the People's Movement, the armed confrontations between rebel movements in Darfur, and the Heglig battles are all factors that have contributed to the humanitarian crisis raging in the regions witnessing an armed conflict. According to a new UN report, nearly four million displaced people are at risk of starvation, due to a sharp shortage of food supplies and the difficulty of delivering aid to the famine-stricken because of the violence. The humanitarian situation is far worse in the region of Darfur, especially at the refugee camps scattered along both sides of the Sudanese-Chadian border.
Al Jazeera - Many Yemenis are facing a food crisis due to the high prices and food shortages, especially since the spark of the revolution more than a year ago. Yemeni children are suffering from a number of diseases due to a sharp shortage in food and poor medical care. When a child gets sick and requires hospitalization in the city, transportation is a real challenge due to the shortage of fuel. The bumpy roads and the high cost of medical care pose another challenge.
Egypt announces list of presidential candidates
BBC Arabic - The Presidential Electoral Committee in Egypt announced a list of candidates running in the presidential elections, which are expected to be held next month. There are now 13 candidates, the most prominent of which are Amr Moussa, the former secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The committee's surprise decision was allowing Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister during Mubarak's era, back into the presidential race after accepting his appeal. He was initially disqualified by the disenfranchisement law.
Today, Press TV reported that thousands of Islamists rallied in Tahrir Square against an attempt to revive the Mubarak era. They also demanded that the remnants of the former regime be banned from running for president.
Palestinians rally in solidarity with hunger strikers, clash with Israeli troops
Al Jazeera - The area near Ofer Prison, located west of Ramallah, witnessed clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli occupation forces. Israeli soldiers fired large amounts of tear gas at the protestors who organized a sit-in in solidarity with the prisoners waging a hunger strike in the occupation's prisons. Meanwhile, over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners are continuing their open-ended hunger strike for the 10th consecutive day.
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
Ennahda: Tunisia's constitution will not be based on Islamic law
Dubai TV - The debate raging over the new constitution in Tunisia has intensified, after the government-led Ennahda Islamist Movement announced that it will not adopt sharia, or Islamic law, as the main source of legislation.
The decision was met by opposition from members of the Ennahda and its coalition blocs, which said the decision violates the principles which the party was elected based on. It is an ongoing debate over state identity, which has been polarizing the country since the downfall of the regime a year ago.
Sudan Summit Suspended After Border Clashes
Al Jazeera - South Sudan's authorities said the Sudanese army's fighter-jets shelled its border state for a second consecutive day after ground battles broke out between forces of Khartoum and Juba the day before. The long border between Sudan and South Sudan, still awaiting demarcation in accordance with the treaty recently signed by the two sides, has suddenly turned into a battlefield for military conflicts targeting the oil-rich areas in the two countries.
After several days of clashes, the Sudanese army celebrated the withdrawal of South Sudan soldiers from the disputed border region Heglig. Both Sudan and South Sudan agreed to meet in Addis Ababa do discuss security issues.
Israeli Website Recruits Retired Soldiers to Evict Palestinians
Palestine TV - An Israeli extremist recently created a website, announcing job opportunities for soldiers who completed their military service. The website is recruiting them to storm the homes of Jerusalemites and evict them to later seize their houses. These calls seek to evict citizens from their homes were started by Israeli militant Aryeh King, the director of the Israel Land Fund and a founding member of the Israeli Association for Distributive Justice, called on soldiers with a strong build to join him in evicting Jerusalemites.
Rift Widens Between Egypt's Military Rulers and Muslim Brotherhood
New TV - In Egypt, anger erupted after the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis monopolized the Constituent Assembly as the youth of the revolution are calling for a million-person march next Friday, under the banner "the constitution is for everyone."
The constitutional committee, consisting of 100 members, ended with an Islamist majority from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi al-Nour Party, turning the world upside down for the Islamists, who monopolized the committee as the Copts only received six seats and the youth only one seat. In a stern address, the council announced it will not allow the Brotherhood or its Freedom and Justice Party, to seize control of the constitution.
Image: Protesters hold up placards, which read "Down with Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie", during a rally against the formation of a constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution outside the Cairo convention centre March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
I arrived in Tunis on January 1, only a few days after a wave of rallies had erupted due to the suicide of an unemployed college graduate, who torched himself after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his only source of income. Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, sold fruit and vegetables without the necessary vendor's permit in the town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country's capital Tunis.
At the time, Tunisians had been protesting for a couple of weeks over poor living conditions, high unemployment, government corruption and repression. Three people had been killed in the protests by the time of my arrival. The atmosphere was tense, public protests were rare in Tunisia where dissent was usually repressed; however, no one I spoke to in Tunis believed then that these demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zein El Abidine Ben Ali who eventually fled the country to Saudi Arabia after ruling Tunisia for 23 years.
The Jasmine Revolution, as it is dubbed now, was not televised on Tunisia's main television station, Tunisie7, nor did it make headlines in the local press, but the news spread like wildfire on Facebook, YouTube, mobile phone, and to a lesser extent on Twitter (most of the tweets were from outside Tunisia).
Prior to my arrival to Tunis, I had spent the past five weeks in the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories debating social media, its impact on youth, and its relationship with journalism in the Arab world with my interlocutors.
It is very easy, but over-simplistic and naive to decide on a social media interpretation for the Jasmine Revolution, as we have been witnessing by many bloggers and self-appointed Middle East experts, many of whom neither speak Arabic nor have spent an extended period of time in the Middle East. They desperately want to convince us that Tunisians needed an external technological Western invention in order to succeed. A Twitter revolution of some sorts, as they previously labeled the Iranian Velvet Revolution, as though Arab masses were not capable on their own of saying "enough is enough."
Certainly social media was used as a communication tool for Tunisians to air their frustrations with the economy, unemployment, censorship, and corruption. But many factors lead to its success, such as a well organized trade unions movement, and the most potent weapon in the Arab world, the youth.
Population ageing is widespread across the world, but most Arab countries have been experiencing a youth explosion. More than one third of them are now unemployed. Tunisia is a bit different since it is one of the few Arab countries that opted for a family planning policy initiated during the rule of its first president, Habib Bourguiba. Tunisia, however, has also adopted a development plan with a focus on higher education, leaving a large number of young college graduates unemployed.
When I was driving around in Tunis, posters of President Zein El Abidine Ben Ali were sprinkled throughout the city with the slogan, "Together We Meet Challenges," a slogan meant to tout his plan of development by focusing on job creation, increasing revenue and enhancing Tunisia's positioning and influence on the regional and international scales. This obviously has failed, leaving a country of over- educated youth, many of whom are unemployed or doing menial jobs. Mohammed Bouazizi was the catalyst for their revolution.
Today, millions of Arab youth are disenchanted with politics and live a dramatic rupture with the state. Restrictions on freedom of expression, though improving in several countries, dominate the mass media in the Arab world. Social media has in many instances opened the door for them not only to share ideas, but also to take action. We've seen a vivid example of this during the Jeddah floods when the Saudi government tried to suppress the news about the devastation caused by nature due to poor infrastructure in the Arab world's richest country, but the news quickly spread on Facebook and the internet by concerned young Saudis. We've witnessed a bread revolution in Egypt, also driven by high unemployment and poverty; again initially transmitted to the outside world by young bloggers before it became international headlines.
Throughout history, when social discontent can no longer be contained, people have taken to the street to demand change. Having the most rudimentary technology, or none at all have not prevented these movements, a case in point being hand printed pamphlets distributed prior to the French Revolution, Gandhi's ability to inspire and mobilize through the exponential power of word of mouth, and the leaflets and tape recordings of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini speeches that were smuggled into the country prior to the Iranian Revolution.
Mohammed Bouazizi's self immolation was the expression not only of his despair, but that of youth throughout Tunisia ready to explode. Although they are an educated tech-savvy generation who were able to use social media as a tool, the underlying force was not a byproduct of this and the current situation would have come to pass with or without it.
Crediting social media with these revolutions however, trivializes them and does a disservice to the deep rooted issues that cause them.
As I was leaving Tunis on January 4, news spread again like wildfire of Mohammed Bouazizi's death at a hospital in the town of Ben Arous. Today, Mohsen Bouterfif died. Mohsen doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire on Thursday after a meeting with the mayor of the small city of Boukhadra who was unable to provide him with a job and housing. Boukhadra is in Algeria.