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Tuesday
Dec202011

Syria, Egypt, Bahrain (and Beyond): Uncertainty of Death, Certainty of Conflict

Egyptian security forces raid Tahrir Square in Cairo this morning

See also Egypt Document: Alaa Abd-El Fattah from Prison "Half an Hour With My Son Khaled"
Bahrain Analysis: Are Sunni Groups Moving Away from the Regime?
Syria Feature: Fog of War --- How Many Defectors Died on Monday?
Monday's Syria, Egypt, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: From Mohamed Bouazizi to the Tear-Gassing of Protests


2313 GMT: Zaynab AlKhawaja sends a triumphant tweet to signify her release from prison:

Down with Hamad!

She then writes: "This morning I was in a prison cell, planning how I wud spend at least 1 yr in prison. I wud never have believed I wud be at home hugging and cuddling Jude tonight."

(23:22 GMT update) Zaynab continues: "These last few days were tough, but the only thing that broke me down was leaving political prisoner Fathiya [Abduali] behind. Fathiya is such a great woman, she is so sweet & wonderful. I cant believe she has been in prison this long, forgotten by everyone. [I] will tell you all more about Fathiya and about our arrest tomorrow, theres so much I want to share with u all. Infact so many times I wished I had my phone so that I could tweet from prison ;)."

2145 GMT: The Bahraini State news agency has said 180 civil servants, dismissed from their posts during protests that began in February, will be re-hired by 1 January.

That is still a small percentage of the total dismissals. Bahraini labor groups claim up to 2500 people lost their jobs during the unrest. The regime puts the number at 1623.

2115 GMT: Catching up on events in Kuwait on Monday:

For the second time in four days, Kuwaiti riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to demanding citizenship.

disperse hundreds of stateless protesters

A number of Kuwaiti activists joined the protesters to press for resolution of the decades-old problem of more than 100,000 stateless people, many of whom are deprived of basic rights. The protesters shouted, "Peaceful, peaceful...freedom, freedom," as they carried Kuwaiti flags and sang the national anthem in Jahra, northwest of the capital Kuwait City.

Witnesses said riot police chased the demonstrators into the narrow streets of the residential area, the exclusive home of the stateless --- locally known as bidoons --- as a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Sources said police arrested at least six protesters.

Riot police used force to disperse a similar protest on Friday, arresting 20 people, who were freed on Sunday without charge.

2105 GMT: Activist Alexander Page has posted a description of what happened today in the Midan district of Damascus. Combined with the videos we posted earlier, this appears to be an accurate and detailed narrative of the second most significant protest in Damascus in months (the first being yesterday's protest in the same area that left 3-4 dead).

2053 GMT: The LCCS has once again raised today's death toll, and is now reporting that 78 were killed today:

Idlib 59
Homs 14
Hama 3
Daraa 2
Damascus suburbs 1
Madaya 1

Security forces raid the area amid random shooting and news of major defections in Sahl area [EA is not sure if this is the name of a district in Damascus, but Sahl appears to be near Deir Ez Zor] sounds of shooting are heard

Hama

Intensive shooting for a high building near Al-Job Square and for the New Hizb in Al-Hader area and from State security side in Al-Sabouniya and from Al-Assad Medical compound. At the same time the electric current is disconnected and the warming feul is lacked

Security forces shoots fire in Hamadiya neighborhood and in Bahra square at Aleppo road while electricity is disconnected

Also, the LCCS reports that in many parts of Idlib there is no cell phone or internet connection, and some activists are reporting that there are some cities in periodic blackout. This is further impeding the ability to get reliable reports out of the epicenter of this new, deadly wave of violence.

2040 GMT: The Syrian regime reportedly plans to increase tariffs by 30% on various imports, increasing customs revenues and reliance on local products.

1940 GMT: AFP reports on further clampdowns on protests in Bahrain today:

Bahraini riot police on Tuesday dispersed several hundred Shiite demonstrators who gathered on a highway leading to Manama in one of increasingly frequent anti-regime protests. Police fired tear gas at protesters who flocked to the Budaiya highway from the village of Abu Saiba, west of Manama, an AFP journalist reported.

The protest began following a memorial service for Shiite youth Ahmed Radi al-Qassab, who was run over by a car while allegedly crossing the highway to escape a riot-police patrol last week.

Police beat protesters back into the village and fired tear gas at the cemetery and inside the village as some youngsters hurled stones at security forces.

1930 GMT: The LCCS has been compiling a list of those killed today in Syria, and activist SeekerSK has been Tweeting the majority (or entirety) of the list. At the end of the day, the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria are reporting that 62 people were killed by the Syrian security forces today alone:

Idlib 47

Homs 10

Hama 3

Daraa 2

The LCCS also reports a large escalation in Irbeen, an important Damascus suburb:

Storming of the town by 5 tanks, 6 infantry fighting vehicles, and many Shabiha to disperse a students demonstration near the girls high school. Heavy security presence near most schools

This video also shows the tanks moving into the area:

Also, this EXTREMELY GRAPHIC video reportedly shows a young man torn apart by a mortar shell in Baba Amr, Homs.

Beyond that, the LCCS posts videos from student protests in Aleppo, the heavy security presence in Midan, and large protests across the country.

1912 GMT: The Bahrain News Agency reports:

Two ladies suspected of rallying on Budaiya Highway and assaulting a policewoman officer whilst on duty have been released pending trial.

We can only assume that the "two ladies" are Masoom AlSayed and Zainab AlKhawaja.

1855 GMT: Bahraini laywer Mohamed Al Jishi reports that Zainab al-Khawaja is refusing to leave prison unless fellow prisoner Fathia Abduali is released. Fathia has been in jail since September 30th, charged with allowing people into her house in order for them to take cover from riot police.

This is unconfirmed, though for those of us who have been following Zainab - it's hardly out of character.

1840 GMT: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 33 civilians were killed today in Syria:

Twenty-three civilians died in Edleb and another seven in the central city of Homs, a major focal point of the nine-month campaign of protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Beyond this, 14 security forces were reportedly killed in southern Daraa province by defected soldiers.

1823 GMT: EA is still trying to collect information to triangulate a clear picture of what has happened in Idlib province over the last 36 hours. So far, it has been very hard to pin down reports of killed defectors.

However, we do know that the Syrian army is conducting widespread and heavy-handed raids in the area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that in Khan Sheikhun, "one person was fallen martyr and 4 were wounded in random gunfire by a security barrier." The villages of Balyun and Al Mozah have been under attack by heavy machine guns.

The LCCS also adds that a city we knew was embattled, Kafer Quaid, has once again been attacked:

Idlib: Kafarowaid: The violent shelling on the town continues, which led to the fall of tens of martyrs and wounded, 25 martyrs were identified of them so far and the names of the martyrs are still coming.

1815 GMT: Activist Alexander Page, citing his sources in Syria, reports that there were more protests, and more clashes, in the central Midan district of Damascus.

The first video he shares shows protesters in Midan, angered by yesterday's violence. We believe that the smoke is a burning roadblock, designed to protect the civilians from security vehicles:

Page then posts this video, reportedly showing a strong security presence in the area to prevent protests. This matches many many reports that we have received so far today.

Then this video surfaced. Security forces (shabiha, and possibly military or police) are deploying to the area, and appear to make at least one arrest. At first, gunfire can be heard in the background, though it may be teargas. We have yet to receive confirmed reports of casualties from Midan today.

Alexander Page then assesses this video:

Midan in Central #Damascus starting to look like #Homs...Syria regime forces under the bridge taunting protesters

Earlier, the LCCS also reported unrest in Midan:

All roads leading to the neighborhood are closed, protestors are surrounded within and the situation is very tensed

Security forces are besieging Midan neighborhood, Nahr Aisha, Al-Ashmar square, and Bawaba square. And heavy security deployment in Al-Bateha square and Nahr Aisha bus station

1801 GMT: Activist Alexander Page writes:

Rami Sharqawi was shot dead in #Tahrir you can hear his voice just as he was shot at the very end of this video

1754 GMT: Yemen: Footage has been posted of the march from Taez to Sana'a which is reported to be 15,000 people strong.

See our update at 16:29 GMT for more information.

1735 GMT: Continued developments in Syria today as captured in the following videos:

Large protest in Latmaneh Hama province:

Further protests at Aleppo College, with demonstrators reportedly attacked by security forces:

Meanwhile, gunfire can be heard in footage from a protest in Bab Houb, Homsms

1725 GMT: Bahrain Center for Human Rights confirms that that Zainab AlKhawaja and Masoom AlSayed "will be released today but their trial will continue".

1629 GMT: In Yemen, Gulf News reports that protesters have begun a walk from Taez to Sana'a to demand that "Yemen's outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh should stand trial for killing protesters". The report continues:

"At least 15,000 protesters have signed up ... Our message is to express our dismay over the international community's stand who dealt with our cause as a political crisis between the ruling party and the opposition not as a revolution," a walking protester told Gulf News via telephone.

"We want to emphasise that [there is] no immunity for killers or those who looted the country. Women acted on their initiative and joined in."

The protesters are expected to arrived the capital's Change Square, epicentre of thousands of anti-regime protesters, by Saturday.

The report also relays an account from a local journalist that unknown gunmen today in Taez shot and killed a soldier, injuring two civilians. According to the source, the "soldier was said to be one of the breakaway security units that switched sides with the anti-regime forces."

1621 GMT: In this video from Egypt, women lead chants against their recent treatment by the regime at the march for women's rights:

This photograph (source) captures a sense of the scale of the crowd at the march. It also indicates-- as our 15:00GMT update suggests --- that demonstration has received strong support across gender lines.

At the demonstration, a female protester raises her top to reveal the slogan: "Your eyes are cheap".

1607 GMT: Meanwhile, this video reportedly shows a large protest in Taftanaz, Idlib:

Student protests in Khattab, Hama:

1600 GMT: Looking more closely at the news from Aleppo, the LCCS is also reporting large protests today - and 1 person killed by security forces. That fatality is reportedly Othman Saleh Al-Othman, a soldier who reportedly refused to fire at civilians.

1557 GMT: The casualty count in Syria is extremely complicated at the moment. To start off with, the LCCS reports that 11 civilians have already been killed today, "Among them a women. 5 were killed in Homs, 3 in Idlib, 2 in Hama and 1 in Aleppo."

Beyond this, since the early hours of the morning EA has been tracking further rumors than another 100 defectors have been killed today in Idlib Province. So far, that report seems to stand on shaky grounds. On one hand, The Guardian has done an excellent job of summarizing the claims, but on another they cited a source who seems to be using numbers that include some of yesterday's figures, suggesting that the bulk of that "100" number was counted twice. Beyond this, however, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the LCCS are both reporting a grim humanitarian situation in the area. The LCCS reports that civilians in Kafer Quaid were trying to "cut the road" to prevent security from entering the village, but the military fired on the protesters, wounding many. The Observatory reports that at least one civilian was killed in Kansafra, the reported area where the 72 defectors were shot yesterday.

We'll continue to sort these numbers, but the picture from Idlib is very hard to decipher. For starters, the lack of free press continues to hamper this work. Beyond that, the primary news networks are based on reports by activists and protesters, people whose activities consists of marching, posting news to the net, and not getting shot. Defectors in armed combat have different priorities.

1542 GMT: Al Jazeera correspondent Ali Hashem confirms earlier rumours that Zainab Alkhawaja and Masooma Ahmad "will be released tonight" following their arrest Thursday.

1500 GMT: The women in Cairo are not alone. An activist posts this picture, along with a report that men have formed "human shields" on the sides of the road to protect the women from attack:

Owly Images

1454 GMT: Al Jazeera Mubasher is now carrying a live stream of the protests in Cairo, where thousands of women have taken to the streets to protest the Egyptian military:

1449 GMT: A large protest is occurring right now in Tahrir Square, Egypt. Crowds of women,perhaps as many as 3000, have gathered to protest against the Egyptian military.

Even as I write, that number may now be too low:

Woman was chanting at the top of her lungs, "an #Egyptain woman is worth a million men" afterwards men angrily chanted "#Scaf must leave!"

Womens chants encourage the men to get louder, more and more people are joining about 8000 at least heading to journalist syndicate.

http://yfrog.com/obxwszj

1430 GMT: Another video from Bahrain shows another important detail - this tear gas is yellow. For the last week or two, more activists are reporting that this yellow variety is far more dangerous, hurts more, and can lead to coughing up blood. For more information, read our report, Tear Gas in Bahrain: Suppression and Suffering Through "Lethality Reduction".

1423 GMT: There is a significant body of evidence to suggest that there is a growing protest movement in Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria and a city that is considered a stronghold of Assad support. Nearly every day now there are large protests at the University of Aleppo, and there are signs that the protest movement is moving off campus as well.

This video was reportedly taken today outside the School of Electrical Engineering:

Yesterday, this video was posted, allegedly showing the raising of the opposition flag above the castle in Aleppo:

And last night we posted reports, and a claimed video, of large protests in the streets of the Salahaddine district of Aleppo, a central and important neighborhood.

1406 GMT: A leading Bahraini rights activist posts a video gallery of events that have taken place today. In this first video, a large crowd chants as a protest began during a funeral for the opposition's newest martyr:

However, a peaceful protest was not to be. The crowd was reportedly hit by tear gas fired by police.

This tear gas is dangerously thick, blocking out the light, and potentially suffocating protests. It is precisely the misuse of teargas in Bahrain that has led to many of the deaths since the start of the Arab Spring uprisings:

Sayed Mohamed continues to post more video.

1400 GMT: Heavy security is reported this morning throughout Damascus, particularly in the Midan district where a large protest was shot up yesterday, killing at least three. However, the LCCS reports that protests have continued:

Damascus: A demonstration marched in Naher Aisha walking toward Al Mutahalq (the Bridge) in order to reduce the security pressure on the mourners near Al Yaqoub mosque, the demonstration chanted for freedom and called to topple the regime. Another demonstration marched from Al Qaisari mosque in order to cut the highway between Damascus and Daraa in a preparation for the next stage of the Dignity Strike [the general strike to protest the crackdown against civilians].

1343 GMT: An advanced team from the Arab League will travel to Syria on Thursday in order to prepare for international observers being sent by the Arab League.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby told reporters Monday that the advance delegation will include legal, administrative, financial and human rights experts to discuss the makeup of the observer teams.

James Miller takes the liveblog.

1308 GMT: An EA correspondent reported 20 minutes ago from the third day of funeral processions for Ali Alqassab, who was killed last week when he was struck by a car: "Budaiya highway is full of police forces, the funeral march is still inside the village but expected to go on the main road."

And 10 minutes later: "Mourners got attacked once they reached to the main road of Budaiya. Clashes are now moving inside the villages. Teargas in the graveyard now."

Women gathering for the funeral:

People watch tear gas being used in the distance:

1208 GMT: Yemeni mobile operator Sabafon has claimed that its facilities have been repeatedly attacked by regime forces.

The chairman of Sabafon is Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading opponent of President Saleh.

A spokesman for Sabafon said a quarter of its facilities had been hit this year. The company's headquarters had been struck three times by rocket-propelled grenades this year, and more than 250 transmission towers and other sites were affected by shelling, gunfire, and looting, killing one employee.

Sabafon subscribers can no longer receive or make calls to Yemen landlines or phone abroad.

An official of President Saleh's General People's Congress denied Sabafon was deliberately targeted. He added that any damages were in the context of hostilities instigated by gunmen allied to al-Ahmar, who is the brother of Sadeq al-Ahmar, a leader of the powerful Hashed tribal confederation and a rival to Saleh: "[Hamid al-Ahmar] attacked government buildings in the capital, the government responded in self-defence....This created bad relations with the government. All the telecommunication companies in Yemen have suffered as a result of this crisis."

1148 GMT: Egypt's Democratic Alliance, which includes the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood and other political factions and activists, has released a statement supporting protesters and declaring that it will participate in the sit-in at the Supreme Judiciary Court: "SCAF [the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces] has failed in the management of the transitional period up to this critical moment, and it bears full responsibility for immediate cessation of violence, abuse of the citizens, assault of female demonstrators, the targeting of the revolutionaries who stood in the face of heavy-handed attacks, and for the immediate release of all protesters detained for no legal reason."

Footage from Al Masry Al Youm of the move by security forces into Tahrir Square this morning, with resistance from protesters:

1145 GMT: Syrian State media reports that President Assad has signed the law imposing the death penalty "for anyone providing weapons or helping to provide weapons intended for the carrying out of terrorist acts".

The decree also imposes life imprisonment with hard labor for arms smuggling "for profit or to carry out acts of terrorism" and 15 years' hard labour for arms smuggling for other purposes.

1125 GMT: A new Bahraini blog, "Rebellious Walls", has been launched to document the graffiti of protest across the kingdom. An example from Jidhafs with the image of the now-destroyed monument of Pearl Roundabout, "The March to the Square: We All Have the Strength".

1025 GMT: A doctor at the field hospital in the Omar Makram Mosque in Cairo has that he saw four bodies of people killed this morning: "The bullets had entered and exited their bodies, making it seem like the result of snipers."

The doctor said some of the slain had been at the front line of clashes on Qasr El-Aini Street, and some had been shot when security forces raided Tahrir Square this morning.

Another field hospital doctor said a 15-year-old protester was in critical condition after suffering a gunshot wound.

No deaths have been officially reported.

0945 GMT: Abdel Moneim Kato, a retired general who advises the public relations department of Egypt's military rulers, has said that protesters are delinquents “who deserve to be thrown into Hitler’s ovens".

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/protesters-deserve-to-be-thrown-into-hitlers-ovens-egyptian-military-adviser-says/?smid=tw-thelede&seid=auto

0940 GMT: Maryam Alkhawaja reports about her sister and fellow activist Zainab, who was detained last Thursday, "[Her] lawyer went 2 court today and was told 'What trial? there is no trial happening today.'"

0850 GMT: A notable turn of events in Iraq with the escalation of a political battle at the highest levels....

A day after the United States withdrew its last combat troops, Iraq faced a dangerous political crisis Monday as the Shiite-dominated government ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president, accusing him of running a death squad that assassinated police officers and government officials.

The sensational charges drew a worried response from Washington and brought Iraq’s tenuous partnership government to the edge of collapse. A major Sunni-backed political coalition said its ministers would walk off their jobs, leaving adrift agencies that handle Iraq’s finances, schools and agriculture.

The accusations against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi also underlined fears that Iraq’s leaders may now be using the very institutions America has spent millions of dollars trying to strengthen --- the police, the courts, the media — as a cudgel to batter their political enemies and consolidate power.

On Monday night, Mr. Hashimi was in the northern semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, beyond the reach of security forces controlled by Baghdad. It was unclear when --- or if --- he would return to Baghdad.

0700 GMT: We open this morning with the latest news --- or, to be precise, the uncertainty around "news" --- from Syria. Some activists are still claiming that up to 120 people died in the country on Monday; more than 70 soldiers, trying to defect, supposedly were slain in Kinsafrah, near Jebel al-Zawiya in the northwest.

In an EA feature James Miller, explaining why we cannot confirm that claim, looks at the issues of reporting, activism, and the "fog of war" in Syria.

What we can establish is that conflict is on-going and deadly, and not just in Syria. Fighting continues for a fifth day in Cairo, where at least 13 people have died, as security forces launched another raid on Tahrir Square early this morning.

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