Here is a summary of Thursday’s developments in the Arab world, as anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region.
Troops and tanks lock down the capital of Manama after uprooting a protest camp in a central square, beating demonstrators and blasting them with sprays of birdshot and tear gas. Medical officials say four people are killed. The military bans all gatherings.
The protesters want the ruling Sunni Muslim monarchy, a key U.S. ally in the Gulf, to give up its control over top government posts and all critical decisions. Shiite Muslims make up 70 percent of Bahrain’s 500,000 citizens but say they face systematic discrimination and poverty and are effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military.
While Shiites have clashed with police before, growing numbers of Sunnis have joined the latest protests.
Libyans demonstrate in five cities, defying a crackdown by security forces. Reports emerge that at least 20 demonstrators have been killed in two days of clashes with pro-government groups and security forces. A U.S. rights group says at least 14 people have been arrested. In the capital of Tripoli, government supporters stage counterdemonstrations.
The anti-government protesters demand that Moammar Ghadafi, who has ruled for more than 40 years, step down. Ghadafi has met with tribal leaders, offered to double salaries and released 110 suspected Islamic militants in an attempt to defuse public anger.
Several thousand protesters march in the capital of Sanaa, clashing with police and government supporters swinging batons and daggers. Witnesses say municipal vehicles ferry sticks and stones to the pro-government side.
Protesters have marched for seven straight days in Sanaa and other cities in Yemen. They demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a U.S. ally, who has ruled the Arab world’s poorest nation for 32 years. The demonstrators’ main grievances are poverty and official corruption. Saleh’s promises not to run for re-election in 2013 or to set up his son as an heir have failed to quell the anger.
At least 1,500 Egyptian workers from the Suez Canal Authority protest for better pay in three cities straddling the strategic waterway, one of the world’s major transit routes for shipping and oil transport. The protests are part of growing labor unrest sparked by the 18-day uprising that toppled longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week.
The country’s new military rulers have appealed for calm. They say they need to be able to ensure security in order to move ahead with the rapid democratic reforms protesters are demanding.
Hundreds of Kurdish protesters rally in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah, demanding political reforms from the regional government in the semiautonomous territory. Security forces open fire, killing at least two people. Demonstrations also take place in three southern cities.
Iraq has seen several small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centered in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.
Protesters have been staging marches for the past six weeks, including Wednesday, demanding that Jordan be transformed into a constitutional monarchy in which the prime minister is elected. Currently, King Abullah II retains the power to appoint and dismiss prime ministers and parliament and rule by decree. Protesters also want the government to tackle high unemployment and inflation.
The marches have been largely peaceful. Earlier this week, the interior minister said demonstrators would no longer have to seek government permission for public gatherings, provided public order is not disrupted.