As I was scanning the news from the uprising today, CNN was playing Ben Wedeman’s report from Benghazi, Libya and at one point they show the masses and masses gathered a few days ago, all chanting ” Al Sha’ab u’reed isghat al nizam (the people demand the end of the regime).” Wedeman says he does not feel up to the task of describing what he is seeing, that the pictures speak for themselves. And they do. Along with the fear and sorrow and all, the faces glow with an amazing … joy.
I was struck by this again today while looking at a great set of photos which the GorillasGuides team has posted from yesterday’s protests in Iraq – one is shown here, you can view the rest here.
In the midst of so much horror – and the threat of so much more, it just feels important to stop, to pause a moment and look closely at these faces.
Back to the news today.
Libya continues to fight Gadaffi. With each day, a few more towns are won, a few more officials come over to the uprising – and it is a pleasure to hear the Al Jazeera reporters ask them why they never spoke up before. While a small number of western reporters have been allowed inside Tripoli – and Nick Robertson says that their movements are not limited, they are not allowed to leave the city and heavy gunfire is heard throughout their broadcast reports. An Al Jazeera source in Tripoli reports:
10:25pm AJE source says that “security officials were at Tripoli medical centre all day today … the injured did not go in for help”. He estimates that 70 were killed last night alone.
The airbase of Misrata has fallen and ShababLibya (Libyan Youth) point to an amazing video of the funeral for those who died in that fight. They also report that there are rumors that Gadaffi’s loyalists are about to attack and try to retake the town of Zawiya which was liberated two days ago.
The UN continues to debate what actions to take while Obama has finally called for Gadaffi to step down.
In Benghazi meanwhile, an interim government has been set up and efforts are underway to organize a defense against possible attacks by Gadaffi. Al Jazeera provides this photo of the press center which has been established there along with “printing press, newspaper, medical clinics and satellite internet.”
In Iraq, the death toll for yesterday’s protests is at 18 with 140 injured. The Washington Post reports:
Iraqi security forces detained about 300 people, including prominent journalists, artists and lawyers, who took part in nationwide demonstrations Friday, in what some of them described as an operation to intimidate Baghdad intellectuals who hold sway over popular opinion.
On Saturday, four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest of thousands at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
“It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists,” said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. “Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq.”
And yet the Boston Globe tells us that:
But according to US Embassy officials, the Iraqi Army and police appear to have passed this test following years of high-priority training by US military advisers to help them function as a standalone, sovereign force.
In reports from around Iraq today, GorillasGuides Abdus-Samad reports that in Sulimaniya there was a bomb attack on the protesters in the center of the city, killing two and injuring twelve more. Burhan Aydin reports that an additional 5,000 Peshmerga have arrived in Kirkuk, claiming to be there to protect the Kurdish party headquarters but widely believed to be part of the attempt to seize Kirkuk for Kurdistan. Mohamed Ibn Laith reports on Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s representatives remarks yesterdy but unfortunately the google translation is quite hard to follow. Bloomberg provides a summary stating that:
Iraq’s senior Shiite Muslim clerics affirmed the right to peaceful demonstrations as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Iraqis to stay home after five people were reported killed in clashes with security forces.
“Demonstrations on the streets of Iraq are taking place because people are collectively saying that they want to be heard,” Sheikh Ahmed Al-Safi told thousands of Muslims gathered at Imam Hussein Square in the southern city of Karbala today. “The constitution guarantees the right of protests and it is the right of any person to protest peacefully.”
Al-Safi is a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite religious leader.
Azzaman provides a stunning editorial in response to the demonstrations – here’s a sampling but you can read the whole piece here – Iraqis revolt against their ‘liberation’ by the U.S.: (h/t Maryam)
Iraqis are supposed to have been ‘liberated’ by their U.S. occupiers. They are supposed to be enjoying the fruits of their occupation by the world’s most powerful nation. They are supposed to have democracy, unlike other Arab countries whose nations are rising against their dictators.
The U.S., childishly, thought it could bring democracy to Iraq by toppling its dictator who was as worse as the current Libyan despot who has been strafing his own people with helicopter gunships.
How naïve the U.S. was. It thought it could bring its own lackeys and install them as satraps to rule the country democratically…
Iraqis, who think of themselves as the real revolutionaries of the Arab world, are embarrassed and ashamed. They wanted to have the change on their own, the way the Egyptians toppled Mubarak’s presidency.
The U.S. did no good for Iraqis. It has humiliated them in the eyes of the Arab nations. They were the ones to have risen first and toppled their dictator by their own hands.
How glad we the Iraqis would have been if we today, like other Arabs, rose against our dictator and had him toppled.
IraqiRevolutions has videos from across Iraq yesterday – you can view them here.
Finally for now, in Egypt there are several important developments. Following last night’s army attack on protesters in Tahrir Square, the army has apologized but many are not accepting their answer:
The 6th of April movement called for a sit-in in the square starting Saturday as a reaction to the violence, while other activists announced a protest starting Tuesday.
Khalid, along with dozens of protesters, pitched his tent this morning in the square after the army allegedly damaged it last night, vowing to stay until the remaining demands of the revolution are met. “We have a goal and nothing will stop us from reaching it.”
Khalid, who was in the square last night, said the army attacked protesters shortly after midnight, destroying tents and the memorial for the revolution’s martyrs. He adds that soldiers with covered faces attacked protesters with tasers and batons, hitting and insulting male and female protesters alike.
“What we saw was the epitome of humiliation, to be sitting there feeling safe knowing that the army is protecting us only to find them attacking us,” said Khalid. “We were not surprised when the Ministry of Interior treated us that way but we didn’t expect it from the army.”
Mona, a petite teenager who was also there last night, says an army officer electrocuted her with a taser, causing her to faint. She said that after she regained consciousness, army officers proceeded to hit her with batons and step on her while calling her names.
Salma Saeed, an activist who was also present, said that, after destroying their tents, a high-ranking army officer threatened the protesters that if they broke the curfew the next day, live ammunition will be used against them.
An army general has been appointed the new head of Egyptian media – a move Zeinobia discusses:
Speaking about the media I am that not concerned about having an army general supervising on the ERTU but I am rather concerned to the facts that TV shows and TV presenters are being banned from Egyptian TV channels.
Aside from the alarming fact that Mohamed ElBaradei is still persona non grata from Egyptian TV channels , we found out that any criticism to the Ahmed Shafik’s cabinet is not welcomed anymore.
Last Thursday Amr Ellissy hosted on air Ibrahim Eissa who attacked Ahmed Shafik and his cabinet. In its re-run on Friday people were surprised to find that the whole part concerning Ahmed Shafik was cut !! Later we found out that Ahmed Shafik himself interfered and called the CEO of Dream TV 2 on the phone objecting on what Eissa said. Today we found out that Amr Ellissy’s popular show that exposed the poverty in Mubarak’s era has been stopped by orders from above.
El-Lathy spoke with Wael Ghonim on phone and he told him that he did not know that if he would go on air again or not , he also added that there are still those who determine who should go on the air and who should not
With Wael Ghonim saying on twitter after last night’s attack:
@Ghonim Dear Army, what we did was a revolution and not a game. We won’t accept cosmetic changes. This government MUST be fired!
You have to suspect he will not be invited back on TV any time soon.