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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Arab Street

Of course it's not just the Arabs. It's most of the ME.

I have been following events from the Sudanese elections through Tunisia with interest, and the sparks are flying everywhere.

The burning of the Al-Jazeera van in Lebanon may be because Al-Jazeera published some of those documents about the Palestinian peace talks. But hasn't Lebanon essentially gone over to Syria now with this PM pick?

It was very odd to look at the Egyptian coverage and see the pictures of the demonstrators all kneeling in neat rows for prayers.

A lot of this is economic. If you're unhappy about inflation, think about how it feels to be poor and facing rising prices. The rage and desperation just boils up. Things have been steadily cooking for a while in the region. Take Morocco and the protest camps last year, which did not end well. Fortunately, last year's wrath was diverted against Spain, which criticized the violent resolution. That was even more offensive. Right now Rabat is pretty quiet.

Then add in the usual heavy-handed policing and corruption, and wham! But it also seems to be lining up with other moves in the region. In Jordan, IAF and the Muslim Brotherhood are definitely pushing hard with popular support to dump the current parliament.

A quick way to get a sense of fast-moving events is the LGF page. Whatever else is true, Bouazizi's act and the success of the ensuing Tunisian protests have sparked people's imaginations. Horribly. It's been going on for weeks, but the Egyptian action today is just going to fan the flames. I think the Yemeni protesters actually got some of these people released today.

One of the reasons why this is not stopping is that in many countries, although the demonstrations have been repressed, governments have been responding in various ways with food programs and so forth. Saleh (Yemen) supposedly controlled some food prices and cut income taxes in half along with deploying the riot police.

I also liked Ezra Levant's Toronto Sun article.

It's everywhere. Iran just executed two for protests last year. From Al-Jazeera:
Iran has carried out the first executions of activists detained in street protests after the disputed 2009 presidential poll, hanging two men it said were from an outlawed group.

The executions on Monday of the two activists from the Iranian exiled opposition group, People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) came despite a plea by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they be freed.
This is why I am so hard and fast on the First Amendment. In the end, all governments want to shut up their opponents and critics. There is no end to it once you accept the idea that they should be able to do it. My grandfather escaped from a despotic regime.

Yeah, yeah, I know we've got the SOTU speech tonight, but it doesn't matter. This is big news, and it does matter.

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