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Sunday
Nov202011

Egypt, Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Democracy's Discontents

Egyptian police beat protesters --- note the man knocked unconscious by a baton --- and drag them away, including one by the hair, just off Tahrir Square

See also Syria Feature: The Spectre of Civil War in Homs
Bahrain 1st-Hand Special: Security Forces Break Up a Teenager's Funeral
Saturday's Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The "Forgotten" Protests That Never Went Away


2135 GMT: Al Jazeera English is reporting 11 deaths in Egypt today, but there are fears the numbers could rise. Tamer El-Ghobashy of The Wall Street Journal writes, "Automatic gunfire accompanied by shards of concrete breaking off buildings when bullets strike."

2125 GMT: A mass rally in Hama in Syria tonight:

2045 GMT: A protester throws back a tear gas canister in Tahrir Square in Cairo this afternoon:

2035 GMT: Video from Taza as the weekly demonstrations challenging the regime and calling for reform , with the boycott of forthcoming elections, took place across Morocco:

Tangier:

2025 GMT: Ahram Online confirms that the website of Egyptian State TV was taken over today by hackers who left a message condemning media coverage of clashes in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

The Arabic message over an Egyptian flag declared: “This is a simple response to the absurdities we saw [on state television] yesterday. Same failed policies and hypocrisy. Previously, you were hypocrites working for the Mubarak regime. Now you’re hypocrites working for the military regime. All we ask of you is to broadcast the picture as it is, rather than airing romantic views of the Nile while people are dying.”

The website was soon shut down.

2015 GMT: Protesters in Anadan in Aleppo Province in Syria chant to the President, "Qaddafi is gone, your turn Bashar":

2000 GMT: A striking overhead photograph and video, just off Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo this afternoon: amidst the security forces and bystanders are eight unmoving bodies. It has not been established whether the men are unconscious, injured, or dead; however, the video --- matched to earlier footage (see 1720 GMT) --- establishes that one of the bodies is that of the man dragged by a member of the security forces to the curb amidst debris and litter.

1817 GMT: Al Jazeera English's correspondent in Cairo just claimed, from one of his military sources, that a building of the taxation office has been set on fire. The building is next to the Ministry of Interior, which is near Tahrir Square. 

1800 GMT: Hundreds of protesters are still present in Alexandria. Al Jazeera English also reports that there are protesters in Suez and Miniya, and there are reports of marches in Assuit. The government is meanwhile reporting that no live ammunition was used against protesters in Cairo. 

1750 GMT: The Egyptian Health Ministry confirms the Associated Press's claim that at least three people have been killed in the protests in Cairo so far. Egyptian State television is also reporting that at least 100 protesters have been injured. 

The regime has announced that the elections scheduled in just eight days will not be delayed. It also claims that the security forces have used restraint against protesters, and it has praised their actions. 

1740 GMT: Protests continue across Syria --- first, a demonstration in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka: 

Schoolkids protest in Jasem in Daraa Province in the south: 

School kids join a protest in Hama today chanting, "The Syrian army are traitors":

Protest in the Old Town of Damascus, with women taking part:

1730 GMT: The Associated Press is now reporting that at least three people have been killed in the violence in Tahrir Square. AP quotes doctors in Munira Hospital where two dead bodies are currently being held and from the two field hospitals set up inside the square. 

1720 GMT: A graphic video from Tahrir Square in Cairo, with the body of a protester being dragged away by individual, who seems to be part of the security forces, into a pile of rubbish. It is unclear whether the protester is alive or just unconscious: 

1715 GMT: The Egyptian Cabinet's statement has accused protesters of trying to "derail the democratic process" while insisting that the elections will be held on time. The statement also announced the Government's support for the security forces' conduct towards the protesters. 

1710 GMT: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood just announced that it will not accept any delays in the parliamentary elections, which are due in just over a week. 

Meanwhile CNN is reporting that Libya's former head of intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi has definitely been captured in the southern town of Sabha. 

1655 GMT: There are reports that the head of intelligence in the Qaddafi regime, Abdullah al-Senussi, is in the process of surrendering to Libya's ruling National Transitional Council in Sabha.

1650 GMT: Reports of the resignation of the Minister of Culture over the fresh violence have now been confirmed by the mainstream media. In the meantime, Al Jazeera English's Rawya Rageh tweets:

#Alexandria protesters marching to military hq in city, chanting 'ppl want the downfall of the field marshall' #Egypt"

I broke the news to #Alexandria protesters that culture minister resigned in protest over #Tahrir - reax was jubilation & cheers #Egypt

1640 GMT: Journalist Sarah Carr in Cairo is reporting that an identified man has been brought to the field hospital, and doctors claim he has died of asphyxiation. Earlier, it was reported that the man had died of suffication from tear gas. A picture of the protester --- viewers are warned that the content is graphic in nature. 

Pictures from Tahrir show several thousand people still gathered there. 

1630 GMT: Al Jazeera English correspondents are reporting that the strange balls that have been shot at protesters are not fired one by one, but are rather spray-type bullets and a multitude can be shot at once. AJE also adds that the government now confirms that at least 55 protesters have been arrested so far in Cairo. 

1537 GMT: Al Jazeera English's Jane Arraf reports, "Protesters running down alleys, begging to be allowed to escape into hotels, yelling, 'Can't you see they're killing us?'"

But this is soon followed by reports of protesters regrouping to move back into the square, putting out the fires set by security forces:

1535 GMT: Reports indicate that Egyptian police have launched another drive to push protesters out of Tahrir Square in Cairo, using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Photographer Jonathan Rashad sends the message, "Military Police teams up with CSF storming Tahrir's sit-in. Protesters' tents are being set on fire by CSF [security forces] along with [action by] unknown civilians."

1525 GMT: A demonstration today in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh:

1455 GMT: The Arab League has rejected a request by the Syrian regime to amend plans for a monitoring mission.

The League wants to send a 500 monitors to assess the situation. It had given Damascus a three-day deadline, expiring yesterday, to meet its plan to end violence and start talks with the opposition.

Arab League foreign ministers will meet again on Thursday.

1450 GMT: Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo earlier this afternoon, as protesters continue to defy police:

Protesters stand firm against the arrival of tear gas:

1400 GMT: In Egypt, there are reports of continuing protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo after 36 hours of clashes with police. Eighteen political forces have announced an open-ended sit-in and have urged all national forces and movements to do the same across the country.

The signatories, including the Revolution Youth Coalition, the 6 April Movement (Democratic Front), the Revolution's Protectors Council, the Revolution Youth Alliance, the Free Movement for Peaceful Change, and the Egyptian Current, said they are protesting because remnants of the old regime are still running the country, amidst the lack of a clear timetable for a transition of power to an elected civilian government.

The Ministry of Health said Saturday's clashes in Cairo and elsewhere killed two people and injured 928.

1220 GMT: Audio and video extracts from Syrian President Assad's interview:

Assad (mp3)

1100 GMT: Marie-Louise Gumuchian of Reuters posts a lengthy account of Saturday's capture of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi in southern Libya.

1050 GMT: Yemen's President Saleh has said he will hand the country over to the military if he steps down.

Saleh told loyalist Republican Guards troops on Saturday, "We...are ready to make sacrifices for the country. But you will always be there, even if we step down."

1040 GMT: Activists have put out a video backing up their claims --- summarised in Saturday's LiveBlog --- that 16-year-old Ali Alsatrawi was killed by a police jeep on Friday and that the security forces moved the body in an attempt to cover up their responsibility and blame the incident on protesters, who allegedly poured oil on a main road (Warning: Graphic Images):

Meanwhile,an interesting framing of the death of Alsatrawi in Bahrain's Gulf Daily News, which uses a Ministry of Interior press conference to headline, "Police Victims of Riot Attack".

0920 GMT: A Syrian activist offers a correction to one of our opening stories (see 0715 GMT):

Reuters and many of us jumped too fast. Ba'ath Party HQ [in Damascus] is safe & has not been attacked by RPGs --- maybe gunfire, but no RPGs. There was fire & explosions heard 100% in Damascus. Confirmed from many sources, but Ba'ath HQ story not true."

This was Al Jazeera English's interview with a correspondent in Damascus which appears to have exaggerated the story --- note that the correspondent says that "he does not know much" beyond hearing "two big explosions", but the AJE presenter pushes the story of two RPGs fired at Ba'ath headquarters:

0800 GMT: At the top of the entry, we post a 5-minute audio extract from President Assad's interview with The Sunday Times of London, with his assurance that he is dealing with any "mistakes" of the crackdown amidst the "instability" in Syria. He declared that the number of security forces killed --- 800 --- is greater than the number of civilians who have died.

0743 GMT: Syrian activists post video of an anti-Assad newspaper being distributed in Damascus:

0733 GMT: The top story on Saturday may have been the running fight in the Egyptian capital Cairo. The day started with police trying to clear out Tahrir Square, but the attempt only sparked further demonstrations and resistance throughout the city. By last night, State media was saying one person was dead and 750 wounded.

There were also rallies outside security agency headquarters in Alexandria, where one person was reportedly slain, Aswan, and Suez.

Just as significant as the violence was the politics of the clashes. Friday's two-dimensional narrative of "Will Islamists be the biggest force in Egypt?" was replaced with the full, immediate spectrum of discontent with the ruling military council and its attempts to suppress dissent. Activists may have been over-eager when they called the day another "28 January", a reference to the Mubarak regime's attempt to crush the opposition that would finally bring it down, but the events clearly showed that the challenge is far beyond the forthcoming elections.

Egyptian police fire rubber bullets at protesters

0730 GMT: Bahrain is quieter this morning, but the kingdom has had a tumultuous 48 hours, with a mass opposition rally, the death of a 16-year-old killed by a police jeep, and his large funeral, followed by raids on protesters by security forces. We have a special first-hand report from an EA correspondent in a separate feature.

A candle-lit march in Al Eker in Bahrain on Saturday night:

0715 GMT: It says something when the capture of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi in Libya may have been no more than the Number 4 story on a fast and furious Saturday, with developments in Syria, Bahrain, and Egypt all commanding attention.

"Only" 20 people, including two army defectors, were killed on Saturday in Syria, but Sunday has opened with a mysterious explosion just before dawn on Baghdad Street in the centre of Damascus. Activists from the Local Co-ordination Committees said several rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the offices of the ruling Ba'ath Party building.

Meanwhile, President Assad told a British newspaper on Saturday, "The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue. I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it."

Assad warned other countries not to step in: "If they are logical, rational and realistic, they shouldn't do it because the repercussions are very dire. Military intervention will destabilise the region as a whole, and all countries will be affected."

While mistakes had been made in the crackdown, these were the fault of individuals, not the state, Assad said, and he repeated that there would be "reforms" with elections in February or March for a Parliament to rewrite the Constitution.

This, however, was not his priority: "My role as President --- this is my daily obsession now --- is to know how to stop this bloodshed caused by armed terrorist acts that are hitting some areas."

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