The revolution was started in Tunisia by Mohamed Bouazizi (26), a humble vegetable vendor. He set himself alight in December as a sign of protest. Mohamed had endured police bullying that resulted in the “last straw” confiscation of his vegetable cart. He died of his wounds in early January and instantly became a martyr to students and the unemployed. A wave of protests against poor living conditions began. Three weeks ago the country’s dictatorship fell sending a spark to ignite the unrest that is now burning out of control in this region of autocratic rulers.
The next dictator to feel the pain of revolution was Hosni Mubarak of Egypt after a 30 year autocratic rule which subjected Egyptian citizens to the suppression of political opposition, detention without trial and torture. A week ago, after 18 days of rolling public unrest, the “modern pharaoh” as he was known, turned over power to the military before leaving Cairo for his seaside vacation home. Mubarak announced that he will not be a candidate in the September elections and that his son will not succeed him.
Mubarak’s departure has not dampened the enthusiasm for revolution in Egypt. A one million man “Victory March” is planned for Friday to celebrate Mubarak’s ousting, and perhaps to remind generals of the power of the street. Today at least 1,500 Egyptian workers from the Suez Canal Authority protested for better pay in cities on the strategic waterway. The canal is one of the world’s major transit routes for shipping and oil transport and is a major source of revenue for Egypt. More than one million barrels of crude oil moves through here daily. A natural gas pipeline was bombed on Feb. 5 halting the flow of natural gas to Israel and Jordan prompting the military to deploy along the key pipeline.
The revolution reached heavily policed Libya on Wednesday. In the main square of Benghazi thousands of protestors called for an end to the 41-year rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. While outside a government office in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, protesters armed with gasoline bombs and rocks demanded the release of a human rights advocate.
Even the tiny but strategic country of Bahrain is feeling the winds of change. The Khalifa family has ruled since the 18th century and has a long history of distrust with the Shiite majority. The King recruits foreigners to serve in the police force to avoid giving locals access to weapons. Early this morning heavily armed police opened fire on tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators who had gathered in Pearl Square in the capital of Manama, camping out in an almost carnival-like atmosphere and calling on the king for reforms. At least 5 citizens were killed and 200 wounded. Some were reportedly fired on where they slept. The Pentagon said it is closely monitoring the unrest in Bahrain, where the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based.
This short video clip shows protesters in Bahrain dragging wounded men away soon after the security forces fired teargas and birdshot at a large crowd mourning a protester who died on Monday.