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Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protest and "Reform"

In Bahrain, a protester smashes a police CCTV camera (see 0747 GMT)

See also Saudi Arabia Analysis: A Kingdom in Trouble?
Bahrain Photo Special: Friday's Mass "March 4 Democracy"
Israeli Jets Kill 14 in Gaza; Rockets Fired into Southern Israel
Saturday's Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: More than 100,000 March For Reform

2248 GMT: A clash between police and protesters in a Bahraini village tonight, leading to a blanket of tear gas:

2242 GMT: The weekly pro-reform demonstrations in Morocco continue --- a march in Casablanca today:

2118 GMT: The Gulf Center for Human Rights has highlighted the case of activist Saleh Al-Dhufairi, seized on Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates for "promoting ideas that will provoke sedition and harm the national unity and social peace".

2115 GMT: Singing and dancing at a rally in the Khalidiya section of Homs tonight:

1900 GMT: A demonstration tonight in the Qosour section of Homs:

And the Talbiseh section:

1640 GMT: Activists claim at least 25 people have died today across Syria.

Meanwhile, activist Mouna Ghanem talks about the meeting between the Syrian opposition and United Nations envoy Kofi Annan today: "We provided him with our perspectives and our ideas about the best way to solve the situation and also we submitted to him our proposal a mediation group, of international personalities to work for peace building and democracy building as well. Also we explained to him the situation on the ground and the necessity to work to stop the violence immediately, and also to find ways to solve the armed conflict on the ground."

A demonstration at the Faculty of Engineering at Aleppo University today:

Regime tanks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta:

1540 GMT: A well-placed EA source reports on a meeting between the Danish Foreign Minister and three members of the "Bahrain Defenders of Rights" on Thursday. The main topic was the hunger strike of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a dual Danish-Bahraini citizen --- imprisoned for life after last year's protests, Alkhawaja has gone without food for more than a month.

The Foreign Minister reports on efforts to save Alkhawaja's life, with the Danish Embassy in Saudi Arabia following up on a daily basis. The Danes are hoping that Alkhawaja will be released to Denmark for medical treatment --- they noted that the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry states has Alkhawaja has been tortured in detention.

According to the EA source, the Foreign Minister said he is willing to visit Bahrain to meet King Hamad, if this will lead to a resolution.

1340 GMT: United Nations envoy Kofi Annan said he tabled "concrete proposals" to solve Syria's political crisis in his second meeting with President Assad today.He told reporters:

I presented a set of concrete proposals which would have a real impact on the situation on the ground and which will help launch a process aimed at putting an end to this crisis. Our discussions focused on the core objectives of this process, the immediate stop to the violence and the killing, access for humanitarian

Annan continued, "It's going to be tough. It's agencies and the start of a political dialogue.

The realistic response is to embrace change and reforms; reforms that would create a solid foundation for a democratic Syria, a peaceful, stable pluralistic and prosperous society based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.

going to be difficult but we have to have hope. I am optimistic for several reasons."

Syrian State media has yet to issue a statement on the meeting.

1330 GMT: A military doctor in Egypt accused of forcing women protesters to undergo virginity tests has been acquitted by a military court.

Ahmed Adel was cleared of "public indecency" and "disobeying military orders" because the judge found contradictions in witness statements. The judge added that he had "not been subjected to any pressures."

The case was brought by one of the women, Samira Ibrahim, who said the "tests" took place after she was been detained in Cairo's Tahrir Square last year. Another 17 women came forward to say they were violated.

1110 GMT: Israeli airstrikes killed two more Gazans, including a 12-year-old boy, while Gazan forces fired more rockets into southern Israel

At least 17 people in Gaza have been killed in airstrikes since Friday. The violence was sparked by the Israeli aerial assassination of a senior member of the Popular Resistance Committees.

See also Israeli Jets Kill 14 in Gaza; Rockets Fired into Southern Israel

1103 GMT: Brian Whitaker summarises a curious and troubling story from Iraq:

A new wave of killings is reported in Baghdad, targeting youngsters of unconventional appearance. Reuters says at least 14 have been stoned to death in the past three weeks, though there are claims that the total may be much higher. Lists have also been circulated naming those who will be next.

Scott Long, formerly of Human Rights Watch, has reported the story in detail on his blog. The youngsters are loosely described as "emos", though Long views the attacks as part of a more generalised moral panic over what is considered to be youth deviance --- "gelled spiky hair, long hair, tight jeans, black clothes, skull pendants, a swish of the hip, effeminacy, homosexuality, or listening to rock music".

Reuters quotes a couple of leaflets circulated in Baghdad: "We strongly warn you, to all the obscene males and females, if you will not leave this filthy work within four days the punishment of God will descend upon you at the hand of the Mujahideen."

And another listing 20 names: "We are the Brigades of Anger. We warn you, if you do not get back to sanity and the right path, you will be killed."

Blame for the killings has been directed at local militias and the Iraqi government seems unwilling to take action to stop them. Last week, an interior ministry spokesman talked of "fabricated news reports" and asserted that "no murder case has been recorded with the interior ministry on so-called 'emo' grounds".

1059 GMT: Footage from a students' session with the Deputy Governor after Saturday's demonstrations at King Khalid University in Saudi Arabia (see 0859 GMT) --- a meeting with a member of Saudi royalty was reportedly promised:

0859 GMT: An image from a week of demonstrations at King Khalid University in Saudi Arabia:

Reuters summarises the latest developments:

Thousands of students at an all-female university in Saudi Arabia boycotted classes on Saturday, protesting against poor services, witnesses said, in a rare display of dissent from women in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

It was the second protest at King Khalid university in the southern town of Abha in a week - security forces broke up a demonstration there on Wednesday, leaving dozens injured, students told Reuters.

The protests first erupted when the university cancelled cleaning services, saying students needed to take better care of their campus.

"The main trigger was the accumulation of trash for three days which started to smell. The other thing is the mistreatment of students," one of the students told Reuters on Saturday, asking not to be named.

"Today there was a high rate of absences ... There were security and religious police outside the university but no arrests were made," the student added.

Video footage posted on YouTube on Saturday (see EA's Saturday Live Coverage) appeared to show about 200 students at Abha's affiliated all-male King Khalid University also holding a protest against poor services and calling for the removal of the university's president.

0747 GMT: An EA correspondent offers the story beyond the photograph of a protester smashing a police CCTV camera (see top of entry):

There are two types [of camera] which the Ministry of Interior is using for CCTV. There is the type like the one in this picture. These are monitored by MOI headquarters in Manama to watch the main roads, so they can give instructions to riot police to get to locations of protests. This type is very advanced and has a very strong zoom..

But there's another type which is smaller. These are located near the police stations near the villages. They are monitored by the stations are not as technically advanced.

0740 GMT: In Syria, 63 people reportedly died on Saturday, including 16 insurgents in an ambush by regime forces in Idlib Province in the northwest.

That news was complemented by President Assad's slap-down of the intervention of United Nations envoy Kofi Annan. After Assad received Annan in Damascus, the line put out by State media was one of defiance: while the President welcomed a genuine bid for peace, there would be no negotiations until the regime put down the "terrorist groups" who were causing the violence across the country.

0725 GMT: The weekend's vivid demonstration of protest continued in Bahrain on Saturday, as Friday's mass "March 4 Democracy" was followedy by a vocal procession for Fadhel Al Obaidi, who died a week after he was hit by a tear gas canister fired by security forces.

The police used tear gas at the end of the funeral and raided villages across the kingdom; however, last night the marches continued for Al Obaidi --- in Mailikiya:

At the same time, stories rippled about possible regime moves for talks and conciliation. An advisor tested out the line that King Hamad would be announcing a "comprehensive dialogue" --- how this differed from the "national dialogue" proclaimed last summer was not clear --- while the public prosecutor's office took the more substantial step of dropping criminal charge against 15 of the 20 doctors and nurses given long prison sentences last autumn.

All this occurs in the context of a series of private talks between regime officials and some members of the opposition, notably from the leading society Al Wefaq.

So can we join up the events to see a process where the public pressure of the marches is complementing a genuine quest for a compromise solution? Or is this more a case of differing stories which point to a shifting, but still very present, political conflict?

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