Protests in Oman; Demonstrations Planned in Saudi Arabia; Police But No Protests in China [VIDEO]
In North Africa and Middle East, protests have spread to Oman, while demonstrations are to occur in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in March. But anonymous calls for ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests in China resulted in a mass show of police force and few, if any, protesters. Analysts have noted that uprising such as have occurred throughout the Arab world are unlikely in China, whose robust economy has lifted millions out of poverty in the past 30 years.
In the oil-rich Gulf state of Oman—the oldest independent state in the Arab world and a long-time ally of the US and of the UK—two were killed in clashes with security forces this weekend. The BBC says that police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into protesters in the industrial city of Sohar, where demonstrations have been going on for two days. A small protest was held last week in Oman’s capital, Muscat, with calls for greater democracy and jobs; protests have also occurred in southern town of Salalah. On Saturday, Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has been in power since 1970 when he seized power from his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, changed six ministers in his cabinet for “the public’s interest.” He also announced that social benefits for students would be increased.
Opposition forces in Libya are nearing the capital, having seized the city of Zawiya, thirty miles from Tripoli where Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi remains in power. Residents of Zawiya spoke of their city as having earned nickname “the silent lion” in fights against Italian occupation and in other battles in Libya’s pre-Qaddafi history, and that the city was earning that name again, the New York Times reports.
…the confidence of the demonstrators in Zawiya was remarkable, all the more so because it was witnessed as part of the official tour for international journalists that Colonel Qaddafi’s government organized. The public relations effort, apparently intended to show a stable Libya to the outside world, appeared to backfire, as a tour of Tripoli had on Saturday.
Instead, the tour, whose minders were forced to wait at the city’s outskirts, showed a nation where the uprising had reached the capital’s doorstep, underscoring a growing impression that the ring of rebel control around Tripoli was tightening. But in a sign that the fight was far from over, armed government forces were seen massing around the city.
The city of Benghazi in the east of Libya is emerging as the center of the rebellion. Former justice minister, Mustafa Mohamed Abd al-Jalil, who defected to the opposition last week, has said that he will head a caretaker government that would hold elections within three months. He has been meeting with tribal leaders and military commanders who have also defected and says that ‘the opposition had no intention of organizing a breakaway state.’
Obama administration officials met with European and other allied governments on Sunday to discuss the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, says the New York Times; such a no-fly zone is meant to prevent further killings of civilians in Libya by forces who remain loyal to Gaddafi. Italy also suspended its 2008 treaty with Libya that included a nonagression clause; by doing so, Italy would be able to participate in future peacekeeping operations in Libya. Said Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, in a television interview: ‘”We signed the friendship treaty with a state, but when the counterpart no longer exists — in this case the Libyan state — the treaty cannot be applied.”‘
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In Tunisia, a key demand of demonstrators was met when Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who had widely been seen as an extension of the deposed government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, stepped down. In a televised news conference, Ghannouchi said ‘“This resignation is a service to Tunisia’s revolution….My conscience is clear.”’
Protests chanting ‘”No dialogue until the regime is gone”‘ ‘paralyzed’ the capital of Bahrain, Manama, on Sunday. The Guardian notes that the Gulf state is ‘among the most politically volatile nations in the Gulf,’ having a majority (70%) of Shi’ites claiming widespread discrimination by the Sunni rulers. There were no reports of violence.
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And in Saudi Arabia, social media sites have called for protests on March 11; in Kuwait, demonstrations are planned for March 8. More than 100 Saudi intellectuals and activists have joined calls made on the internet for Saudi King Abdullah to bring about ‘sweeping reforms,’ as well as to relinquish many of his powers. As the Guardian reports, Abdullah has ‘tried to fend off the rumblings with a spending spree,’ including a $36 billion package offering interest free loans to Saudis for needs such as marriage, starting a business or buying furniture. He is also offering is to allow government sector workers employed under temporary contracts to be offered permanent jobs with major benefits.
Far more police than protesters were present at ‘Jasmine Revolution’ rallies announced via social media sites on Sunday in China. According to the Guardian, Chinese citizens were urged to show their desire for reform by ‘strolling’ past a McDonald’s on Wangfujing shopping street in Beijing and spots in 22 other mainland cities, but there were no formal protests. However, a US journalist was punched and kicked in the face and more than a dozen other journalists ‘manhandled, detained or delayed’ as they covered the events. Protesters would not have been able to gather on the designated streets as street cleaning vehicles and men with brooms appeared to clean the streets that had been designated as sites for peaceful demonstrations.
Video (with German commentary) of China’s ‘nervous’ response to anonymous calls for peaceful protests:
Analysts have said that it is unlikely that China will see the uprisings that have arisen throughout the Middle East and North Africa since early this year. As the Guardian notes,
Although China downgraded its 2011 growth forecast on Sunday – from 8% to 7% – the country continues to enjoy a remarkable economic rise that began 30 years ago and has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.
However, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network (CHRD), the ‘harshest crackdown on dissidents and activists in years’ has occurred recently, with more than 100 people summoned or brought in for questioning, and five people—including ‘high-profile’ blogger Ran Yunfei–detained on state-security charges that carry decades-long prison sentences.
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Photo of women protesters in Bahrain by Al Jazeera English.