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By Matt Cooper on 21.2.2024

Fall Of Mubarak Sparks Anti-Government Protests Across Arab World

Protests and uprisings have been spreading across North Africa and the Middle East since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to stand down last week. The most serious incidents of conflict and violence have taken place in the Gulf state of Bahrain and in Libya, Egypt’s neighbour. Protesters have also mobilised in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Yemen.

In Bahrain, a small island country off the east coast of Saudi Arabia, there have been reports of security forces shooting protesters, killing one and injuring around 50 others, following continuing rallies over the deaths of four people who were killed on Thursday. The deaths happened during mass demonstrations against the ruling Al-Khalifas family, a Sunni Muslim dynasty who have controlled Bahrain since the 18th century, despite it being a majority Shia nation. The unrest is causing particular concern for the United States; Bahrain is a key ally for the US and their interests in the Gulf region. The US Navy 5th fleet is stationed in Bahrain and is vital for any future US military involvement in the Gulf region, particularly Iraq and Iran.

The demonstrations in Libya have been harder for the global media to follow due to the Libyan government’s news blackout. However, stories are emerging of heated protests spreading across the country, which have been met by a brutal response from government forces. In Libya’s second city, Benghazi, government forces were reported to have shot dead around 50-100 people and wounded dozens more in clashes.

Meanwhile, in Iran, opposition to President Ahmadinejad has been reignited as they continue protests that have been common since the disputed 2009 election. The Iranian government has been harsh in cracking down on opposition since then, but they have failed to stop demonstrators repeatedly and publicly calling for reform.

The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have continued since protests in Tunisia encouraged President Ben Ali to step down in January and seem unlikely to end soon. Many people have been encouraged after events in Egypt proved that leaders can be ousted by popular protest. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been used frequently during the unrest in order to quickly spread news, ideas and locations for new and continuing protests.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that the root of the anger in the Arab world was from, “decades of neglect of people’s aspirations to realise not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.”

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