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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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The Soundtrack of The Revolution

Tunisian rapper Hamada Ben Amor, known as El Général, released "Rayes Lebled'' or "Head of State" around the same time as Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation. El Général's song spoke out against the now former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and has been labeled the "rap song that sparked a revolution."

 

 

Following the success of the Tunisian uprising, Palestinian artists joined forces to honor the Tunisian people with a song entitled "Green Revolution." Rapper Mahmoud Jrere from pop-rap group DAM thanked the Tunisians for giving them hope "instead of depression and boredom from politicians," as Mahmoud Darwish wondered "how can we be cured from our love for Tunisia?" and ended the song by admitting "we love you Tunisia more than we thought we knew."

 

 

Central Cairo's Tahrir or Liberation Square was the Egyptian uprising's battleground that remained relatively peaceful. For 18 days, videos exhibiting the Egyptian people's humor and love of music went viral on YouTube. The song in the video below was sung by protestors camped out at the square, addressing former President Hosni Mubarak.

 

 

After the people toppled Hosni Mubarak, a group of "several notable musicians from North America teamed up to release a song of solidarity and empowerment." Their song is entitled #Jan25, in reference to the Egyptian protest hashtag that was trending on Twitter at the time. The artists said, "this track serves as a testament to the revolution's effect on the hearts and minds of today's youth, and the spirit of resistance it has come to symbolize for oppressed people worldwide."

 

 

Libya's struggle for freedom and democracy began on February 17. In an effort to mobilize the youth, Tripoli rapper Ibn Thabit released a song titled "Call to the Libyan Youth" inviting them to "live standing up on [their] feet, not on [their] knees." (Full translation here)

 

 

In a humorous reprise of Tracy Chapman's classic “Talkin 'Bout A Revolution,” Israeli band Shmemel talked about “An Arab Revolution.” The 10-member group displayed solidarity with the Arab uprising through a video that is steeped in orientalist imagery. Shmemel allied itself with those fighting for "freedom" and "liberation," and identified with the struggle against "people who are trying to bring us down from Washington to Tel Aviv to Tehran," offering listeners an uncommonly heard Israeli voice.

 

 
 

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Libya's Violence Extends To Az-Zawiyah

Al Jazeera's Arabic language channel reports that Gaddafi's forces violently attacked protestors in the Libyan cities of Misurata and Az-Zawiyah this morning. Eyewitnesses say that Gaddafi’s troops were armed with machine guns and that dozens of people were injured and killed.

 

Reporters from Dubai TV stationed at the Egyptian-Libyan border state that Egyptian workers are pouring across the Salum border crossing. Thousands of buses wait on the Egyptian side of the border to transport people returning from Libya. Of the 1.5 million Egyptians residing and working in Libya, nearly 20,000 have returned to Egypt in the past few days with haunting stories of the atrocities they witnessed in Libya.

 

In Yemen, BBC Arabic reports that President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered security forces to protect protestors and prevent confrontations between pro- and anti-government demonstrators. This came after two people were killed and eleven were injured in clashes that erupted two days ago near Sana'a University.

 

Protests also persist in Bahrain, where demonstrators have filled Pearl Roundabout to mark the one-week anniversary of ‘Bloody Thursday.’ The tens of thousands who continue to protest in Pearl Square say they will not withdraw before their goals of constitutional and political reform are met.

 

New TV reports that in Beirut, many Lebanese youths were disappointed at the poor attendance at an anti-Libyan regime rally organized on Facebook. While many expressed enthusiasm for the rally, only a small number of people attended. A Lebanese Gaddafi impersonator provided extra flair to the protest.

 

NBN also reports on Muammar al-Gaddafi, describing his madness as “laughable and tragic.” The Libyan dictator depicted himself as a Greek god and said that he is the one who created Libya and will also be the one to save it. The report includes an interview in which Gaddafi gives his own unique definition of democracy.

 
 

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As Libyan Protests Continue, Gaddafi Refuses To Step Down

In a defiant address to the nation Libyan leader Mammar al-Gaddafi affirmed that he had no intention of stepping down. He stated, "Generations from now, Libya will be at the top! It will be the leader of Africa, Latin America and Asia; it will be the leader of the whole world!" Gaddafi also declared he had not yet used force against protestors but will use force according to international law as protests continue. The BBC reports that this statement comes as the death toll in Libya continues to rise and residents of Tripoli complain of the increasing number of dead bodies in the streets. Tripoli, the capital, was the most recent Libyan city to be struck by protests, yet eyewitnesses say that it has been subject to the worst attacks by security forces.

 

Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel discussed the Libyan people’s reaction to Gaddafi’s speech. Libyan political activist Abdallah el-Fituri reports seeing people throwing shoes at television screens in anger. He states, “Libyans have spent 40 years listening to speeches without articulating their views. The day has come for the people to express themselves.”

 

Dubai TV also reports on the sweeping unrest in Libya, where two helicopter pilots and two more fighter jet pilots have defected and sought refuge in Malta. The pilots fled after refusing to open fire on protestors, as ordered by Libyan authorities. Both helicopters and fighter jets are being held in Malta’s airport. A number of Libyan diplomats have also condemned the regime’s crackdown on protestors. The Libyan embassies in Malaysia and Australia have stated they no longer represent the regime and four Libyan diplomats in China have resigned.

 

Lebanon’s New TV reports that The Beirut Theater is honoring the Egyptian and Tunisian people in a show called “The Rule of Bango.” The show praises both countries for opening the door to other Arab people in the quest for freedom. The Beirut Theater celebrates the victories in Egypt and Tunisia and their effect on countries throughout the Middle East.

 

Iran’s Arabic language channel, Al Alam, reports on ongoing protests in Bahrain, where thousands of protestors are still filling the streets of the capital. In an attempt to calm protestors, the Bahraini king issued a statement announcing the release of some prisoners and an end to the criminal prosecution of political activists. Demonstrators in the capital city of Manama remained unsatisfied and stated they will continue to protest until all of their demands are met. These demands include issues of political rights, respect of human rights, political participation, and policy reform.

 
 

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Egypt Takes Next Steps While Unrest Spreads

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, tasked with running Egypt since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, met today with the new constitutional amendment committee. The Supreme Council has given the committee, headed by Tareq al-Bishry, ten days to complete its task. Meanwhile, protests continue in the streets as the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution call for a civilian interim government to be created by next month.

 

Iran's ruling government, rocked by protests in the summer of 2009, again faces fierce opposition. Demonstrators in the capital of Tehran clashed with police, leaving one protester dead and nine officers injured. The Iranian parliament has just reconvened, and conservative MP's have come down hard on opposition leaders.

 

On to Lebanon, where thousands commemorated the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. His son, current Premier Saad al-Hariri, joined the crowd in a Muslim-Christian prayer aimed at attaining peaceful religious coexistence within Lebanon. Al-Hariri is promoting dialogue to strengthen national unity.

 

Activists in Yemen organized demonstrations in the capital of Sana'a today to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh has promised to step down in 2013 when his term expires, and has declared his office is open to Yemeni citizens. Various international human rights organizations have condemned the Saleh government's treatment of protesters.

 

Bahrain too has been rocked by violence in recent days. One person was killed and 20 hurt yesterday, while security forces killed another protester today. Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, extended his condolences to the families of those killed. Demonstrations were centered on Manama, the capital, but extended into rural areas as well, resulting in the shutdown of most of the country.

 
 

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