Two protesters dead in Iran; violent clashes in Yemen; and at least two deaths in Bahrain. It's another day in the new Middle East, as people-powered revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt continue reverberating across the region.
The Internet certainly didn't deliver Tunisians and Egyptians from from their rulers. It was a tool utilized by savvy organizers to mobilize people to reach for their shared ideals. Among the aspirations shared by protesters in Bahrain today is avoiding a beating by security forces. There, organizers are banking on the notion that where there are cameras, there isn't live ammunition.
Appalling amateur video from Bahrain allegedly shows peaceful protesters fleeing as police charged and pelted demonstrators with tear gas canisters yesterday. An estimated ten thousand marchers joined a funeral procession held there today for a protester killed when police opened fire on a demonstration this morning.
Bahrainis are demanding greater inclusion of the Shia majority in Bahrain's parliamentary government, which is dominated by Sunnis. Protesters also seek greater political freedoms. "This is being pitted as a sectarian issue -- the Shia wanting to overthrow the regime," said Bahraini blogger Amira Al Hussaini. "But it is not a Shia uprising." Sunnis are also reportedly taking to the streets in defiance of government fiats.
Yemenis saw a fifth straight day of protests today, as protesters continued demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule. Around 3,000 protesters braved the police's tear gas, batons, and stun guns as they marched toward downtown Sana'a, Yemen's capital -- an unimaginable event in the Middle East just two months ago.
Saleh tried to head off protesters' demands earlier this month by holding an emergency parliamentary meeting earlier, where he announced his intention not to run for re-election. As was the case in Egypt, however, rumors abound that the strongman's son is waiting in the wings for the presidency.
Regime supporters in Iran called for the execution of opposition leaders there, as protesters gathered in Tehran to voice solidarity with the Egyptian people. The demonstrations were Iran's largest since those that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election in the summer of 2009. Politicians called the leaders "corrupt on earth," a charge directed at previous opposition leaders that carries the threat of capital punishment in the Islamic republic.
Iranian officials are also taking a page out of Mubarak's playbook, in an apparent media crackdown. State-run television and websites made no mention of the protests. Internet access was also unusually limited, and some phone lines were cut, interfering with opposition leaders' ability to communicate.
With governments and organizers across the Middle East learning from those of Egypt and Tunisia, none can forecast how widespread revolutionary seeds will spread, let alone how the efforts in Iran, Yemen, and Bahrain will conclude. No matter how similar in appearance from afar, unique dynamics and institutions have and will continue to mold each national movement and affect to what extent organizers' ideals will be realized, if at all.
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