Uprisings spread across Mideast
Change in Egypt, Tunisia alters politics elsewhere
AMMAN, Jordan – To track the growing political movements gaining strength from the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia across North Africa and the Middle East, one would be well-advised to get a planner.
There were Saturday’s clashes between demonstrators and police in Algeria, now referred to as feb12 on Twitter, much as Egypt’s uprising shall forever be known as jan25. New popular protests are scheduled today in both Bahrain (feb14) and Iran (25Bahman). Libya comes next on feb17, followed by Algeria again on feb19, Morocco feb20, Cameroon feb23, and Kuwait mar8.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters in Yemen marched toward the presidential palace before being halted by police. More demonstrators took to the streets in the southern city of Taizz.
Governments across the Middle East are scrambling to step up political concessions, dole out financial benefits and – when that fails – deploy riot police in an attempt to ease instability and buy time.
But the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, where President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled Jan. 14, already have changed the terms of discourse between rulers and the governed, some analysts said. The uprisings, they said, cast doubt on the idea that entrenched Middle Eastern regimes must be preserved at all costs as indispensable barriers to sectarian violence or Islamic extremism.
Instead, protesters from Morocco to Iran are setting aside the region’s traditional religious and geopolitical divides to take on common culprits of corruption, police violence, political repression and vast gaps in wealth.
Though Jordan and Egypt have been in a trench together as the only Arab nations to have signed peace treaties with Israel, thousands of Jordanians flocked to the Egyptian Embassy here Friday in a spontaneous celebration of President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.
“It’s not just solidarity with the Egyptians people are feeling,” said Mohammed Masri, analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. “They feel the victory of Tunisia and Egypt is their own victory … something that they feel they contributed to. And the regimes of the Arab world must now understand that the Arab people have discovered a new route for political change, that is, taking over the streets.”
In Jordan, some are describing the wave of grass-roots dissent sweeping the region as a new pan-Arabism, like the anti-Israeli, anti-Western fervor that mobilized the region in the 1950s and 1960s, this time directed not against Israel and the U.S. but against Arab regimes that have quashed democratic expression and economic opportunity.
“I think what the Egyptian and the Tunisian people have shown is that we have to take responsibility and not simply be victims,” Lamis Andoni, a Palestinian-American journalist and analyst in Jordan, said in an interview.
Many analysts say the wealthy dynasties of the Persian Gulf for the most part are not likely to be seriously rattled by public protests, but are more worried that the collapse of allies such as Mubarak could undermine regional stability and strengthen Iran.