AEGEE International Politics Journal

Newsflash #3: 21 February 2011

by Neville Bezzina (Malta)

February has been primarily characterised by the ongoing ‘people power’ protests that have taken the Arab world by storm, destabilising long-lasting dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia: revolutions that are taking place right now in Libya, Bahrian, Morocco, Yemen, and others. It’s proven to be a rapid shift in international politics that has plunged the region into a new era.

CFR has compiled this handy guide to the ongoing Middle East Protests which looks at the issues from a foreign policy analysis perspective.

After 18 days of constant protests by Egyptian citizens numbering in the millions, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down (al-Jazeera) on February 11, handing over power to the military. The news was greeted by cheers in Egypt’s streets by the people. The military issued a statement saying it would lift a thirty-year-old emergency law “as soon as current circumstances end” and pledged to “holding free and fair elections in light of the constitutional amendments.”
For more on Egypt after Mubarak click here

In Bahrain, pro-democracy protests in the capital of Manama have seen up to two thousand activists camped out in the city center demanding a change in the government. Bahrain’s king ordered the release of several prisoners in an effort to encourage dialogue with the opposition movement. Despite the move, thousands of protestors thronged capital Manama’s central square (CNN).

Violent Protests Erupt in Libya

Guardian live updates

Al Jazeera live updates

In the meantime, the protests have spread to Libya, where strong opposition towards leader Moammar Gaddafi
has led to reports that the second largest city of the nation, Benghazi, has fallen into the hands of the opposition, and the violence spreading to the capital. The world has seen an instant rise in oil prices world wide as stocks respond to the crisis.

Gaddafi himself remains defiant and has refused to step down. Rumours that he had left for Venezuala were disproven when he appeared on the state television channel for a short declaration that he was still in the country. According to local accounts, state police have turned increasingly violent, with two fighter jet pilots defecting to Malta after being ordered to bomb protesters in Tripoli.

The violent reaction by the regime has led to Libyan U.N. diplomats to declare that Gaddafi should resign Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN has requested international intervention (Guardian), suggesting a no-fly zone over the country in order to prevent “a real genocide.”

Several European and Western countries, the United Nations, Russia and the UK have condemned the violent crackdown and called for reform and dialogue instead. However, Gaddafi loyalists are fighting are waging a violent battle to keep him in power. According to Al-Jazeera reports, almost three hundred people have been killed for rebelling against the Arab region’s longest serving autocrat (al-Jazeera).

This interactive map from the Economist provides a statistical hub containing key data from all the countries of the Arab League.

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