By Erin Butterfield
There is a spreading Revolution in the Middle East and parts of Africa. We have all heard about Egypt, but did you know that there are similar riots and revolutionary acts going on in many surrounding countries?
For some background, and for those that don’t know exactly what’s been going on in Egypt, I will summarize some important current events there. The people of Egypt ousted their leader, President Hosni Mubarak, and revolutions have been taking place everywhere. The future is unclear, but right now the nation is being led by the military power. According to a recent New York Times article, this military power has laid out a six-month timetable “to draft constitutional amendments, submit them to a referendum and elect a new government.” This has stirred much debate about the military’s long-term intentions in the country, but some people in the opposition welcomed the timetable “as evidence that the officers were eager to turn over power to a civilian authority. Others, noting that the military has so far excluded civilians from the transitional government, questioned whether the speedy schedule might signal just the opposite” (New York Times, February 15). Those that are questioning also worry that the military might be trying to manipulate events to preserve its power, and they are accusing the military of rushing the process and denying actual political parties enough time to organize for a meaningful, fair election that could elect a strong civilian government, or a civil society, which many people believe is crucial to the success of any nation.
Here is a brief update on the neighboring countries that have been in the news a lot lately:
There is a growing issue of illegal immigrants coming into Tunisia. Italy is sending in armed forces to help and they are trying to get permission from the Tunisian foreign minister to block the influx of immigrants. Unfortunately, the issue of immigrants is only one of the issues going on in Tunisia right now…only a few weeks after Tunisians toppled their authoritarian president (just like in Egypt), it is now clear that that was just the easy part. Workers are going on strike because their salaries are getting lowered so much, while others are being let go from their jobs because of the economic situation.
In Iran, hundreds of riot police officers are beating protesters and letting out tear gas to hold street protests, “as security forces around the region moved to prevent new unrest in sympathy with the opposition victory in Egypt” (New York Times, February 15). The authorities of Iran have made it clear that they will not stop crushing demonstrations with deadly force; even protests that were intended to be peaceful. The revolution in Egypt increased the cost of repression for the Iranian government at the same time that it energized the Iranian protesters, and because of that the likelihood of renewed mass protests in Iran has gone up while the outcome of these protests is still far from certain.
Just like in Iran, there were many protests going on in Yemen as well…and they too were being forcefully shut down by officers and other leaders. Demonstrators “sought to emulate the revolution in Egypt,” said the New York Times. Opposition groups did not join in on the protest. Government supporters, and of course the government itself, were the opposition. Similar to the countries mentioned above, in Bahrain there are also police officers raising their weapons and firing rubber bullets and tear gas directly into groups of protesters who are chanting slogans or holding signs.
I hope that you all now have a clearer image of what is going on in these countries, and how serious and fast-spreading these revolutions are. It’s unclear what actions should be being taken by us, if any, but for now it’s good to be aware, and be thinking about these countries—and being thankful that we are not going through turmoil like they are.