While the West wages war with Libya, let's check in on the state of freedom to protest in Middle East:
The Council on Foreign Relations weighed in:Egypt's ruling generals said on Saturday they were ready to use force to end protests in Tahrir Square after troops cracked down on demonstrators overnight and sparked violence that medical sources said killed two people. (Reuters)
Yemeni security forces fired on demonstrators in three cities yesterday, leaving many wounded (Bloomberg)
Massive protests calling for the ouster of Syria’s authoritarian president turned deadly again Friday, with witnesses and human rights workers reporting the deaths of as many as three dozen protesters across the country and the government saying for the first time that members of its security forces had also been killed. (WaPo)
In Jordan, a man was in critical condition after setting himself on fire Thursday in front of the prime minister’s office, in the first such act of protest there, emulating the action of a Tunisian vendor late last year that triggered a chain reaction of protests across the region. (WaPo)
Heavy security prevented fresh protests after Friday prayers in Oman's city of Sohar, where protesters camped out for over a month before security forces moved them out last week. Demonstrations in Oman have focused on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to corruption. Many protesters have demanded the state prosecute sacked ministers for corruption. (Arab Times)
Bahrain’s crown prince said he was committed to reform but warned there would be “no leniency” for those who tried to divide the kingdom, where weeks of protests were quashed by a fierce security crackdown. (Arab Times)
“We’re obviously in a period of unraveling of the old, and violence is a part of that,” said Robert Danin, senior fellow for Middle East/Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). “But it’s premature to conclude that this is the new normal.”
CFR represents U.S. corporate interests, which historically used violence to open markets or get access to natural resources, frequently working with Middle East strongmen, the very subject of protests.
ExxonMobil CEO Alex Dodds emphasized Qatar’s most commercially beneficial characteristics in providing a stable political and economic climate to encourage the US to invest so heavily. (The Peninsula)The old used violence and oppression to remain in power, frequently with America's blessing. But change brings opportunity.
The US government is sponsoring efforts to help activists in Arab and other countries gain access to technology that circumvents government firewalls, secures telephone text and voice messages, and prevents attacks on websites.
The State Department said it has already funded efforts by private firms, mainly from the United States, to develop a dozen different technologies to circumvent government censorship firewalls.
How can we get the version that keeps the U.S. government from spying on citizens? Can whistleblowers get the download? It might save their retirement benefits.
Update 4-19-11: Syria and Yemen security forces fired on demonstrators, yet again. Funerals ignite another round of protests, where government forces kill more people.
Update 5-27-11: French President Nicholas Sarkozy said at the G-8 meeting. Democratic governments "are the only legitimate representatives of the will of the people," he said. "To forget this is to take the risk of democratic chaos and hence anarchy."