The 15 member United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Muammar Gaddafi’s regime for its attempts to put down the uprising in Libya, the BBC reports. The Council had met on Saturday in an urgent session on Saturday. They have backed an arms embargo and freeze of the assets of Gaddafi and his eight children and referred Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for alleged crimes against humanity.
The New York Times posted a video of Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, Gaddafi’s son and presumed heir, laughing at reports of the violence on Friday night. He had invited reporters to Tripoli and said:
“Soon you will discover that what you have heard in Libya is just a big joke, a very big joke. And here in Libya, we are laughing about those reports, about hundreds and thousands of civ– of casualties; bombing Tripoli and Benghazi and Zawiya or whatever, and, what? ‘mercenaries.’”
In a video of Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi’s statement at a news conference, it is after saying the above that he laughs.
On Saturday, New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick was among a group of journalists taken on a state-run media tour of Tripoli on Saturday; he was able to speak to some residents and learned about ‘a massacre of at least 15 protesters on Friday’—violence that, it seems, the government is seeking to cover up and deny. Eyewitness accounts reported by the BBC describe people leaving prayers on Friday and being shot at by security forces so that the sky was ‘”raining with bullets.”‘ Below is a video of mourners digging graves for protesters killed in the uprising.
On Saturday, the BBC reports that the ‘capital city was calm, with shops open, people on the streets, and supporters of Col Gaddafi reportedly occupying central Green Square in a public show of support for the beleaguered leader .’
Meanwhile, the evacuation of thousands of foreign nationals, many of whom worked in Libya’s oil industry, continues by land, air, and sea. Two British military transport aircraft picked up about 150 in the desert south of Benghazi and flew them to Malta, says the Guardian. Some 10,000 people remain outside the Tripoli airport with thousands more inside. Most are Egyptians and have been waiting at the airport for several days, the BBC says.
Also on Saturday, in Yemen, a leading tribal leader, Sheikh Hussein al-Ahmar, announced his resignation from the ruling party. He called for the overthrow of the ruling government, which has relied on the supports of the tribes whohold a great deal of power in Yemen. According to Agence France-Presse, a large group of leaders, including elders of Yemen’s second largest confederation, the Baqil, received the Sheikh’s announcement with approval.
Violence flared in Tunisia where three were killed in anti-government protests on Saturday, according to the BBC. Currently there is an interim government in Tunisia under Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who had served under the ousted President Ben Ali since 1999. Ghannouchi has promised elections by mid-July and introduced some reforms and removed a number of controversial cabinet members, but some members of the interim cabinet were figures in Ben Ali’s authoritarian government. According to Reuters, Egyptians fleeing from Libya are pouring in mass numbers into Tunisia.
And protests continue too in Egypt where, says the New York Times, the army dispersed protesters numbering in the tens of thousands from Tahrir Square. The BBC also reports that the Egyptian army has passed a draft of constitutional amendments that will be submitted to a national referendum. Among the proposed changes are that the president would only be allowed to serve two four-year terms, instead of unlimited six-year periods—deposed President Hosni Mubarak had been serving his fifth six-year term when he was ousted earlier this month. Another proposed change is that judicial oversight of elections will be reinstated.
Writing in an op-ed in the New York Times, Fouad Ajami, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes that the Arab revolutions are especially significant because they ‘are the works of the Arabs themselves.’ The Arab people, he writes, have grown ‘weary of the dictators’; the uprisings are an ‘inevitable response to the stagnation of the Arab economies.’ Ajami suggests that the rulers have lost their hold on their people, especially the younger generations:
In this tumult, I was struck by the chasm between the incoherence of the rulers and the poise of the many who wanted the outside world to bear witness. A Libyan of early middle age, a professional and a diabetic, was proud to speak on camera, to show his face, in a discussion with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He was a new man, he said, free of fear for the first time, and he beheld the future with confidence. The precision in his diction was a stark contrast to Colonel Qadaffi’s rambling TV address on Tuesday that blamed the “Arab media” for his ills and called on Libyans to “prepare to defend petrol.”
In the tyrant’s shadow, unknown to him and to the killers and cronies around him, a moral clarity had come to ordinary men and women.
Following Ajami’s commentary about how the Arab uprisings are turning ‘shame into liberty,’ I’ll end this update on a hopeful note, with a video of a rally in front of the People’s Hall in the Libyan city of Misurata, after it was liberated.
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Photo: Screenshot of rally in Misurata (February 25) from Mukhtar Al Asad's YouTube channel.
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