Socialist Worker

Libya, Bahrain and beyond - revolt continues to spread

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2239

A storm of revolutions, uprisings and revolts continues to thunder across the Middle East. Its speed and scale is breathtaking.

Following the overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia, and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, all regimes in the region—whether considered friendly or hostile to the West—have been challenged by this growing movement.

Libya

Libya has risen in a nationwide revolt against Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule.

The rebellion, centred on the eastern city of Benghazi, has spread like wildfire to the south and towns and villages around Gaddafi's power base in the capital, Tripoli.

It is difficult to verify the emerging news as the state has banned journalists and closed down the internet.

However, rebels in Benghazi seized a radio station on Friday night following a day of bloody confrontations with heavily armed security forces.

They filled the airways with pleas for the uprising to spread, calls for arms and help, and instructions to masses to block the airport and seize key buildings.

As of Saturday, Benghazi and the city of Bayda – the second and third largest cities in Libya – have withstood savage attacks by troops loyal to the dictator.

There are rumours that Gaddafi's nephew was killed when his Benghazi military base was overrun, and that Gaddafi has executed senior military officers, including close family members, in an attempt to survive the rebellion.

Sections of the army and police have come over to the revolution, but the capital remains in the hands of the regime and its thugs.

Bahrain

In Bahrain, a key Gulf island state and home to the US Fifth Fleet, the movement is facing down savage attacks by the police and army to win an important political victory.

Bahrainis returned to the Pearl Roundabout, the heart of their protests, following a bloody attempt to crush their revolt on Friday night.

The Crown Prince appears to have sidelined the King and the interior minister, and called off state security forces and the army. He has offered “talks about reform”.

But the movement's demands have changed and now include a call for the end of the regime. Bahraini trade unions are calling for a general strike.

The King's attempt to drown the protest in a sectarian bloodbath has also backfired.

The ruling family – and key sections of the security forces – are Sunni Muslims, while the vast majority of the population are Shia Muslims.

According to witnesses, security forces shouted sectarian abuse at the demonstrators, who replied, 'Shia and Sunni are united, down with tyranny down with the regime.'

Across the region

Unprecedented demonstrations have taken place in Syria, where large crowds surrounded a police station in the capital, Damascus, following a beating of a young man.

The crowds chanted, 'The Syrian people will not be humiliated.'

Demonstrators in southern Iraq faced down security forces in a protest over corruption. While in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq large crowds have taken to the streets in an attempt to drive out the ruling party.

The unrest has also spread to Kuwait and the eastern region of Saudi Arabia.

In Morocco, crowds attacked a police station and French-owned firms in Tangier in protest against a deal that handed over a utilities contract to a French company.

Last week, young Moroccans attempted to storm the Royal Palace. They are calling for more demonstrations.

Eyewitness reports from Aden say that for the first time thousands of people protested in all areas of the city against the President Ali Saleh's regime. Neither police or Ali's special security force were to be seen.

The manager of the main bank in Aden City has been attacked, beaten and thrown out of his job.

His four sons – who hold also senior positions – have been evicted and workers have taken over the bank.

The same thing has happened to managers of the government-run electricity service. People attribute the huge and continuous increase in their bills to corrupt managers and government officials.

Workers have decided to withhold all payments to central government in order to pay their own wages.

Managers, and those considered to be their collaborators, have been kicked out of a government furniture factory, the port department, and the water department.

Unconfirmed reports say that many other workplaces across the city have been affected by the upsurge in workers takeovers. The Al Jazeera news agency is reporting that tanks are moving into the city.

Additional reporting by Alistair W


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