Monday, March 28, 2011

A Break From Blogging

I'm just taking a self-imposed four day break from blogging. I need to focus on my upcoming GRE test and job interview. I'll be back shortly, but maintaining three blogs is a lot of time that could be better spent improving my future, you know?
See you Friday!

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Qatar

The protests in Qatar kicked off on February 28, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Qatar is a country I've heard of, but only barely. I didn't know they were involved in the protests until I came across the wikipedia page that covered all the different protests. That led me to research this country and its uprisings further.

Basic History
Qatar's official name is the State of Qatar. Geographically, it is located on the northeast coast of the Arab Peninsula, which is located between African and Asia. Important bordering countries include: Saudi Arabia. The capital is Doha. The population is estimated at 1.7 million people. The language is Arabic.

Qatar's most recent leader is Emir Hamad bin Khalifa AlThani. He has been Qatar's ruler since 1995. Qatar is setup as an absolute monarchy. There is an emir, a crown prince and a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is Hamad bin Jassim al Thani. The Emir is the head of state and the head of government. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Emir.

In terms of independence, Qatar gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1913. They ended a treaty with the United Kingdom in 1971. Since then, it has been an absolute monarchy. There has been talk in recent years of making the country into a constitutional monarchy. But no plans yet have been made for elections outside of local elections already being held with universal suffrage (everybody votes) above the age of 18.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons include: The Emir's approval to host the US military base of "Aideed", the policy of rapprochement with Israel and secret visits exchanged with Israeli officials were among the most important causes that led to the aborted coup.

The Qatari people, actually senior officials, organized a coup against the Emir on February 26th. The coup failed and 30 people were arrested. The military coup failed because Emir bin Khalifa found out and foiled it. The attempt never actually happened.

There were calls on Facebook for protests on February 27th. The protests were supposed to be against government corruption and to topple the corrupt regime. There was a new Facebook page calling for protests on March 11th after a lack of response to the first calls and amid news of the failed coup. The news of the failed coup comes from the Emir, and some have suggested that it was expressed simply to arrest people who are supporters of his brother who is exiled to France, Abdul Aziz bin Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani.

As far as I know (it's very difficult to find corroborating stories about events in Qatar, even with the help of Google and Bing), the protests planned for March never really got off the ground. There is still widespread discontent with the Emir, but I don't know where it's going. I will keep my ear to the ground for more information, but at least now you know some of the basic background.

More information can be found at,, and

Friday, March 25, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Mauritania

The protests in Mauritania kicked off on February 25, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Mauritania is honestly a country I've never heard of before I began researching these protests. I couldn't have told you what continent it was on, what language they probably spoke. I couldn't have even guess what drives their economy or if their women have anything close to equal rights. But I'm glad to finally learn more about the world around me and look further than just what I get from

Basic History
Mauritania's official name is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Geographically, is it located north western Africa. Important bordering countries include: Algeria. The capital is Nouakchott. The population is estimated at 3.3 million people. The language is Arabic.

Mauritania's most recent leader is President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. This president has an interesting presidential history. He was part of the leaders of two coups in Mauritania. In 2005, he helped depose President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, and in 2008, he helped depose President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. He was President of the transitional government and stepped down from that post to run for President in 2009 election. President Aziz appointed the Prime Minister after the 2008 coup and he has served at the president's discretion since then. The Prime Minister is Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf.

In terms of  independence, Mauritania gained its independence from France in 1960. I haven't seen a lot of information about their independence process. There's more available about the failure of the first President. They have always held elections in Mauritania since they were an independent country, but the incumbent has no problem winning and thus far in history, the leaders has only changed through a military coup.

Mauritania deals with strong opposition within the country and around Africa. Within the country, the opposition party raise trouble for the president. Around Africa, he faced sanctions for his involvement in the coup and wasn't immediately recognized as the country's president. I'm sure this has affected the country's stability for the last two years.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: policies of the president.

The protests started on February 25th in the capital city of Nouakchott. The people gathered in the hundreds. It was reported that the people gathered because they heard about the gathering on Facebook. This first protest was against the ruling policies of President Aziz. This came more than a month after the self-immolation of a man near the Presidential Palace.

There is an senatorial election scheduled for April 24. The Democratic Opposition Coordination (DOC) is a group of eight political parties and they are the ones who filed the formal request. The request comes because of the state of the country right now. They feel that there's no way the elections can be free and fair in this environment.

There really isn't a ton of information about Mauritania that I'm able to find. Most of their mentions come in relation to Libya and Qaddafi. Nouakchott is where the African Union (AU) met recently to discuss the situation of the uprisings. They reached a different conclusion than the Arab League. The Arab League supported and requested intervention in Libya from the United Nations. The AU did no such thing. They have supported Qaddafi as far as to allow plans to leave their countries headed towards his that have mercenaries. And they have openly condemned the enforcement of the no-fly zone and cease fire for Libya, directing their criticism to America and Obama, the UK, and the UN.

I will keep looking for information and if I get more about Mauritania specifically, I'll blog about it.

More information can be found at,, and

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Zimbabwe

The protests in Zimbabwe kicked off on February 23, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Zimbabwe is known to me mostly through political cartoons in recent years portaying the leader Mugabe as a spoiled self-destructive brat. That wasn't a whole picture, but it lumped him in with Kim Jong Il on the list of leaders America didn't like. I'm interested in observing more about how his denizens respond to him.

Basic History
Zimbabwe's official name is the Republic of Zimbabwe. Geographically, it is located in the southern part of Africa. Important bordering countries include: none that are related to these protests going through Africa and the Middle East, at least not yet. The capital is Harare. The population is estimated at 12.5 million people. The three official languages are English, Shona, and Ndebele.

Zimbabwe's most recent leader is President Robert Mugabe. He was elected to Prime Minister in 1980. He has been President since 1987, when the office of the Prime Minister was abolished. He was one of the leaders in the liberation movement against white minority rule.The President is the head of state and Prime Minister is the head of government. The Prime Minister is Morgan Tsvangirai. He was the biggest opposition candidate againt Mugabe in 2002 and 2008. After the election in 2008, he chose not to run in the run-off election. After negotiations, he was sworn in as Prime Minister in January 2009. The move was seen as the formation of a coalition government. I wonder if such moves as this that didn't lead to improvements are the reasons so many opposition groups don't want to negotiate with the leaders of their respective countries to see about forming coalition governments.

In terms of  independence, Zimbabwe gained independence from the United Kingdom. They declared their independence in 1965, but it was not recognized until 1980 when they held their first free elections. It is a long story I suggest you look up. But Zimbabwe used to be Southern Rhodesia; it's had a couple of names over the years that would depend on who you asked and what type of colony/country/settlement they were claimed to be. The name Rhodesia no longer exists to name any African country. That land is now Zambia and Malawi and Zimbabwe. For years after they declared their independence, it wasn't recognized by the UK, but they have been an official independent country since 1980.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: lack of basic human rights, government corruption, election tampering, voter intimidation, economic distress.

Zimbabwe's government prohibited state owned media from reporting the full extent of the uprisings sweeping across northern Africa. They have charged 45 students, trad unionists and activists with treason, accusing them of watching news videos of the uprising in Egypt and plotting to topple Zimbabwe's autocratic president. This was done in late February.

Zimbabwe is another country I struggled to find a lot of information on. But here is what I've pieced together the best I could for you. On Facebook, calls went out for people to come out and protest on March 1st in the capital city of Harare. They were to protest and call for an end to Mugabe's 31 year rule.

In the days leading up to the planned protest, there were accusations towards those organizing the protests are traitors. There were also accusations of the police and security forces being on the side of Mugabe's ruling party instead of the coalition "unity" government. They were called out in their preparations to handle the protests as interested only in keeping Mugabe in power and keeping Zimbabwe "in the dark."

Also during this time, there were accounts of planes leaving Zimbabwe for Libya to send mercenaries to assist that country's leader, Qaddafi, in holding onto power through attacks on his own people. He has openly condemned the UN attacks and sees them as a problem like the ones his own country faces when they have negative interference from world leaders. They have no problem with economic aid, but they have a big problem with military intervention and with sanctions.

Zimbabwe is facing sanctions now as a result of Mugabe's actions recently. He has his citizens signing a petition for the past couple of weeks to protest the sanctions. He says the sanctions are leading to economic woes that are at the root of some of the problems facing his country. But the reason the sanctions are in place is because he wants to hold an election this year to end the coalition government set up in 2009 after calls of election fraud left him with no other choice.

A perfect example of the economic problems is airlines failing to pay pilots. There are pilots in Zimbabwe on strike right now because they aren't getting paid. But getting back to the national protest. It was organized for March 1st. But when the day arrived, the streets were peaceful. Reports show large number of security officers, ready and armed to handle the protests. Some believe the protest never happened because of fear of retaliation. In Zimbabwe, treason carries a sentence of death. The 45 who have already been arrested are dealing with that now. They have been beaten and tortured.

The streets of Harare were extra empty on March 1st and the organizers are said to have gone back to the drawing board to figure out how to get the people out to protest. This whole situation is sad that the people of Zimbabwe are dissatisfied with the way their country is run but as things currently stand, there's not much they can do about it.

If anything new arises, I will do an updated post on this blog.
More information can be found at,, and

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Internet Connection Problems

I'm sending this from my cell. I can't connect to the internet. I don't know if my brother is eating the internet or simultaneously downloading eight videos, but for some reason, whenever he is home, there is limited internet access. Stupid XBox 360 and iPad.
But I will be back hopefully later today to blog today's posts.

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Cameroon

The protests in Cameroon kicked off on February 23, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Cameroon is definitely one of those countries that I haven't heard much about. All I know about Cameroon is what I researched for a paper in 7th grade. I'm looking forward to learning more.

Basic History
Cameroon's official name is the Republic of Cameroon. Geographically, it is located in central and west Africa. Important bordering countries include: Gabon and Nigeria. The capital is Yaoundé. The population is estimated at 19.1 million people. The official languages are French and English.

Cameroon's most recent leader is President Paul Biya. He has been President since 1982. The country had a two term limit, but President Biya had that changed in 2008 so that he could run again later this year for his third term. The President in Cameroon is up for election every four years. He is head of state and head of government, and he appoints all the major governmental offices, including Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is Philémon Yang.

In terms of independence, Cameroon gained independence from France and the UK in 1960 and 1961, respectively. Northern Cameroonians were under control of the French. Southern Cameroonians were under the control of the UK. After their individual Independence gains, they decided to join together into one country. Paul Biya is only the second president of Cameroon in its current form. Both presidents have a history of centralizing power in their office to avoid coups by those not on their side.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: corruption, wanting to end the rule of President Biya, and the vast gulf between the affluent and the poor.

The protests in Cameroon are hard to put a timeline to because nothing I've found on the internet has set up the information where multiple day events are available all in one source. But I think I've done a good job with Google and so I've put together what I can for your reading pleasure.

February 23rd is the day considered the start of the Cameroonian protests. The protests were mainly against President Biya. They wanted him to make changes in the way he governs. February 23rd is an important day for Cameroonians. Since 2008, it's been the day they take to the streets in protest. The protest organizers were hoping to get the people out in large numbers, but reports emerged saying the protests were pretty much the same meager numbers from years prior.

The Cameroonian riot police were prepared for protests and possible riots on that day. They were in large numbers in major cities and effectively shut down a couple of protests. Perhaps that is the reason the protests never got going that first day.

A big part of the calls for protest and the voice of unrest come from Diaspora Cameroonians. That term refers to Cameroon nationals who live elsewhere because they are in exile, or have fled the country, or left for better opportunities. Their blogs are the main voices of unrest because local journalists cannot speak out because their voices are controlled (somewhat) by the government. President Biya issued a warning in late February against the interference of Cameroonians who weren't living in the country.

Journalists did manage to get some photos and videos out to the world through youtube and twitter. Starting March 7th, the government had Twitter service blocked. Someone set it up so that by sending a code on their cell phone, Cameroonians would still gain access to tweets. Although most in Cameroon don't have internet access at home, the population uses a lot of internet cafes and they gain access that isn't represented by statistics. The citizens may not have a lot of internet access, but the prevalence of cell phones is growing. They are spreading messages that way.

I haven't been able to find any recent information about ongoing unrest in Cameroon, but I will keep my ear to the ground. And if anything comes up, I'll be sharing it on this blog in a future post.

More information can be found at,, and

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Morocco

2The protests in Morocco kicked off on February 20, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Morocco is a country you've probably never heard mentioned in terms of protests. The first big protest did result in some deaths, but mostly has been quite peaceful. The people have called for change, but not for their king's resignation. He has announced plans for change. This probably kept Morocco under the radar, no genocide possibilities, no revolution with new leaders to negotiate with. But it didn't fall under my radar. So here goes.

Basic History
Morocco's official name is the Kingdom of Morocco. Geographically, it is located in north Africa. Important bordering countries include: Algeria and Mauritania. The capital is Rabat, but it's largest city is Casablanca. The population estimated at 32.2 million people. The official language is Arabic, but the country has four other recognized national languages including French and Spanish.

Morocco's most recent leader is King Mohammed VI. He has been in power since 1999 when his father died. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy, and the Prime Minister is Abbas El Fassi. The Prime Minister is over the elected parliament. Morocco has multiple parties and several opposition parties have been formed in recent years.

In terms of  independence, Morocco gained independence from both France and Spain in 1956. The French were particularly brutal leaders, restricting the basic rights of the Moroccans. A successful rebellion in 1955 led to their freedom and their current form of government. There's more to the story, but on to the protests cause that's the part that I'm writing this post for.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: too much power centralized with the king.

Protesters organized a protest on social media for February 20th. The Moroccan government approved the protests, and the estimate is that 37,000 people gathered in the capital city of Rabat. Their demand was that the king relinquish some of his power.

Over the next week, there weren't any major protests, but on the 26th of February, there were reports of at least 1,000 people gathered in the country's largest city, Casablanca calling for political reforms.

Things never really escalated in the protests. On March 9th, King Mohammed VI announced that he would instill some of the requested reforms asked for by the protesters. He announced changes to the constitution that would be decided by a committee and then presented to him and then for a referendum in a vote by the country for approval.

On March 13th and March 20th, there were protests. Some were calling for additional reforms and others wanted to keep the pressure on so the king would know they were demanding real change. At these protests, riot police used batons to break up the protest on March 13th, signalling the first real turn to violence, at least in terms of the number injured. The protest on March 20th in at least 60 cities around the country were largely peaceful with no police interference.

These protests are marked mostly be nonviolence, but there have been reports of injuries and looting and violence from some of the protesters. Some people have been killed during the protests, but none from direct clashes with riot police, and only a few succumbing to injuries sustained in clashes with the police.

This unrest is still ongoing, with protests continuing to be organized. It is yet to be seen if the changes suggested by King Muhammed VI will come to pass and if they will satisfy the Moroccans.
More information can be found at,, and

Monday, March 21, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Libya

The protests in Libya kicked off on February 15, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
I'm really glad I didn't get to Libya on the 16th like I planned. There has been so much in recent developments there that I'm glad it will be a part of the main post on the history of Libya's revolution. This country was one of the ones that early on America and the rest of the world had crappy reactions to. But They've improved and now it seems that the world is behind the correct people in this country's fight for its future.

Basic History
Libya's official name is Libya. Geographically, it is located in northern Africa. Important bordering countries include: Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia. The capital is Tripoli. The population is estimated at 6.4 million people. The official language is Arabic.

Libya's most recent leader is Colonel Mu'ammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (known as Muammar Qaddafi, which is how he'll be referred to in this post). He came to power in 1969 in a coup against the Libyan Kingdom. He's been in charge since. He doesn't even have a title of president or king or sultan. Just Coloenl. Most of the rest of the planet now recognizes the opposition rebels as the government of Libya making the current recognized leader the National Transitional Council. It was declared to be the voice of the Libyan revolution, making the changes necessary to bring the country to its new form of democracy and freedom. They are now referring to Libya as the Libyan Republic. This may become the country's official name. The chair of the National Transitional Council (aka the National Libyan Council) is Mustafa Abdul Jalil. The council is acting as an interim administrative body until Qaddafi is no longer a problem and proper elections can be held in the country.

In terms of  independence, Libya gained its independence from Italy in 1947, from the UK and France in 1951, from its kingdomhood in 1969, and from Qaddafi in 2011 (theoretically). I would go into detail about it, but you can look it up if you really care. I want to move on to the important stuff: the revolution!

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: lack of basic human rights, high unemployment, governmental favoritism, corruption, economic disparities, lack of freedom of press and speech, .

The protest actually began in January by families of detainees who were killed by Qaddafi in 1996. The government responded by blocking Internet access to videos that it deemed likely to foment unrest. Quaddafi also warned citizens, opposition leaders, and journalists against doing anything that could create conflict in Libya.

By February 15th, which is seen as the official start of the protests, people were coming out in larger numbers (in the hundreds) and for many more reasons than dead family members, but especially in direct protest of the regime. The police responded violently, setting the stage for what was to be one of the most violent protests in the modern uprisings across Africa and the Middle East. Through social media, the protests were quickly organized and grew in strength. February 17th marked the "Day of Revolt" for Libya.

Throughout February, things have arisen for the first time that represent a new ideal in Libya: free speech, and an army not under Qaddafi's rule. There are radio stations and a newspaper run by the opposition that are not being censored by Qaddafi's government. The army has been formed from men coming to join the fight as well as military units who have joined the rebellion. Their goal is to protect the opposition strongholds and to liberate Tripoli from Qaddadi.

Also in February, on the 27th, the "face of the opposition" was created. Their goal is to coordinate resistance efforts around the country. They are seen as a interim government, but are more concerned with the military coordination required to take away all of Qaddafi's power. They are also working to put in place the plans for a new constitution and a democratic election in the coming months.

By the end of February, it was clear that the opposition stronghold was Benghazi, and the pro-Qaddafi stronghold was Tripoli. People in the opposition of Libya as well as other countries around the world began to call for interference of outside countries to help with the cause in Libya.

Qaddafi began discussing genocide-like tactics to attack his own people in an attempt to hold onto power. He claimed he would die a martyr rather than flee his responsibilities as leader of the country. He also called in paramilitary forces to help battle the rebels. They came from Chad, Niger, and other nearby countries to fire live ammunition and bomb his people. He blamed all of this on the "radical Islamists" who he said were trying to take over his country and take if from the real Libyans.

As February came to a close, the death toll was rising as residents of Tripoli resumed protests in the face of the assault of the government. The formation of the Transitional Council and their call for foreign help gave the other countries interested in helping a chance to form a plan that would help the Libyans decide their own fate.

The rest of the world wanted to stop Qaddafi's slaughter of civilians in his country, but they didn't want to interfere in the country's revolution. They had done a good job of not getting involved in the protests and revolutions going on in other countries. Most agreed that keeping the uprisings homegrown and without foreign military involvement would legitimize the fight and make it likelier to succeed with democracy and freedom because they people involved saw it as a fight they had won for themselves by themselves. This concept worked in most countries, but it wouldn't work for Libya with the death toll rising. No one wanted a repeat of Rwanda from the 1990s.

While the United Nations and leaders from countries around the world were considering their options, a full fledged civil war was breaking out in Libya. The opposition, now organized under one umbrella and better able to coordinate attacks and weapons, fought to expand the territory under their control. Qaddafi's forces did the same. There were battles for Marsa Brega, Ghadames, Ajdabiya, Zawayia, Tripoli, and other cities. Overall, the rebels seemed to be doing a good job of holding onto their strongholds and increasing the areas under the Libyan Transitional Council umbrella.

After requests from Hugo Chavez to engage in talks with Qaddafi, the Libyan opposition solidified their stance that the only option was for him to leave. They expressed that there would be no talks with Qaddafi or negotiations with his government.

After this, Qaddafi stepped up his assault on the rebels. Airstrikes, tanks rolling in, snipers, and machine guns were used in an effort to topple the opposition in Zawiya. This continued for days into March. March 9th is seen as the day that some European and American countries began to recognize the National Council as the government of Libya.

March 12th marked a true turning point in the response of other countries to what was happening in Libya. The Arab League met and didn't allow representatives from Qaddafi's government to attend the meeting. They changed their stance and began calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. The most brutal of Qaddafi's attacks on the rebels were from the air, so this was called for to reduce the large number of civilian casualties. The Arab League encouraged the United Nations to support this proposal and begin to act to enforce it.

From March 13th on, there were lots of reports of progress on both sides. pro-Qaddafi forces reported taking cities and repressing rebels. The opposition movement reported repelling those attacks. Also during this time, there were several notable defections of pro-Qaddafi forces and also from more established figured within the Libyan army.

On the 17th of March, the US let the Libya Transitional Council setup an office in Washington, DC, further solidifying their support of the opposition government as the true internationally recognized government of the Libyan Republic. Also that day, the UN adopted a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. They spent the next couple of days coordinating how exactly that plan would be carried out.

Qaddafi announced a cease-fire on March 18th, but reports quickly came out saying that the same forces attributed to him in attacks before were still attacking. There were interesting developments throughout the day, such as Qaddafi's government accusing the rebels of breaking the cease fire. Also, they claimed that an interior minister who had defected to the opposition was back on Qaddafi's side. The reports about the rebels were not of them attacking Qaddafi forces. And the defected minister was still on the opposition's side.

At 4 pm Libyan time, French fighter jets entered Libyan airspace in the first attempt by the UN to impose a no-fly zone cease fire. [Side Note: I personally was pleasantly surprised to see the French going first. The French? I knew Sarkozy was a thug at heart] The rest of the United Nations coordinated how the rest of the attacks would go between the French, the British, the Americans, and the other countries from the Arab League.

The UN resolution calls for a stop of clashes between the rebels and pro-Qaddafi forces. It also calls for the pro-Qaddafi forces to stop interfering with allowing aid and help to civilians in the country who are cut off from important resources because of the fighting. Obama also specifically requested that the United States not take the lead of the military intervention in Libya. With our country already in two wars, someone else needed to be the leaders of this coordinated fight.

Since the airstrikes have begun by UN forces to enforce the cease fire, there have been a number of casualties, both armed forces and civilians. The pro-Qaddafi forces are still trying to advance in rebel-held cities and the casualties are mounting. The airstrikes have been effective to a point of destroying tanks and armored troop carriers.

This is definitely still an ongoing conflict, but the world in on the Libyan Council's side and I hope it will only be a matter of time before Qaddafi had no choice but to end the violence and let his his country rebuild itself without him at the helm.
More information can be found at,, and

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Break From Posting About The Middle East and Africa

I had been posting twice a day with each protest by country. But since I got back to Chicago, my blogs have been acting weird. I think I've fixed the problem and shortly I will return to update all that I have missed in the last 3 days. But first, I'm off to have a girls' day out with my mother.

Also, I was thinking of doing an update in between the new posts about what's been happening recently in countries I've already covered. But I don't think I'll do individual posts, maybe I'll do it based on recent days. If there are any ideas of how I can do it, leave a comment. Otherwise, I'll sort it out myself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Iran

The protests in Iran kicked off on February 14, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
The Iranian protests stand out to me because these protests are nothing new in terms of history or in terms of being reported in America. This country has been upheld as an example of a population trying to take a stand against oppressive Islamic rule. I don't know how true it is, but it's certainly the narrative being fed to America. I'm glad to see these protests covered somehow other than through the eyes of American journalists who are told how to spin a story.

Basic History
Iran's official name is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Geographically, Iran is located in central Eurasia and western Asia, and it is considered a Middle East country. Important bordering countries include: Oman, Iraq, and Pakistan. The capital is Tehran. The population is estimated at 76.9 million people. The official language is Persian, but the Iranians speak at least eight other languages.

Iran's most recent leader is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There's also a Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The government of Iran is setup in a most unique way. The Supreme Leader is is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations, and has sole power to declare war or peace. The President is the highest popularly elected official but is subordinate to the Supreme Leader, who is chosen by God. The president is responsible for the "functions of the executive", such as signing treaties, agreements etc., the national planning and budget and state employment affairs, and appointing ministers, governors, and ambassadors subject to the approval of the parliament.

In terms of  independence, Iran gained its independence as a republic in a revolution in 1979. The story is long and boring, so here are the basics. There was a Shah because of whom the first Ayatollah, Ayatollah Khomeini was in exile. There were troops that fought. Guerrillas and rebels beat the troops that supported the Shah. The Shah went into exile. The Ayatollah returned. The Iranians overwhelmingly voted to become a Republic and they voted into existence by referendum the constitution that the country still follows to this day.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: continued unrest from the 2009 election protests and economic hardships.

At the end of January and early February, protest began to be planned for February 14th. These protests were partly against the Iranian government and partly to support the protests going on elsewhere in the Middle East. A formal request was placed and denied.

The place for the first protest was Azadi Square in the capital city of Tehran. Thousand of protesters gather on the same day and time as protesters in Egypt and Tunisia. There was a large police presence, but still the protesters gathered. Some of the opposition leaders were placed under house arrest and denied internet, telephone, and visitors, but still the protesters gathered.

The police responded by firing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets and paintballs. Protests took place that first day in other cities around Iran, and they were forcibly dispersed. That first day was marked by violence and a number of deaths. The protests served to dispel rumors that the Green Movement, organized in protest of the previous elections, was losing momentum.

Over the next couple of days, the government organized pro-government protests and increased calls for the execution of the opposition leaders, who said they were prepared to die for change. There were still opposition protests, but in smaller numbers. Ayatollah Khamenei said that protests scheduled for February 20th would be dealt with harshly and be confronted according to Iranian law.

On February 20th, the protests took place as planned in Tehran and all over the country. The government warned foreign journalists that they would be shut down if they gave negative coverage of the events, so coverage was scarce. But the reports that did get out say there were tens of thousands of people gathered. There was also a large police presence and in some areas, the police outnumbered the protesters. The police (and militias called in by the Iranian government) were brutal in their attacks and tried their very best to disperse and stop the protests and demonstrations.

As February came to a close, members of the Ayatollah's family members began to defect to the opposition and sought asylum in France. A call went out for Tuesdays of Protest for March 1st, 8th, and 15th to continue with pressure on the government for changes. And there were conflicting reports about where two of the opposition leaders,Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and their wives, were being held, and what may or may not have been done to them.

As March began, reports of the arrests of Mousavi and Karroubi were out, and then denied by the government. Some government officials tried to blame the reporting of this news as an attempt by America to divert attention away from the real issues at hand.

A government official important to the protests, past president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, resign from his position as leader of the Assembly of Experts, who are the body who chooses the Supreme Leader. This disappointed the protesters because they felt he was their only fail safe against an even more conservative Ayatollah being chosen next.

The protesters got more mature in their plans, such as announcing several locations for the protest, more locations than people actually were supposed to show up at. This would have the effect of thinning out the police and Basij (militia) presence where they were going to be. This worked and the protests again gained strength.

By March 11th, several protesters have been expelled from the country, with their agencies lodging official complaints with the Iranian government. This added freedom of the press to the list of the protesters demands. On March 13th, Mousavi's and Karroubi's children reported that they had been allowed to visit the men and they could report on their treatment by security officials.

The protests are still going on, but coverage is decreasing as Iran cracks down harder on journalists. There's no telling how the protests in this country will end.

More information can be found at,, and

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Bahrain

The protests in Bahrain kicked off on February 14, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Bahrain is a country that caught my attention during the protests. I found myself having an unusually emotional reaction to what was going on there. Hopefully, you'll see what I mean after I get through explaining their protest struggles.

Basic History
Bahrain's official name is the Kingdom of Bahrain. Geographically, it is an island country located near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. Since it's an island, there are no bordering countries. The capital is Manama. The population is estimated at 1.2 million people. The language is Arabic.

Bahrain's most recent leader is King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa. The government is setup as a constitutional monarchy. The head of government is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is Shaikh Khalīfa bin Salman al Khalifa. The Prime Minister presides over a 25 member cabinet that is composed of mostly royal family members from the al Kalifa royal family. Bahrain does have universal suffrage where the population votes for members of the upper and lower houses of parliament. The Islamists of both Shia (I've been calling them Shiites in previous posts. I believe it's interchangeable) and Sunni ethnicities have been using their electoral strength to pass laws that reflect their religious views and don't necessarily reflect the views of more liberal Bahrainis.

In terms of  independence, Bahrain gained independence first from Persia in 1783. Way back then, the area that is Bahrain now drew attention from outsiders because of the wealth it offered, and this was even before the oil was discovered. A war was fought and the Persians lost. Since that time, Bahrain has been under the rule of the al Khalifa royal family. They ended a treaty with the British in 1971. That treaty had rules about the Bahraini's involvement with other countries, and also rules about what to do with their land disposal and acquisitions. Ending the treaty was something all sides agreed on. Bahrain couldn't agree with terms of a union with other Arab countries, so they became completely independent. Since that time, they have stayed under the monarchy of the al Khalifa royal family.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: discrimination against the Shia majority of Bahrain, lack of secular representation in government, lack of political freedom, hatred of the 2002 constitution, no longer having a constitutional assembly, and no longer wanting the monarchy ruling over the country.

Bahrain already has a history in recent decades of responding harshly to criticism and uprisings from its people. A number of the problems facing Bahrain now are the same problems that caused unrest in the 1990s.

The protests in Bahrain started on February 14th with an emulation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. The protesters gathered at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital city of Manama and made plans to stay for many days until their early demands of more equality for the Shia majority were met.

The Bahraini government ordered a night raid on February 17th that enraged the protesters and led them to add the ouster of the Bahraini monarchy to their list of demands. The people gathered to protest were numbered in the thousands with more showing up each day to join in. There were reports of live ammunition being used against the protesters by security forces. There was no showing of restraint in spite of the large presence of women and children from the beginning stages of the protest.

As February wore on, the protests were joined in large number by people from all walks of economic life in Bahrain. Protesters lost, then regained Pearl Roundabout as clashes with security forces waned. There began to be reports of pro-monarchy protesters out and gathered in large numbers around Manama to support the monarchy. Those numbers conflicted with the number of anti-monarchy protesters and the total number of the population of Bahrain.

At the end of February, the protesters organized a day to mourn those who had been killed during the protests and the security forces didn't bother them that day. Also around this time, King Hamad ordered the release of over 300 political prisoners.

As February rolled into early March, the King fired some ministers and rescinded loans. Those loans were part of the problem that the majority saw as discrimination in Bahrain. But the changes didn't appease the opposition. They said the government was trying to placate them by making changes they never asked for and avoiding the real issue. There were protests each day, some that blocked various government buildings and shut them down for the day. The protesters also continued to occupy Pearl Roundabout.

On March 3rd, the first reported incident of sectarian violence took place between young Sunnis and Shiites in Hamad Town. The police had to use tear gas to disperse them. The protests the next day called for Sunni-Shia harmony in addition to their other chants. The opposition leaders announced around this time that they were willing to enter talks with the government to address their grievances and they submitted their demands to the government.

 The protesters numbers continued to grow and as March wore on, the protests began to regularly include marches to government buildings, calls for the ouster of the king and a formation of a Bahraini republic, and calls for Sunni-Shia harmony and unity.

On March 14th, the protests were happening all over in large numbers of thousands at Pearl Roundabout and small numbers of not even 100 at local schools. The government called in troops from other countries to help suppress the protests and guard key facilities, such as oil and gas installations. The protesters remained in the roundabout for a month, after which the king declared a state of emergency (on March 15th), which was to last three months.

The calling in of troops from other countries has led some in Bahrain to feel the king has declared war against the opposition. Some of the opposition leaders support talks with the government to bring about reforms. Others do not. This situation is evolving daily, and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see what will happen next.

More information can be found at,, and

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Iraq

The protests in Iraq kicked off on February 12, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Iraq is a country that has become really ingrained in American journalism. Even when the story isn't about Iraq, our recent history with Iraq is referenced as well. Our intervention in the country after 9/11 prompted the exact violence and civil war that people warn may happen in other countries as a result of these protests. But finally Iraqis seems to take their own future into their hands and began having their own homegrown protests. I've been looking forward to covering this country's protests because they aren't being orchestrated by Americans.

Basic History
Iraq's official name is the Republic of Iraq. Geographically, it is located in western Asia, and is considered a Middle East country. Important bordering countries include: Jordan, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The capital is Baghdad. The population is estimated at 31.2 million people.. The official languages are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq's most recent leader is President Jalal Talabani. He's been in power since he was elected in December 2005. The government is setup as a federal parliamentary republic. They have a President and Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is Nouri al-Maliki. The Prime Minister is selected by the Presidency Council and then he chooses the rest of the members of the Council of Ministers. The Presidency Council includes the President and two members of the National Assembly of Iraq. The National Assembly of Iraq was chosen by election in 2005. Their current constitution has been in place since October 2005. Elections in Iraq have mostly come down along ethnic lines, splitting the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

In terms of  independence, Iraq has had several types of independence. The first was from the Ottoman Empire in 1919. The British invaded during World War I and Iraq was then under control of the United Kingdom until 1932. That year, they worked out a deal with the British so the British could maintain military bases in the country, but Iraq became a kingdom with Kings, passing down rule mainly from father to son. This lasted until 1958, when Iraq became a republic through a coup d'etat. By 1979, the country was under the rule of Saddam Hussein. He was in power until the American invasion in 2003. As I said in the previous paragraph, the current form of the Iraqi government was setup in 2005.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: unemployment, government corruption, and access to public services.

Iraq's leadership suspected that the unrest in the Middle East and Africa might spread to their country. In an effort to avoid the protests, the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki announced that he would not run for re-election in 2014. The protests still happened, beginning February 12th in urban areas around Iraq, including the capital city of Baghdad.

As February wore on, there were protests across Iraq, mostly against local provincial governors, demanding their ouster. The government responded harshly and a number of protesters were injured and/or killed. The protesters were mostly upset about the lack of electricity and water. This makes sense as a legitimate concern because before the American invasion, electricity was free and widely available all throughout Iraq.

February 23rd was a big day because of a handful of top Iraqi military officials resigning and joining the protest movement. They made their resignations public and encouraged people to come out and join the protest scheduled for February 25th. That day came and the protests were all over Iraq. The protesters forced the resignation of several local officials. Also, some of them organized a prison break. The protests had the most violent clashes in the northern part of Iraq.

After the protest, hundreds were arrested. The protests seem to have diminished since then because of the deaths from the 25th. The unrest is still continuing, but no major changes have been made at the top. The Prime Minister has said that any ministers who are not fulfilling their duties will be removed and it has been proposed that provincial elections be brought forward by two years.

I don't know what will happen next for this country, but I hope they get settled down in a way that gives the citizens the things they demand. Giving them water and electricity shouldn't be something they have to protests by the thousands to accomplish.
More information can be found at,, and

Monday, March 14, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Djibouti

The protests in Djibouti kicked off on January 28, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Djibouti is a country that I've heard of only on the Simpsons where I remember some character talking about the capital of Djibouti being Djibouti. Seriously, that's it. But now I get to learn because Djibouti is up next in chronological order. I wonder what will make their government and protests unique.

Basic History
Djibouti's official name is the Republic of Djibouti. The country's name is spelled different ways depending on the language, and in America, we go with the French spelling. Geographically, Djibouti is located in an area known as the Horn of Africa. Djibouti isn't actually bordered by any other countries involved in the current unrest sweeping Africa and the Middle East. The capital is Djibouti. The population is estimated at 864,000 people. The main languages are Arabic and French.

Djibouti's most recent leader is President Ismail Omar Guelleh. He's been president since 1999, and the way the system is set up, he can run for 6 year terms until he's 75. Djibouti is a semi-presidential republic, with executive power in the central government, and legislative power in both the government and parliament. The President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The current Prime Minister is Dileita Mohamed Dileita. He's been in office since 2001, and he'll stay in office at the discretion of the President since the Prime Minister is appointed by the President. Their current constitution has only been in effect since April 2010.

In terms of  independence, Djibouti has been independent of the French since 1977. They had pretty much been under French rule since 1896. Around the first World War, the people in charge varied (look up Vichy forces), but the people in charge usually spoke French. When they finally declared themselves as an independent republic, they did so without any major hassles from the French. Hassan Gouled Aptidon was the first President.

This first president setup one party rule, claiming his party was the only legal one. There were uprisings over the years, but his party maintained control. After he resigned in 1999, his nephew became the next President. In 2001, Guelleh signed a peace accord that ended the long civil way between his party and the main opposition party, Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD). The next election, in 2005, included the FRUD party as part of the pro-presidency coalition. Other opposition parties boycotted the presidential elections, as well as the first regional elections the next year that were an attempt to decentralize some of the power.

The country is majority Somali, which are overwhelmingly Muslim and minority Afar. The President is Somali and the Prime Minister is Afar.

The Protests
The main cause cited as the reason for the protests include: the major changes Guelleh made to the constitution that allowed him to run for another term of office .

The protests were led by the Union for Democratic Change. They demanded the the President step down from office. They felt that his intimidation techniques and divide and conquer way of doing business was detrimental to the country's well being. And example of this goes all the way back to 1999, when shortly after he was sworn into office, his one opponent in the election was arrested and detained.

On January 28th, hundreds of protesters gathered in a square in the capital city of Djibouti. This happened again a week later on February 3rd. Two weeks later on February 18th, they gathered at a stadium, saying they would stay there until their demands were met. Speeches were given by leading members of the Union for Democratic Change. That evening, clashes with police forces turned violent as the forces used batons and tear gas on the protesters.

The protest leaders were arrested as the clashes with riot policeman escalated over the next couple of days. Then the Djiboutian police, directed by Guelleh, arrested over 300 opposition people, pretty much all the leaders of the movement except a few. There was a major meeting scheduled for February 24th to plan a protest for February 25th. After 300 people were arrested, and the leaders were missing on February 24th, the protest movement seemed to lose steam.

On, March 4th there was another protest planned. The government ordered the opposition to cancel the protests, but they didn't. The government filled the streets with soldiers and police and prevented protesters from entering the stadium where the protest was planned. They effectively prevented the day's protest.

Since then, except for the occasional arrest, it seems organized protests in Djibouti have come to an end. This country stands out because foreign opinions never seemed to lean in favor of the opposition, which is kind of confusing to me. These people had the same grievances against their leader as in other countries, yet the UK called for the protests to stop. I kind of hope the people who aren't arrested are planning another protest. Wikipedia says this country's protests are done. I hope they're wrong.

More information can be found at,, and

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Syria

The protests in Syria kicked off January 26, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
 Syria is a country I've been looking forward to covering. From what I've heard about the Syrian protests, this country has a unique story to tell and a particularly strong base of angry protesters who aren't likely to go away until their demands are met. I'm hoping they have the intestinal fortitude to see their fight through to the end.

Basic History
Syria's official name is the Syrian Arab Republic. Geographically, it is located in western Asia, and it is considered a Middle East country. Important bordering countries include: Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. The capital is Damascus. The population is estimated at 22.5 millions people. The language is Arabic.

Syria's most recent leader is President Bashar al-Assad. He has been in power since 2000. Syria is under one party rule under its President. It also has two Vice Presidents, a Prime Minister, and a Council of Ministers. The president is approved by referendum for a 7 year term. Of course, the leader of the Ba'ath Party is always the one chosen for President. The Prime Minister is Muhammad Naji al-Otari. He has been in office since 2003. I can't seem to find the information about how the Prime Minister of Syria is chosen, so if you know, let me know and I'll edit this post.

The country has been under Emergency Law since 1963 when the Ba'ath Party came to power. The president appoints ministers, declares war and states of emergency, issues laws, amends the constitution, and appoints civil servants and military personnel subject to the law. Decrees issued by the president must be approved by the People's Council to become law, except during a state of emergency (which has been in force since before the ratification of the constitution).

In terms of  independence, Syria got free of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and from the French in 1946. After the First World War, the area that included Syria came under French control in 1918 through the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. For decades, there were various battles and fights for independence, with the French winning most of the fights and suppressing the uprisings against them. Then, in 1936, there was Treaty of Independence for Syria and France, but it was never ratified by the French legislature.Syria proclaimed its independence in 1941, but it wasn't recognized until 1944. Amid pressure from the Syrians and British, the French troops finally withdrew in 1946. Since 1970, Syria has been under the majority rule of the Ba'ath Party.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: poor human rights, lack of freedom, the permanent state of emergency.

On January 26th, Hasan Ali Akleh from Al-Hasakah, set himself on fire in protest against the government. This was the first self-immolation done in protest, and is seen as the genesis of the Syrian protests. Ironically, five days later, an interview with President al-Assad published in the Wall Street journal in which he referred to his country as immune from the kinds of mass protests taking place in Egypt.

As February began, Human Rights Watch, which has been doing a good job of keeping track of the true facts of the protests and the casualties, as well as civil rights violations, reported violence against people in the capital city of Damascus. They were holding a candle light vigil for for the Egyptian demonstrators. They were attacked by people in civilian clothing.

In early February, protests were scheduled for February 4th and 5th, outside the Syrian parliament in Damascus and for the Syrian embassies around the world. These were organized and highly publicized on Facebook and Twitter. The only protests were a few hundred people gathered in al-Hasakah. The protest was quickly squashed by Syrian authorities.

After the failure of attempts to a "day of rage," Al Jazeera called the country "a kingdom of silence" and identified key factors for stability within Syria as being strict security measures, the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad, and fears of potential sectarian violence in the aftermath of a government ouster (akin to neighbouring Iraq).

In middle to late February, spontaneous protests arose, but were quickly dispersed. Videos of the protests and their causes were uploaded onto YouTube. There were also protests outside the Libyan embassy in Damascus against Qaddifi. When security forces showed up, the protesters began chanting, "traitors are those that beat their people." The security forces did disperse the protest, but there was less violence.

March saw lots of interesting and unique protests happening. A number of young boys, all under the age of 15, were arrested for tagging walls with "the people want to overthrow the regime." Political prisoners started a hunger strike to protest "political detentions and oppression". The government responded by releasing people imprisoned for political crimes before March 8, 2011. And President al-Assad seeked a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 9, 2011.

The Syrian leadership has been accused of sending troops to Libya to help Qaddafi slaughter his people. Also, they have celebrated Mubarak's fall in Egypt simply in the hope that the new government will not be so friendly to Israel. Also, they have encouraged the disappearance of activists in Lebanon.

There has been a new call for mass protests on March 15th. This situation is still unresolved and there's no telling how it will turn out since al-Assad seems to have no problem with arresting and torturing his people.

More information can be found at,, and http://www.alarabiya.n/.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Gabon

The protests in Gabon kicked off on January 26, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Gabon is a country I hadn't really heard in the list of countries having popular protests during this time. The name arose, along with Cameroon, while I was researching protests in other African countries. I was actually very surprised that the protests started in January. To say the least, this country hasn't made front page news. But today is the day to learn about them.
Basic History
Gabon's official name is in French, République Gabonaise. This is Gabonese Republic in English. Geographically, it is located in West Central Africa. Important bordering countries include: Cameroon. The capital is Libreville. The population is estimated at 1.5 million people. The language is French, but there are also at least two local vernacular languages.

Gabon's most recent leader is President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Gabon is a republic with universal suffrage and a presidential form of government under the constitution. The president is elected for a 7-year term. A 2003 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits and facilitated a presidency for life. The president can appoint and dismiss the prime minister, the cabinet, and judges of the independent Supreme Court. The president is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Prime Minister is Paul Biyoghé Mba.

In terms of  independence, Gabon elected its first president in 1961. Before that it had been one of four territories of French Equatorial Africa. The French were instrumental in Gabonese elections and even to this day have troops in Gabon not far from the capital, but the government is run by nationalists.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: dissatisfaction with the ruling party's constitutional changes, discontent over the results of the 2009 presidential elections.

On January 25th, Andre Mba Obame declared himself to be president of Gabon. He claimed this based on a documentary that said the results of the 2009 election showed Obame with 42% of the vote while President Ali Bongo received only 37%.  The documentary said the results that were published inverted these results. Also, President Ali Bongo changed the constitution so that term limits could be extended indefinitely in case of emergency.

This led to protests and clashes between the official and unofficial governments of Gabon that started on January 26th, with the formation of the unofficial government that included  his 'Prime Minister' Raphaël Bandega-Lendoye. Protests were organized and the government worked to get into place army units to suppress the protests.

The official government has mainly responded to the unofficial government with total denial. Pretending something doesn't exist is a tactic bound to fail. Throughout late January and early February, there were many protests and cases of civil unrest. It went largely unreported nationally because of the news in Egypt.

The unofficial government hid out in the local United Nations Development Programme office, while President Bongo shut down TV stations and allegedly kidnapped members of the opposition. After the initial protests, which mainly consisted of oppositionists loyal to Obame, the protests grew to a wider social conflict, with many students joining in the protest.

Something that is quite unbelievable is how difficult it is to find anything on Gabon later than mid-February. I guess there aren't enough journalists to go around to cover this story as well. But I finally found some information updated in the last couple of days. Obame and his cohorts had finally left the UNDP in the capital city of Libreville, Gabon on February 27th after negotiations with Bongo through the UN.

Some of the members of the unofficial government have already been summoned by Gabonese intelligence services for questioning. There have been public remarks about the people in the unofficial government being brought to "justice."

Some people in the country remain convinced that a revolution is on the way. There have also been accusations toward the French for supporting dictators. Dictator may (or may not) be a strong word for an elected president, but it stand nonetheless that Gabon's current president, Ali Bongo is being accused of misappropriating funds from before he was elected President.

As of now, there have been no resolutions to any of the problems causing the protests. I'm hoping there will be more coverage of these protests sooner rather than later.

More information can be found at,,

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Egypt

The protests in Egypt kicked off on January 25, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Egypt has received a lot of American press about it's protests. Also, it's protests have had the strongest result of the protests. Egypt's protests have actually resulted in revolution making it, along with Tunisia, one of only two countries so far to have achieved its major goals.

Basic History
Egypt's official name is the Arab Republic of Egypt. Geographically, it is located mainly in north Africa, but it has a Sinai Peninsula that connects it with southwest Asia. Important bordering countries include: Libya and Israel. The capital is Cairo. The population is estimated at 79.1 millions people. The language is Arabic.

Egypt's most recent leader (before the revolution) was President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak (surname Mubarak). He assume the presidency in 1981 after the assassination of Mohammed Anwar el-Sadat.  Egypt's government is run by a committee of military leaders (called a military junta), and for a long time, there was no Vice President of Egypt. By convention, the president controls foreign-affairs and defense-related issues of the state, while the prime minister manages the day-to-day affairs including the economy. The Prime Minister was Ahmed Nazif. The current Prime Minister is Essam Sharaf.

In terms of  independence, Egypt had a relatively long road from its first nationalist groupings in 1879 to the UK acknowledging the country's independence in 1922. At first, Egypt was run by a popular Prime Minister, Saad Zaghlul. But that only lasted until the 1950s, when the country elected a president. When he died in 1970, Anwar Sadat succeeded him. When he was assassinated in 1981, his Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, succeeded him. Mubarak chose not to pick at Vice President.

Egypt has been under Emergency Law since 1967, which allowed for extra security forces, a constant police presence, and unchecked power of the security forces to enforce laws of the leader.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: police brutality, state of emergency laws, food price inflation, low minimum wages, and lack of free speech.

Egypt's history of protests against Mubarak goes back to 2003 with the formation of the Egyptian Movement for Change, which opposed Mubarak and wanted democratic reforms and changes to civil liberties. It peaked in 2005 with the presidential elections. There was unrest within the group because of internal dissent and frustration with its inability to affect real change. But the support for the group came from across the political spectrum, which probably went a long way in letting the Egyptian people know they could find common ground if they had a common enemy: Hosni Mubarak.

The protests in 2011 kicked off on January 25, 2011. Egypt's protests stood out as mainly peaceful, gaining it's strength from instances of civil disobedience in the form of ignoring curfews, bans on protesting, and common norms of separating people of different genders and economic classes. The only time the protests turned violent is when the anti-Mubarak protesters had to defend themselves against pro-Mubarak thugs who were overwhelmingly violent against Egyptian citizens and foreign journalists, aid workers, and human rights workers.

After what happened in Tunisia, there were several attempts at self-immolation in Egypt in front of the Egyptian Parliament. Even though Egypt was seen as full of people with little aspirations and little hope for toppling a government with the backing of a powerful military, these events convinced people that Egypt would be the next place to have an uprising.

On January 25th, which is National Police Day, the first major protests began. They were mostly led by young organizers. The most recognized opposition leaders, as well as international allies, were at first supportive of the current regime as it stood so far as to encourage reforms to take place within the current system of government. Some opposition groups did support the initial protest and were behind it 100%. The government's security forces made plans to deal with the protests strictly because they were illegal and expressly forbidden.

Thousands gathered in Cairo and all over the country to protest Hosni Mubarak. The protests were mostly peaceful, but there were still civilian and police casualties. On the following Friday, January 29th, there was a Day of Rage. This was the first of many that would occur throughout the Middle East. Protesters gathered together after their Friday prayers.

After four days of protests, Hosni Mubarak appeared on television and pledged to form a new government. I'm guess the increasing military and police presence probably convinced the protesters that he didn't really mean it. Also at this time, he appointed Omar Suleiman to fill the long-vacant position of Vice President. And he changed his Prime Minister to Ahmed Shafik from Ahmed Nazif.

The protesters spent the night out in the street in Tahrir Square in Cairo together, some vowing not to go home until Mubarak was no longer in charge. Also at this time, the first reports emerged of the military refusing to fire live ammunition on protesters. This was a hallmark difference of the protests in Egypt versus other countries mentioned thus far (chronologically).

Mubarak appeared on television again at the beginning of February to announce he would not run for re-election in September of 2011. He said there would be political reforms and he would stay in office to see those reforms through. The protesters basically called "bullshit" and began to call for his immediate ouster. At this time, there also began to be clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters.

The clashes between pro-and anti-Mubarak protesters quickly escalated, with the army serving to try and keep them separated. Still, there were hundreds of casualties during this time in early February. Also, foreign journalists were being attacked, and live footage of these attacks were seen on American networks such as the attack against CNN's Anderson Cooper.

On February 10th, Mubarak again addressed his people to dispel rumors of a military coup, but also to transfer some of his powers to his Vice President, Omar Suleiman. The protesters were under the impression Mubarak was about to resign and they would then setup a new government. His remarks were met with frustration and anger and after that, the protests increased in size and vigor.

Something that stood to out to me during this time was the way the Egyptian people came together. On Fridays, the Christians protected the Muslims during their prayers. And on Sundays, the Muslims protected the Christians during their Mass. The people in Tahrir Square setup roadblocks, sanitation crews, and they had well organized supplies, donations, and materials. They showed that they were able to govern themselves and they were not only able to survive under a President serving for life who intended to have his son replace him one day.

The day after Mubarak handed control to Suleiman, Suleiman announced that the Parliament of Egypt would be dissolved and in its place would be the  Armed Forces Supreme Council, of which he was a member. The constitution would be suspended for six months, during which time the council would develop a new constitution and prepare for free and fair elections. The Egyptian people love their Army and see it as instrumental to the success of their revolution. Many were satisfied with this solution, as long as the promised reforms were enacted.

The army promised not to run a candidate in the elections. There were still protests going on in Egypt to protest various problems with the revolution transition. A big example of this is they saw the Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, as a Mubarak guy and therefore not likely to help the process of the revolution along. There were major protests scheduled against him on March 4th, but he resigned on March 3rd.

The Egyptians have been working not just on the formation of their new government, but seeking out punishment for the biggest grievances of the former government. On March 6th, protesters acquired evidence of voter tampering from the latest presidential election.

The revolution was considered relatively peaceful until the interference of pro-Mubarak protesters. The death told is estimated at just under 400 people. The injury estimate is in the thousands. The things that stand out about the Egyptian protests include: the strong role of women and the call for the reforms to be both democratic and secular.

Also, America's response stood out to me. This was the first revolution that garnered enough attention to require publicly released responses by American government officials. It took them a while to get the response correct, but Egypt was the genesis of changing opinions of American officials on how to deal with the regime changes of these dictator whom we've supported for so long.
More information can be found at,, and The New York Times Online.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Saudi Arabia

The protests in Saudi Arabia kicked off on January 21, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Saudi Arabia comes next in chronological order. This country has stood out to me in news reports because it's government is controlled by Sunnis, who are the overwhelming majority in Saudi Arabia. This is different from other countries that are controlled by a Sunni minority or controlled by a Shiite majority. These differences are part of the source of tension between Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

Basic History
Saudi Arabia's official name is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Geographically, Saudi Arabia is located on the Arab Peninsula. Important bordering countries include: Jordan, Oman, Iraq, and Yemen. The capital is Riyadh. The population is estimated at 27.1 million people. The language is Arabic, though English is also spoken there.

Saudi Arabia's most recent leader is King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz. The Saudi government is setup as an absolute monarchy, and the king must comply with Sharia law and the Qur'an. The king must be chose from among the sons and grandsons of the the first king, Abdul Aziz al Saud. The king is also the Prime Minister and presides over the Council of Ministers. The country is effectively ruled by the royal family, which includes at least 7000 members, some more prominent than others.

In terms of  independence, the modern state of Saudi Arabia was created in 1932. There is a colorful history that includes the al Saud house (the rulers of the country). The ultimate independence that resulted in the Saudi Arabia that exists today came from the Ottoman empire that had various versions of control over the years.

Saudi Arabia is seen as particularly corrupt because of the way their ministries are setup. The princes (especially the descendants of King Abdul Aziz) are the leaders of most the Ministries. They have a habit of their personal wealth commingling with the monies of their respective Ministries.

Saudi Arabia also is the home of the two holiest places in Islam, Mecca and Medina. They also hold the world's largest oil reserve. These two things have a huge affect on the country's culture, economy, and human rights issues. An especially large problem is the terrorism committed worldwide being the work of Saudi nationals.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: poor infrastructure and prisoners being held without trial.

The Saudi protests kicked off on January 21st when a 65 year old man died after setting himself on fire. This is considered the kingdom's first self-immolation. Then there was a flood in the city of Jeddah, which highlighted the poor infrastructure. There were protests on January 29th for this reason.

On February 10th, the Umma Islamic Party was formed. The main purpose of this opposition party, the first Saudi political party since the 1990s, is to demand to end of the absolute monarchy. A week a later, all the founding members of the party were arrested.

Also during this time, there were protests held in a mainly Shi'a (that's the Shiite people) town because three political prisoners had been held since a protest in March of 2009. The three prisoners were released on February 20th. After this, there were more protests in other locations for the release of other political prisoners.

The protests have largely been about governmental reforms and inclusion of the Saudi people in dialogues and decisions for the country. In March, people protested against prisoners being held without trial. The number of protesters has been relatively small compared with the size of the protests in other countries. The protesters were arrested and responded to with force. Protesting is expressly banned in Saudi Arabia.

March 11th was organized as a Day of Rage for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Libya. By this point, the protests have expanded to include several hundred people. The cities that have seen protests so far include: Qatif, Hofuf, al-Amawiyah, Riyadh, and Jeddah. There has been increasingly heavy police presence in these areas.

The next big protest called for on the social media site Facebook is set for March 20th. Some of the protesters have grown to the point of calling for the ouster of the regime, but there is no telling how this particular story will end.

More information can be found at,, and

Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

I want to take a short break from discussing the protests in the Middle East and Africa for just another moment.

I hope you have heard about the earthquake and how devastating it was. But I also hope you have heard about how much more devastating it would have been if not for the preparedness of the Japanese people.

The death toll is constantly rising and they are still discovering more people missing. But there is good news too. Some communities, where all the people should have been affected by the waves, are safe in very large numbers. They followed the Japanese procedures of evacuation for earthquake and they got to places of safely very quickly and avoided being washed out to sea by the tsunami.

If the waves produced from that earthquake had reached North America's and Central America's west coasts, they wouldn't have been nearly as prepared. The waves did hit the coasts, but they were not tsunami waves, so thank God. But America doesn't have the investments in infrastructure that Japan does, so had those waves happened, we would have been screwed.

I'm glad there's been so much coverage of what's going on right now in Japan. They will be reeling from this for a while, but in these current times, it makes me happy that we have more than just a global economy, we have a global community. and The New York Times Online both have continuously updated information about what's happening in Japan as it happens.

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Yemen

The protests in Yemen kicked off on January 18, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Yemen comes next in the chronological order. You don't hear much about Yemen in American news. You may hear more if you go to the global news pages of websites, but this definitely one of those countries of which America is wholly uninformed about the people and places and culture that makes Yemen the country it is.

Basic History
Yemen's official name is the Republic of Yemen. Geographically, Yemen is located in southwest Asia, and it considered a Middle East country. Important bordering countries include: Saudia Arabia and Oman. The capital is Sana'a. Yemen is actually made up of a mainland and over 200 islands, the largest of which is called Socotra. The population estimated at 23.6 million people. The language is Arabic.

Yemen's most recent leader is President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He has been ruling Yemen for over 32 years. The President is the head of state, and they have a Prime Minister who is the head of government, over the two legislative Parliament bodies. The Prime Minister is Ali Mohammed Mujur. Their government is setup as a presidential democracy, though the upper body of Parliament's members are all appointed by the President.

In terms of  independence, Yemen gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1918. Yemen (and the entire region of southern Arabia) has a long history of being under the control of whoever the big controlling power was at the time, going all the way back to 12th century BC. The country was two separate entities ruled by a monarchy and the British. North and South Yemen each gained their republics in the 1960s and in 1990, they united at the Republic of Yemen.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: unemployment, government corruption, the government's plans to modify Yemen's constitution, and poor living conditions.

The Yemeni protesters chose the color pink to signify their revolution attempts as a Jasmine Revolution, and to suggest their non-violent intentions.

The main problem outside of economic problems for the Yemeni people was President Saleh's plan to run again for President and then eventually pass the Presidency on to his son. The people saw this as outrageous since he'd already run again for the last election though he'd previously promised not to, and hand-selecting his son to run went against the ideals of a republic. The big problem with President Saleh's proposed changes to government is that he would be allowed to be President for life, no election needed.

The rising opposition to Saleh within his own government has been growing for years. The unrest amongst his people has been growing too, surging in recent history as food prices rose. The initial protests were in the capital city of Sana'a as well as southern Yemen cities. The protests is the south were considerably more aggressive. The protests were in the thousands and called for a stop to the constitutional reforms, and improvement of the Yemeni economy, and the ouster of President Saleh.

The Yemeni government responded to those first protests with suggested changes, but they were rejected by the opposition as not enough. They wanted to ensure that Saleh and his son would not be able to rule indefinitely.  The protests continued around Yemen, and there were reports of the protests not being "popular protests" like in Egypt and Tunisia, but being wholly organized by the opposition parties.

A particularly violent day in Yemen occurred when the protesters celebrated Hosni Mubarak's ouster from Egypt. They were attacked with sticks, knives, and assault rifles. This was February 11th. Pretty much after this point, there were commonplace reports of protesters being beaten by government anti-protest forces. The numbers of protesters grew too. A significant portion of the daily protesters were identified as college and university students.

As February wore on, the calls from the protesters were for the ouster of the regime. Saleh was trying to negotiate with opposition parties to prevent his ouster. There were also pro-government rallies being held around the country. As the number of protesters being killed and wounded and arrested rose, the protesters called for the violence to stop. Yemeni clerics declared the violence against the protesters a crime.

At the end of February, some members of the government resigned in protest of the violence being used against the protesters. As February turned into March, an opposition leader rejected Saleh's proposal of a unity government and called for his ouster. Also, the number of protesters swelled in various cities from tens of thousands to almost 200,000 people.

March has seen the opposition offer Saleh a proposal for him to remain in office but leave by the end of 2011. He rejected this proposal. It has also seen the Yemeni Air Force dropping bombs in locations where thousands of protesters have gathered. More members of the ruling party resigned from Parliament. Over a million people showed up for a protest in southern Yemen. Some members of The Army switched sides to protest against the government.

Saleh offered reforms to switch to a parliamentary system of government. It was rejected as "too little too late". He has blamed the United States and Israel, just like almost every other leader in countries with protests happening. What's going on in Yemen right now is still developing daily.

The most recent news I have of the protests is that March 11th was being called the "Friday of No Return". The protesters were hunkering down to let Saleh know the only resolution was for him to step down as President. March 12th marks the second day of harsh crackdowns on anti-government protesters. Security forces have opened fire on the protesters and have killed people. There's no telling to what height these clashes will escalate, or when the end will come in.
More information can be found at,, and

NFL Woes

I love football. It's my favorite sport, by far. So one would think I was heartbroken over what's happening right now with the owners and the players. But I'm not.

If the players have a beef, it needs to be settled. I hear people often say that professional sports is one of the last forms of organized slavery. That may be a stretch considering that so man professional athletes are making 7 figures, but they do not have control over certain aspects of their lives.

I support taking control of a bad situation. That's why I was glad to see the names of two of my favorite quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Peyton Manning) on the list of those filing formal litigation since negotiations have fallen through.

Sure this season may not happen. While I'd love an 18-game season, giving me more time to kick butt in m fantasy football league, it will not be the end of the world if it comes a year later than originally planned.

I'm going to blame my anti-fat-cat sentiment for being on the side of someone other than the owners.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Oman

The protests in Oman kicked off on January 17, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/Aftican Revolution/Protest Series.
Oman is up next. don't remember hearing much about these protests except that American journalists didn't think much of the way the Omani government handled the protests.
Basic History
Oman's official name is the Sultanate of Oman. Geographically, Oman is located in southwest Asia, but it is considered a Middle East Country. Important bordering countries include: Saudia Arabia, and Yemen. The capital is Muscat. The population is estimated at 3.8 million people. The language is Arabic.

Oman's most recent leader is Sultan Qābūs ibn Saʻīd as-Saʻīd (surname Qābūs). His name in English is Qaboos bin Said Al Said (surname Qaboos). The Sultan of Oman runs Oman as an absolute monarchy. He is the head of state and also the head of government, and he appoints a cabinet to assist him. In the 1990s, he added an elected advisory council, but Omanis don't have suffrage for all their citizens, so the people still aren't all represented.
In terms of  independence, Oman has been mostly independent. It was never part of the British empire, and the Portuguese only held coastal ports for a short time period.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: unemployment, lack of representation in government, low wages, unfair distribution of oil revenue, and high costs of living. It's interesting that the Omanis have specified throughout their protests that they are not challenging the rule of their sultan, they are simply asking for reforms.

The protests have included marches, riots, and sit-ins.

It started on January 17th in the capital city Muscat with 200 protesters marching for higher wages. The protests continued the next day. They demanded and end to corruption and had a list of demands. They also carried signs of support for the sultan.

At the end of February, the protests spread to other cities, specifically Sohar. The protests had been mostly peaceful, but as we entered March, the protests got more violent as the police clashed with them. At least one person has been killed and many injured by fights with police and rubber bullets. At one point, the set a market in Sohar on fire. It definitely went against the grain of most protests because they didn't remain peaceful, yet they maintained allegiance to their sultan.

The protests have spread outside of Muscat and Sohar as March has continued. One thing that is helping these protests not spread out of control, and to keep the confidence of the people is the fact that the sultan has responded very quickly by instituting some of the reforms requested. He removed specific people from the cabinet. He also decreed that students would be given a stipend from the government. Also, there has been an independent institution setup for consumer protection.

The Omani sultan would be upheld as an example of how to deal with these region-wide protests, except the violence against his people is unacceptable. Time will tell if more reforms are instituted and whether the Omani people remain faithful to their sultan.
More information can be found at,, and

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Lebanon

The protests in Lebanon kicked off on January 12, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/Aftican Revolution/Protest Series.
The next country is Lebanon. Theirs is the second protest that started in the new year. This particular country didn't receive front page coverage in the newspapers that I read frequently, so I particularly enjoyed doing research into what happened here. This country was the first one several I'll cover that have only been mentioned in passing in most American journalism.

Basic History
Lebanon's official name is the Republic of Lebanon. Geographically, it is located in Western Asia, but it is considered a Middle East country. The capital is Beirut. The population is 4.2 million people. The main language is Arabic.

Lebanon's most recent leader is Michel Suleiman. He became president first as a compromise between the polarized sides of Parliament, but he was elected to office in an official election by Parliament in 2008. Lebanon has a unique governmental organization. The President has to be Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister has to be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament has to be a Shi'a Muslim. All the major political parties in Lebanon are setup according to religion.

In terms of Lebanese independence, they've been independent from the French since the 1940s. They declared independence in 1941; it was recognized in 1943, French troops actually left Lebanese soil in 1946. Beirut was considered a very stable country until the Hezbollah war with Israel in 2006. Now, it's rebuilding it's infrastructure. But Beirut was able to avoid the financial recession that rocked most of the globe because of tightly regulated banks.

The Protests
 The main causes cited as the reason for the protests include: lack of secular politics, corruption, and a desire for reform of Lebanese confessionalism.

There was supposed to be a Special Tribunal for Lebanon convened. The goal for that meeting was to indict Hezbollah members for the assassination of a previous Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister refused to call an emergency cabinet session to discuss cooperation with the Tribunal.

On January 12, 2011, the government collapsed after Energy Minister Gebran Bassil announced that all ten opposition ministers had resigned following months of warnings by Hezbollah that it would not remain inactive should there be indictments against the group. On January 17, 2011, the indictments were issued.

The government had lost more than one third of its members and so President Suleiman announced (after accepting the resignations) that according to the Lebanese constitution, he would be responsible for forming a new government and the cabinet would run the government until the new one is complete.

The actual protests didn't begin until Sunday, February 27, 2011 with a rally in Beirut against Confessionalism. There was another protest on Sunday March 6, 2011 that spread to other cities and grew in size and intensity. Where these protests will go is still unknown, but at least they have a uniform claim for secular reform of the sectarian government.

More information about the Lebanese protests can be found at ,,, and The Los Angeles Times.
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