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Friday
Oct282011

Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Back on the Streets?

An anti-regime protest in Zabadani, outside the Syrian capital Damascus, last night

See also,Bahrain Feature: The Freedom Torch Protests
Syria Video Special: Today's Protests Across the Country

Bahrain Propaganda 101: Foreign Minister Gets a Boost from Washington's Journalists
Thursday's Syria, Yemen (and Beyond): Child Martyrs and Broken Promises


2230 GMT: Upset at the disqualification of a political party for "irregularities" from Sunday's election, a crowd of protesters allegedly tried to attack the regional government headquarters today in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Police reportedly fired into the air to disrupt the protests:

2221 GMT: Al Jazeera is now reporting that today's death toll in Syria has topped 40. The other significant development? Most of the protesters were killed in Hama, adding credibility to details that EA reported earlier.

2055 GMT: An EA source checks in from Bahrain,reporting that the 14 February Coalition has launched a new wave of protests: "Freedom Torch". We give the details in a separate entry.

1925 GMT: 17 minutes ago, the activist group LCCS posted this message:

Homs: Heavy shooting in Bab Hood following the defection of a large number of soldiers

Now, an activist posts this:

Reports that an entire battalion including its officers has defected in Bab Sbaa in Homs.

Both reports are unverified at the current moment.

1828 GMT: Extremely important video -- protesters can be seen both inside and outside the Abdulrahman Mosque in Hama. Protesters run into the mosque as army vehicles appear on the road. Within a minute, gunfire rings out. One man is obviously severely injured, and several "martyrs" are reported:

1816 GMT: The Shaam News Network, via Now Lebanon, has this report from Syria: "Huge blast rocks Homs’ Bab al-Sibaa neighborhood."

1751 GMT: According to the description on the video, this activist is taking a rock to the stone inscription on the wall of the Ba'ath Party headquarters in Al Doumair in the Syrian capital Damascus:

1743 GMT: The LCCS posts this video, reportedly showing soldiers trying to take a child away from his mother in Hama:

1617 GMT: This video claims to show Syrian security deploying in order to prevent protests in Qatana, Damascus. It's worth mentioning that you can hear the sound of the prayer service in the background, so these soldiers appear to be deploying to make sure that protests do not start after the prayers are done:

1552 GMT: CORRECTION: The original report says Atta was 24 years old, and Al Jazeera is reporting that he is 23. Our earlier report, that he was 26, was typing error, but confusion remains about his exact age.

The protests in Egypt, which started out as general protests against the military leadership, have taken on a new tone, as news has broken that a 26 24 year old Egyptian man may have been tortured to death in prison:

 

Essam Ali Atta, a civilian serving a two-year jail term in Cairo's high-security Tora prison following his conviction in a military tribunal earlier this year for an apparently "common crime", was reportedly attacked by prison guards after trying to smuggle a mobile phone sim card into his cell.

According to statements from other prisoners who witnessed the assault, Atta had large water hoses repeatedly forced into his mouth and anus on more than one occasion, causing severe internal bleeding. An officer then transferred Atta to a central Cairo hospital, but he died within an hour.

1545 GMT: In Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, several hundred thousand people protested against the government after Friday prayers.

An EA correspondent notes that the crowd of people is simply massive, apparently significantly larger than the crowd that Syrian State TV, SANA, showed at the pro-Assad rallies. And yet, the activists in Yemen are estimating that this crowd was much smaller than SANA's estimates for the size of the crowd at the pro-government rallies in Syria.

1539 GMT: Now Lebanon reports that a Syrian man set himself on fire so that he could not be forced by security forces to give up the location of his son:

“Abu Fadi was threatened… and so was his other son Abdel Hadi… but [none] gave the security forces the information they wanted,” Jablawi said.

He added that “Abu Fadi burned himself because the police threatened they would kill him if he does not reveal the location of his son Fadi.”

1534 GMT: Protesters in Qalamoun call for a no-fly zone:

And so do protesters in Mare, Aleppo:

1526 GMT: This video reportedly shows the Syrian security forces conducting arrests outside the Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Homs, Syria (MAP). The protesters are badly beaten with clubs as they are loaded into the security vehicles:

1513 GMT: A tense situation in the Al-Omari mosque, in the Damascus suburb of Kanaker. The activists appear to be stuck inside the mosque, reportedly with security forces not allowing them to exit:

1504 GMT: We have reports of more violence in Yemen. An activist tweets:

"Taiz After Friday Prayer demo,was sandwiched between Central Security Barricade and Presidential Palace hills who shot at them. 6 injured."

1450 GMT: The LCCS is reporting details of a rapidly growing death toll in Syria:

Documented death toll today rose to 29 martyrs: 17 in Homs, 9 in Hama, 2 in Daraa and 1 in Idlib.

Now Lebanon, citing Al Arabiya, is reporting that the death toll is now 37.

1436 GMT: Heavy security presence in Barzeh, Damascus:

Activists upload this video, reportedly in Madamaya, Damascus, showing security using buses to move around the city and prevent protests:

1423 GMT: We've also seen a lot of videos like this today. This reportedly shows the police presence in Douma, in the streets to stop protests before the ever form:

1412 GMT: A VERY GRAPHIC VIDEO, reportedly showing the death of Dr. Ali Khazouri in Baba Amr, Homs.

1403 GMT: The Guardian reports a dangerous expansion of violence in Syria:

Wissam Tarif, from the Insan human rights group says 31 peaceful protesters have been killed in the last seven hours. Al-Jazeera's Rula Amin says 36 people have been killed, including 15 in Homs alone, mainly in Bab Amr.

1359 GMT: The scene at a protest in Tahrir Square:

1350 GMT: Activists report that a protest set out from a mosque in Douma, Damascus, Syria:

1342 GMT: Once again, videos of protests have flooded Youtube. We've already posted a Separate Video Entry, Syria Video Special: Today's Protests Across the Country

1308 GMT: The Syrian Revolution General Commission is reporting that 20 people have been killed today in Syria, mostly in Homs. The Guardian gives us a report from the LCCS:

The Local Co-ordination Committees claim the death toll in Syria has risen to 13 today, eight in Hama including a child and a woman, four in Homs, and one in Saraqeb, near the Turkish border.

James Miller takes the liveblog from the tireless Scott Lucas.

1115 GMT: A 15-year-old has appeared in a Bahraini criminal court, accused of taking part in an illegal gathering and inciting hatred against the regime.

A request from the boy's lawyer that he be released so he could go to school has been denied by judges. The case was adjourned until 10 November.

1105 GMT: There is confusion in Libya over the serious injuries of Abuzed Omar Dorda, the former head of intelligence for Muammar Qaddafi. One of Dorda's relatives said he was thrown from a second-story window by his jailers, but Libyan militiamen, in conflicting accounting, said the fall was a suicide attempt or an effort to escape.

Dorda was being interrogated on Tuesday in the offices of a pasta factory when he toppled about 30 feet from the window, militiamen said, fracturing his hip.

1100 GMT: The Egyptian Ministry of Justice has claimed, in a memorandum to an appeals court, that 75 Egyptian and foreign civil society organizations, as well as 40 individuals, have received about 1 billion Egyptian pounds from Arab and foreign countries over a six-month period.

The head of the Government agency overseeing non-government organisations said some had received the money legally but others would be fined 200,000 Egyptian pounds or their members would be imprisoned for six months.

1050 GMT: A LiveStream, now ended, has shown a massive demonstration in Halfaya in Syria.

1030 GMT: AFP reports that Yemeni security forces in Sana'a allowed a massive anti-regime rally to cross the capital on Thursday without intervening, the first time since January that such a march has been permitted.

The protesters left Change Square outside Sanaa University, the epicentre of demonstrations, and marched towards Al-Zubairi Avenue. In recent months, security forces have opened fire on protesters whenever they took that route.

"Free people of the world, Saleh must be brought to justice," protesters chanted, calling the President "a war criminal."

0945 GMT: A senior member of Bahrain’s royal family,Sheikh Isa bin Ali al-Khalifa, has been named as a co-conspirator in bribery charges against a leading London-based businessman over contracts between Alcoa, the US aluminium group, and Bahrain Aluminium, or Alba.

Al-Khalifa, an adviser to the Gulf kingdom’s influential prime minister, is accused by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office of receiving bribes of almost $6 million in 2003-04 from Victor Dahdaleh, a British-Canadian businessman.

Gulf Daily News, linked to the Bahraini regime, reports on the bribery case but somehow forgets to mention Al-Khalifa.

0940 GMT: Al Jazeera English reports on the devastation of Sirte, the last stronghold of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, with looting and revenge by forces of the National Transitional Council, "There's no liberation here":

0920 GMT: Ahram Online claims that a 24-year-old man, Essam Ali Atta Ali, died last night after torture by prison officals.

Ali was sentenced in February to two years in prison by a military court for "a common crime". Cellmates said he was punished after he tried to smuggle a mobile SIM card into the ward. Prison officers reportedly pushed hoses into Ali's mouth and anus, which led to bleeding.

Ali's brother told media that he saw his brother's corpse at the hospital and it had signs of serious injuries. An officer from Torah Prison had reportedly dropped Ali at the hospital in critical condition.

0740 GMT: Khalil al-Marzook, the deputy leader of Bahrain's opposition party Al Wefaq, has said the challenge is to "fake democratic institutions": "We are keen (to) continue a popular struggle outside Bahrain's parliament by carving a stronger street presence to achieve genuine democracy in Bahrain. This struggle will continue through peaceful means and will combat government violence with even more peace."

Al-Marzook explained the context of the resignation of Al Wefaq's 18 MPs in March, amidst a regime crackdown on protests: "We were there for five years and couldn't change a single article of the constitution or the political system. This parliament has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people."

0720 GMT: Juan Cole offers an optimistic summary of the result of Sunday's vote in Tunisia for an Assembly:

 

Tunisia’s election outcome gives 41% to the Muslim fundamentalist party Ennahda. One of the other two winners is the Rally for the Republic of long-time political exile Moncef al-Marzouqi. Then the third major party is al-Takattul or the Democratic Forum for Labor and Freedoms, headed by Mustapha Ben Jaafar.

 

The latter two mentioned are secular, and al-Nahda needs these secular allies to run the government, not to mention achieve a majority. The al-Nahda fundamentalist party, moreover, told me last June that they want a pluralist system that makes a place for believing Muslims, but that they will not dictatorially impose policies on one another. I asked about liquor and they admitted that they would try to discourage drinking. But they said they would do so by increasing taxes on alcohol, just as governments have done with smoking.

If the al-Nahda semi-victory (they did not get the majority and so did not "win" in the American sense) contributes to an opening up of Tunisia to a variety of styles of life, if it makes Tunisia more multi-cultural, then that would be all to the good. There is an admitted danger that al-Nahda will try to limit freedom of speech. Tunisia is now the only Arab country without print censorship, and you wonder if that will last. Marzouqi and al-Takattul bear a special responsibility for keeping Tunisia free.

 

The BBC reports, however, that police used tear gas against hundreds of people last night in Sidi Bouzid --- the symbolic location of the start of the uprising against the Ben Ali regime --- protesting the cancellation of seats won by the Popular List party, led by London-based businessman Hachemi Hamdi.

The electoral authorities said the party's lists had been invalidated because of "financial irregularities". Protesters smashed doors and windows of the Ennahda headquarters in the town and burned tyres on the streets.

0530 GMT: Friday means another day of watching for protests and possible clashes. In Syria, we will see if daily demonstrations become more intense while looking for the areas of the largest security and military operations. Yemen will almost certainly have tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, on the streets amidst continued fighting and the political stalement. And in Bahrain, there are both the attempts by leading opposition groups to press their calls for reforms and protests throughout the Kingdom's villages.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has passed a human rights resolution which includes sections on Bahrain and Syria:

Bahrain: halt the violence and release the prisoners

Parliament condemns the repression of citizens in Bahrain, which has led to dozens of deaths and injuries, and urges the immediate and unconditional release of all peaceful demonstrators, political activists, human rights defenders, doctors and paramedics, bloggers and journalists. It also expresses its solidarity with the families of all the victims.

The Bahraini security forces and authorities should stop violence, repression and detention of peaceful demonstrators and show the utmost restraint when attempting to control protests, say MEPs, who urge the authorities to act in strict accordance with their legislation and international obligations.

MEPs also reiterate their view that demonstrators in Bahrain have expressed their legitimate democratic aspirations and call on the government there to engage in a genuine, meaningful and constructive dialogue with the opposition, without further delay or additional preconditions, in order to bring about the necessary reforms, encourage national reconciliation and restore social consensus in the country.

Syria: the case of Rafah Nashed

Rafah Nashed, Syria’s first practising psychoanalyst and the founder of the Damascus School of Psychoanalysis, was arbitrarily arrested and detained on 10 September 2011at Damascus airport, by officers of the General Intelligence Services. Ms Nashed is a 66-year old doctor is known for treating victims of psychological trauma as well as for her active engagement in favour of dialogue among all Syrians.

MEPs strongly condemn Ms Nashed's arrest and detention and express the gravest concern about her, in view of her precarious state of health. They call on the Syrian authorities immediately and unconditionally to release Ms Nashed on medical and humanitarian grounds and to guarantee her physical safety and return her to her family without further delay.

Finally, Parliament also demands that the Syrian authorities allow humanitarian organisations and doctors to treat the victims of violence, give them access to all parts of the country and enable them to carry out their legitimate and peaceful work without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

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