The Egyptians weren’t the first peoples in the Arab world to rise up against an oppressive government in 2011. Before that Facebook group was made, the people of Tunisia rose up against their (now former) president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, kicked him out, and have had an acting president since mid-December.
Egypt got so much attention because of the sheer scale of the protests, the millions that marched and demanded democracy, and the fact that they are a major receiver of U.S. aid. But now, as Part I of Egypt’s fight for freedom has come to a close, several of its Arab counterparts are learning from it and Tunisia’s example.
Here is a list of the top five countries (in no particular order) in the Middle-East facing a major uprising against oppression and for democracy. And you can bet, a lot of it will be organized on Facebook and Twitter.
Just like in Egypt, this fight isn’t over. It all started when Mohammed Bouazizi lit himself on fire, an act of self-immolation that has been emulated in other countries as a symbol of governmental oppression and humiliation. Now, even though Ben Ali has stepped down, Tunisians are protesting against high food prices and high unemployment, and are trying to put together a reliable temporary government until a free and fair election is held later this year for the first time since Ali took office in 1987.
Bahrain has an overwhelming Shiite majority that wants more of a say in governmental procedures and a larger share of economic opportunities. They want their king Sheikh Hamid bin Isa al-Khalifa to rewrite the country’s constitution to include those amendments, and an end to the 39-year reign of prime minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa (the uncle of the king). Add that to concerns over corruption, torture and the jailing of 500 presumably innocent Shiites last year and Bahraini’s have plenty to protest against. The government has tried to stop protesters by offering each family nearly $2,700 each, but this movement can’t be bought. There have been clashes between protesters and pro-government forces here, too. Forces fired on the funeral procession for a fallen protester in the capital Manama early Feb. 15, and killed at least one person, Al Jazeera reports.
We all remember the green revolution; the 2009 uprising after the results of a disputed election that put President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back in power. But now that fire has been rekindled, thanks largely to Egypt’s success in overthrowing Hosni Mubarak, and Iranians are now back in the streets. Ironically, after Mubarak was overthrown, Ahmadinejad’s government supported the protesters, but are now banning their own people from voicing their opinions in the streets of Tehran. There were many clashes in Tehran on February 14th, as police used tear gas to disperse protesters who were chanting “death to a dictator,” in reference to Ahmadinejad. Iranians aren’t happy at their country’s hypocrisy, and while the people obviously support the Egyptian cause, they can hardly believe their government’s words of encouragement.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in power since 1999, when he was elected amidst widespread allegations of fraud, as several candidates pulled out just before election day. This one is for democracy, much like Egypt’s, and on Feb. 13 hundreds of Algerian protesters were met by thousands of police who were deployed to stop the protest. The people want a legitimate government and an end to the state of emergency that has plagued the country for almost two decades, which President Bouteflika said he’d lift soon, according to Al Jazeera. Bouteflika also promised Algerians more political freedom, but that hasn’t stopped them from organizing a massive protest set for Feb. 19.
Monday, Feb. 14 marked the fourth straight day of protests in the country, but the first day of major clashes between the people and the police. During a sit-in at Sanaa University, hundreds of protesters clashed with pro-government forces, where at least 17 were injured and 165 arrested. President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would not run for re-election in 2013, but that hasn’t been enough to stop Yemenis from airing their grievances in the street. This protest is of special concern to the U.S., as the New York Times reports the movement has spread because of the president’s relationship with the U.S., and possibly his role in covering U.S. involvement in trying to eliminate the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda.
None of the above uprisings have reached numbers anywhere close to what was happening in Egypt. However many of the country’s populations are smaller and many of the protests are still in their infancies. Amazingly, these aren’t the only Mid-East countries rising up. Here are a list of countries and corresponding dates for their next planned major protests (via twitter user @Blindust): Libya Feb. 17, Morocco Feb. 20, Cameroon Feb. 23, Kuwait March 8.
Along with these, the people of Jordan, Syria and Sudan are standing up to governments they see as illegitimate.
For a near constant stream of updates on the situation in the Mid-East, you can watch Al Jazeera English live on their website by clicking here.