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Middle East in revolt

The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have sparked off a wave of protests throughout the Middle East, raising demands for democratic change and for improvements in living standards.

1. Syria

A routine act of police brutality against a shopkeeper on 17 February spontaneously provoked a crowd of 1,500 passers-by to intervene, forcing the Interior Minister to arrive in person to promise an investigation.

2. Iraq

Pro-occupation prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s promise on 5 February that he would not stand for re-election in 2014 failed to prevent protests against corruption and favouritism in the allocation of public services. In Sulaymaniyah in the autonomous Kurdish region, unemployed youths marched on the party offices of regional president Massoud Barzani.

3. Bahrain

Protesters occupied Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama on 14 February, demanding a new constitution and equal rights for the country’s Shi’a majority. Seven were killed and hundreds injured by police attacks. Within a week, the protests drew in more than half the country’s local population of 570,000, defeating government attempts to split them on sectarian lines. King Hamad has since announced the beginning of a “national dialogue”, the release of political prisoners and a grant of $3,000 to each family.

4. Oman

The government raised the minimum wage by 43 per cent on 17 February to head off protests, while the following day in Kuwait, two protesters were killed as the ‘bidoons’ (stateless residents) demanded citizenship rights.

5. Yemen

A government already weakened by a secessionist movement in the south and a Shi’a tribal uprising in the north faced protests in the southern capital Aden on 14 January.

These were joined on 27 January by tens of thousands in the northern (and national) capital Sana’a demanding the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Demonstrators celebrating the downfall of Egypt’s president Mubarak on 11 February were attacked with knives, sticks, and assault rifles.

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