Middle East Uprising – Live Updates


Source(London, United Kingdom, March 22, 2011)- Human Rights Watch researcher
I spoke to two residents of Daraa, where security forces have killed at least six demonstrators since large scale protests started last Friday. They reported that at around 1:30am security forces used live bullets and tear gas canisters to force their way into the al-Omari mosque, where protestors have gathered since Friday. The researcher could hear gunshots being fired while on the phone with residents. A Syrian activist who has been closely monitoring the situation and speaking to Daraa residents on the phone told me that "It sounded like war zone on the other end. I am really worried about a massacre."

Faraz Sanei(Manama, Bahrain, March 16, 2011) - Faraz Sanei, Bahrain researcher

At 7.30 this morning I tried to go to Salmaniya hospital. But the whole area is surrounded by riot police diverting cars away from the area. I walked around for a little while trying to assess the situation. There were scattered gangs of youth covering their face on one of the main streets close to the hospital. There was tear gas in the area - I couldn't tell if it was blowing over here from the Roundabout area or if police had fired tear gas close to Salmaniya. I could also see thick was black smoke coming from the area of the Roundabout. During the half-hour I was in the area I could hear sustained sounds: bangs, booms, and repetitive shots that might have been live ammunition rounds. There were also military helicopters flying very low overhead. I hitched a ride with an employee of the Ministry of Health who said he was on his way to Salmaniya, but he dropped me off close to one of the gates when he realized I was a foreigner. I saw him trying to drive into the hosptial but riot police were there so he (and several other cars trying to get in) were forced to turn around. Not sure if he ever made it in.

I have been able to communicate with a doctor who has been at Salmaniya since last night. He says that security forces have surrounded the hospital and are not allowing ambulances to leave or get in to treat the casualties. Another medical staff person sent me pictures of riot police around the hospital. She says the people inside feel threatened by the police. It is not clear where authorities are taking the casualties or how many people have been killed or injured.

  Faraz Sanei(Manama, Bahrain, March 15, 2011) - Faraz Sanei, Bahrain researcher

I have spoken to two people in the Shia village of Sitra, south of Manama, who confirmed that security forces, both civilian and police, attacked the medical center there following clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces that began in Sitra at around 11 a.m. Both were at the hospital during the attack at about 4.45 p.m. As we spoke on the phone during calls earlier today I heard shots being fired. I just spoke to both witnesses for a second time and they said that security forces did not enter the center but fired rubber bullets and tear gas inside the hospital. People who had gathered outside to find out what's happening to their loved ones were forced to go inside.

Both sources have now left the medical center. One is back home in Sitra and he says the security situation there is very bad, and most people are staying in their homes. The other is a doctor who has now gone to Salmaniya hospital in Manama. He said there were several hundred people taken to Sitra (way over capacity) for injuries caused by tear gas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets. He took five injured people with him to Salmaniya, which has admitted more than 250 cases today. He said the hospital there is overwhelmed by the number of injured. The doctor also said that three ambulances that were on their way to Sitra from Salmaniya were “hijacked” by security forces and the paramedics were beaten.

The doctor confirmed at least two dead: Bahraini Ahmed Farhan and an unidentified Bangladeshi man. There are unconfirmed reports that a third person has died as well. A second doctor said Farhan was likely shot with a shotgun and his skull was completely shattered. He said there are at least four people in critical condition at Salmaniya, including one person who has what seems to be a live ammunition bullet wound that entered and exited his chest. Another critical case is a 14-year-old-boy who was shot in the knee and was bleeding profusely. The doctor said he believes that live ammunition round were used against some villagers in Buri, south-west of Manama.

Faraz Sanei(Manama, Bahrain, March 13, 2011) - Faraz Sanei, Bahrain researcher

Just after 9 a.m. at the start of Bahrain’s work week I arrived at Manama’s Financial Harbor. Earlier there were reported clashes between the police and a few hundred protesters who had blocked theroad to the harbor, with police firing tear gas to disperse the crowds. Thearea had been cleared of protesters but I saw shoes, rocks and a couple of damaged police vehicles with shattered glass on the street. The police claimed that protesters had caused the damage. I began walking toward the Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of Bahrain’s pro-democracy demonstrations. A few minutes later I came across a standoff between protesters and riot police. It seemed peaceful, although the crowds were close to the police. (I was standing on a dirt road close to the main road.) All of a sudden the police used sound bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowds. I saw one person with head injuries being carried to the ambulance. Another person had an abdominal wound. For the next 15 minutes or so the police pushed the protesters toward the Roundabout and away from the Financial Harbor by firing tear gas and sound bombs. I reached Pearl Roundabout around 9:30 a.m. amidst reports from protesters that the police were planning to break up the protest there.

At the Pearl Roundabout there was no sign of police but the demonstrators were tense. I went up on the overpass so I could see the Roundabout clearly. From there I could see riot police approaching the overpass from the Financial Harbor side and the City Centre (mall) side. They were pushing all the protesters into the Roundabout. Within minutes they began firing tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the crowds and force them off the overpass and down to the Roundabout. The sounds were intense. Every time they dispersed crowds, some people went back. I saw some of the protesters hurling onions (used for protection against tear gas) at the police, and I also saw several instances of police with batons beating people who had gotten to close to their line. The tear gas became too intense and eventually the police were able to force all the protesters to leave the overpass. Around 9:45 I abandoned theoverpass and went to a road that heads into the Roundabout.

For the next hour police occupied the overpass from both the Financial Harbor side and the City Centre side. Protesters remained inside the Roundabout and a standoff ensued. Every 5 or 10 minutes you could see and hear tear gas being fired at protesters who climbed up the embankment towards the overpass. At times the tear gas became very intense, even though I was not inside the Roundabout. After a while police began to move their vans, a water-cannon truck, and some personnel back towards the Financial Harbor and also in the opposite direction . By 10:55 things had quieted down a bit and there were only a handful of police left on the overpass, so I entered the Roundabout. I noticed protesters going up the embankment to the overpass. By 11 o’clock the police had withdrawn and the protesters had retaken the overpass area directly looking onto the Roundabout. Some hurled onions or other objects at police as they were pulling back. But before they left the area they fired a lot of tear gas into the Roundabout. I went back up to the embankment a few minutes after 11 and could see hundreds of people coming toward the Roundabout from both directions.

After a little more than an hour at the Roundabout I headed back to the Financial Harbor. But not before an announcement was made at the Roundabout that people in civilian dress wielding weapons had attacked students at the University of Bahrain, which is a ways to the south of Manama. Dozens of the Roundabout demonstrators loaded themselves onto vans and headed there, I was told by aprotester, to protect the students. I made it back to the Financial Harbor, the area where clashes began earlier this morning, at around 1:20 p.m. I am there now. There are about 50-75 protesters gathered around Shaikh al-Moqdad, one of Shia opposition figures, and two other clerics. There is no sign of the police who had forced the protesters from this area hours before. Protesters have barricaded the road for several hundred meters. There is no traffic. Everything in the area is shut down.

Faraz Sanei(Manama, Bahrain, March 12, 2011) - Faraz Sanei, Bahrain researcher

Today another several thousand marched to one of King Hamad's palaces, in Dar Chulaib. Many are wearing the cheffen, a white shroud symbolizing martyrdom in Shia Islam. The crowds are peaceful and are chanting slogans demanding the downfall of the Al Khalifa monarchy. They are gathered in a relatively confined space - a road which runs to the king's palace and is surrounded by walls. We can see video cameras installed by the government in some of the buildings alongside the road, and a helicopter is monitoring the scene overhead. As with all previous demonstrations to date, women and girls are as visible a force as their male counterparts. I see girls as young as two and three and even pregnant women in the crowd.

After about two hours the crowd started to head back to the Manama area. Unlike Friday's protest, this one has not encountered violence. We are currently passing a watch tower with guards and video cameras recording the demonstration. The protesters are holding "V" signs and chanting "Down Down Hamad!" as they march on by.

Although the Ministry of Interior today did not warn protesters not to go to the King's Palace, as they did before yesterday's march to the Royal Court, the government has made it clear that they consider all the demonstrations that have taken place during the past few weeks, including the permanent tent city erected at the Pearl Roundabout, to be illegal. The opposition, on the other hand, is demanding that the government allow the peaceful protests to continue and insist on their right to assemble freely - a right regularly denied before they took over the Roundabout exactly three weeks ago.

Faraz Sanei(Manama, Bahrain, March 11, 2011) - Faraz Sanei, Bahrain researcher
We were at the anti-government demonstration in Rifaa, south of Manama, where King Hamad's palace is located. It turned violent. Several pro-government protesters or Rifaa residents broke through the police line and began chanting and hurling rocks toward the anti-government demonstrators. Some in the latter group reacted and did the same. After a minute or two of these exchanges the police began shooting tear gas in the direction of the protesters and hundreds began running away. I saw lots of teargas, and dozens of people fell on the ground due to inhalation, being struck by canisters, or simply falling over. The firing of tear gas canisters stopped after about a minute, and some protesters went back to the front line again. But after half an hour or so the crowd began to disperse. Ambulances on the scene took some of the injured to the hospital.

Now we're at al-Aal hospital in Manama. Most of the injured are suffering from tear-gas inhalation. A few say they were attacked by anti-protester crowds. Some have fractures and sprains too.

Source(Sanaa, Yemen, March 8, 2011) - anonymous source
Yemen’s security forces tonight fired live ammunition and tear gas at peaceful anti-government protesters in the capital, Sanaa, wounding at least seven people, according to witnesses, local human rights activists and doctors.

Protesters have been staging a sit-in for weeks at the entrance to Sanaa University. Armed, pro-government gangs had killed two protesters at the site two weeks earlier. But since then the protest area has been relatively peaceful, in contrast to rallies in other parts of Yemen.

A field doctor said one demonstrator was in critical condition from a bullet wound to his head and that six others were shot in the arms and legs. The doctor said more than 50 others suffered cramps, brief fainting spells and other physical problems from the tear gas.

Pro-government gangs prevented one ambulance containing wounded from reaching the nearest government hospital, forcing the driver to divert to a private hospital, the field doctor said.

A government statement said police tried to apprehend armed men at a checkpoint outside the protest area. But a witness said the incident began when uniformed members of Yemen’s Central Security forces tried to prevent protesters from using tents near the square, though demonstrators had been sleeping in such tents for days without incident. A few hundred protesters “gathered and started to scream at the government,” the witness said. “Suddenly the Central Security forces attacked the protesters with gunfire and tear gas.”

The square was calm several hours later, the doctors and witnesses said. Throughout the day, tanks and other military vehicles had patrolled Sanaa’s streets.

Nadya Khalife(Cairo, Egypt, March 8, 2011) - Nadya Khalifen Researcher, Women's Rights Division
Today, hundreds of Egyptian women marched to Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women’s Day. The march was much smaller than organizers expected and the atmosphere very different from just three weeks ago, when thousands gathered to demand the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.

In the square, I was struck by the level of hostility displayed towards the women who participated. Shortly after they reached Tahrir, a large group of men gathered in front of them, yelling in Arabic “no, no,” and soon after, “out, out,” and eventually “invalid, invalid.”

We didn’t know who the men were, but they shouted loudly and were openly hostile to us. I heard some women talking about how scared they felt by the changed environment and the men'sactions. I asked one woman who was on the sidelines march why she did not support the march. She told me, “This is not the time for this [women’s rights]. There is no government.” I asked her whether she thought women should wait for men to form the government. She responded, “First, you have a government, and build institutions, and then only you [women] demand your rights.”

The openly hostile environment that greeted the Women’s Day march is a testament to the challenges which women will face in seeking to ensure their participation and guarantees of basic rights at all levels of the political spectrum in Egypt.


Peter Bouckaert(Libya, March 7, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director


Priyanka Motaparthy(Cairo, Egypt, March 5, 2011) - Priyanka Motaparthy, researcher
Protesters entered the State Security Investigations (SSI) compound in Nasr City, a place they call the “torture center” of Egypt, just before 7 PM. They dragged out as many documents and materials as they could, to protect them from being destroyed. The night before in Alexandria, protesters stormed the state security headquarters on Fara’ana Street, and found “mountains of shredded paper,” one activist who entered the building told Human Rights Watch. “By the time we got inside, there was nothing left [intact].”

Protesters began gathering in front of the Nasr City compound around 4 PM, and by 5:30, we observed a crowd of at least 250. Just before 7, we found a side entrance, where army officers stood by as people entered.

Inside the compound, protesters started a collection point, amassing several large trash bags full of shredded paper, file folders still intact, computer hard drives, and a green metal safe. Others wandered through the halls of the building, shouting “where are the prisoners?” They were searching for the secret detention cells where political prisoners were held and often tortured. Activists have now posted photos of these underground cells on Twitter. They also report finding the files of well-known Egyptian activists who faced torture, including Khaled Said and Ahmad Maher.

Around 9:30 p.m., protesters demanded that a representative from the public prosecutor’s office come and oversee safe transport of the documents. The actions today and yesterday at the state security offices show the protesters’ determination to see that the Mubarak government is held accountable for systematic torture and enforced disappearances.


Peter Bouckaert(Benghazi, Libya, March 5, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director
The situation for African migrants stuck in Libya remains very difficult, but there are some signs of improvement. This morning, we met with representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who have organized a ship evacuation for African migrants from the city of Benghazi, which should proceed tomorrow. The ship will take the African migrants to Alexandria in Egypt, and then onwards to their home countries or to a place of asylum for those unable to return home to repressive countries. Many African migrants have also headed to the Egyptian border by road, where they are also being assisted by the IOM. But the recapturing of areas along the border with Tunisia by Gaddafi forces yesterday has led to the effective closure of the Libya-Tunisian border, stranding tens of thousands inside Libya in very insecure conditions.

There are still many problems. Last night, we visited the main courthouse in Benghazi and registered 63 persons in detention kept in three small rooms, including 12 members of the Libyan security services. The other 51 persons in detention were all sub-Saharan African, mostly Chadians, accused of being mercenaries for Gaddafi. After speaking to the detainees, we found little evidence that the sub-Saharan Africans in detention had been used as mercenaries, and they told us credible accounts of having lived in Libya for years. While the new Benghazi authorities have been cooperative with the work of Human Rights Watch, we were disappointed to see so many apparently innocent people in detention under crowded conditions, and urged the authorities to immediately release those against whom no credible evidence exists. They promised to review the cases today, and we hope they will act soon. We will continue to monitor this closely, as it is an important test for the new authorities' stated commitment to upholding human rights.

When we reached the city of Ajdabiya, 160 km west of Benghazi, we found more problems for Chadian and Sudanese workers trying to flee Libya. Ajdabiya is a gathering place for Chadian and Sudanese seeking to travel down the desert road to Kofra in southern Libya, and then onwards to Chad and Sudan. Hundreds of Chadians and Sudanese were on the streets in Ajdabiya trying to find transport to Kofra, but the transport companies explained to us that many more were stuck in Kofra. They're unable to travel onwards to Chad and Sudan because the border region is currently insecure and drivers refuse to take migrants onwards on the challenging four-day journey from Kofra to Chad and Sudan. The transport companies estimated that many thousands of Chadians and Sudanese are now stuck in Kofra, far away from the eyes of the media and the humanitarian community.

Peter Bouckaert(Brega, Libya, March 3, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director
This morning, we went to the morgue in Ajdabiya to establish a more definitive death toll for the intense fighting yesterday in Brega. We found 14 bodies at the morgue, many of them fighters, but also including the body of 13-year-old Hassan Umran, a young shepherd. Later, we went to see Hassan’s twin brother, Hussein, and his younger brother Faraj, 11, who were both wounded in the same incident that killed Hassan. They and their relatives explained that the boys had been out herding their goats and sheep on the outskirts of Brega around 8 am on March 2 when the pro-Gaddafi militia passed by in more than 30 vehicles heading towards the university. They said that the militia fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in the direction of the boys. All three boys were injured by shrapnel from the grenades, but Hassaan was killed when he was hit with bullets to his head.

When we arrived at the morgue, the doctors and attendants were busy washing the bodies and preparing them for burial by wrapping them in clean white cloths. Among the 14 dead were three bodies said to be from the pro-Gaddafi militia, but who were not carrying identification. It is believed that when the pro-Gaddafi fighters retreated, they took many of their wounded and dead, so the total casualties from their side are unknown. Aside from young Hassan, the remaining 11 dead included three guards from the Ammonium Factory, and seven fighters who had participated in the gun-battle on the rebel side.

We briefly proceeded to Brega to inspect the swimming-pool sized crater left behind by a jet-fired missile fired the evening before. It appears to have been a missile strike, as we didn’t find any of the fragments you’d expect to find after a bomb is dropped.

The outskirts of Brega are now heavily reinforced by teams of rebels armed with anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank missiles, heavy artillery, and other military equipment. More than half of those manning the military hardware are volunteers, but there are also a significant number of soldiers who have defected to the rebel side.
The frontlines of the rebels have now moved some fifty kilometers westward towards Tripoli As the road west is now safe, we briefly drove out to the frontline which was completely quiet and lightly defended for the moment, but heavy military weapons were being moved forward by the rebels in preparation for the next rebel battle around the town of Ras Lanuf. At the frontlines, we met several busloads of Egyptians fleeing from the Gaddafi-held areas towards the Egyptian border. The Egyptians we spoke to told us that they had suffered beatings and threats as they passed through the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirt, and had all of their cellphones and money stolen. One of the Egyptians I spoke to was wearing only socks on his feet, and when I asked him why, he explained he had a nice pair of shoes and that a soldier at the checkpoint outside Sirt had ordered him to take them off and hand them over. The Egyptians were clearly terrified, and happy to hear from us that the rest of the road to the Egyptian border had been safe and free from such dangers.

Peter Bouckaert(Brega, Libya, March 2, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director
After Human Rights Watch received reports that pro-Qaddafi fighters had moved on the coastal city of Brega overnight, we headed there to investigate. At Ejdabiya, sixty kilometers east of Brega, we found that a large crowd of armed anti-Qaddafi fighters had blocked the entrance to the town, armed with anti-aircraft guns, tanks, and other heavy weapons to repulse any possible pro-Qadhafi attack , but there were no signs of fighting.

We continued on towards Brega, and were the first foreigners to arrive on the scene of a heavy battle between rebels and pro-Qaddafi fighters who had taken over a local university as well as the oil installations and port on the western outskirts. Most rebels were armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and some had rocket-propelled grenade launchers, but they lacked heavier weapons to repulse the better-armed pro-Qaddafi forces. As rebels tried to approach the pro-Qaddafi fighters from the seaside highway, they came under heavy fire from 82mm mortar rounds, 122mm artillery shells, and heavy-caliber automatic weapons, and fighter jets repeatedly bombed the advancing rebels. We saw several wounded fighters were taken away, and later found six dead rebels at the hospital, although the final death toll is likely to be higher. We were not aware of any civilian casualties at the time.

After several hours of intense gun exchanges, rebel reinforcements came in from Ejdabiya and even Benghazi, arriving with heavier weapons such as anti-aircraft guns and artillery batteries. Rebels eventually gained the upper hand and pro-Qaddafi forces abandoned their positions, leaving Brega again solidly in rebel hands.

After inspecting the damage at the university and collecting evidence of the kinds of weapons pro-Qaddafi forces were using, we stopped to observe a celebration by several hundred civilians and armed rebels in the roundabout in front of the university. Protesters were tearing down a large billboard of Qaddafi, and I was talking to the CNN crew at the scene, when a fighter jet suddenly swooped low and fired a missile which landed ten meters away from us and the rest of the crowd. The large explosion that shattered the windshield of our parked car. Everyone ran away in terror, afraid the plane would return for a second bombing raid.

This major military confrontation between pro-Qaddafi forces and the eastern rebels signals an escalation in the situation in eastern Libya. Most of those fighting on the rebel side in the east appeared to be volunteers with limited experience, as we watched them trying to figure out how to load and fire some of the heavier weaponry that they had apparently newly acquired from looting military arsenals . The rebels did not seem to have a clear command structure and appeared to comprise mostly small groups of individuals who came together to fight. As we left Brega this evening, we saw dozens of military vehicles loaded with armed rebels and heavy weaponry enter the town to reinforce the frontline. This crisis is now taking on the characteristics of a full armed conflict, and it is far from over.

Samer Muscati(Toronto, Canada, March 2, 2011) - Samer Muscati, Iraq researcher

Libya - Tank

Rebel fighters in Brega take position in the desert near the local university on March 2, 2011.
© 2011 Franco Pagetti/VII

Libya, Rebel Fighter

A rebel fighter in Brega prepares to engage with pro-Qaddafi fighters on March 2, 2011.
© 2011 Franco Pagetti/VII

A fighter wounded in heavy battle between rebels and pro-Qaddafi fighters near the local university and oil installations in Brega on March 2, 2011.
© 2011 Franco Pagetti/VII

Priyanka Motaparthy(Cairo, Egypt, March 1, 2011) - Priyanka Motaparthy, researcher
This is a critical time for women in Egypt, who have so much to gain in a democratic and free country. Women’s rights activists here are working hard to make sure that women’s voices are heard in this transitional period. They stood shoulder to shoulder with men in Tahrir Square to demand their freedom and, and as one woman told us, they want to make sure this is not “half a revolution” that leaves women behind. Male political activists, one activist said, “are already asking us if this is the appropriate time, and in our experience there’s always an excuse about when the right time is to advance women’s equality. “

Some women we spoke with here are concerned that women have not been included in the constitutional committee or the newly appointed cabinet – they worry that may be a sign that women’s rights will be neglected and ignored. As one activist told us: “We’re keeping a watchful eye on amending the Constitution. If we don’t move now to demand women’s full participation, no one will pay attention to us.” Some groups are demanding that the military council establish a committee that includes prominent women activists, legal scholars and other experts to represent women’s interests during the transition. Others have demanded an end to the National Council for Women, headed by Suzanne Mubarak, which they say failed to take on crucial or controversial issues. Women’s rights activists are looking to establish new machinery and institutions genuinely committed to advancing women’s rights.
Source(Sanaa, Yemen, March 1, 2011) - anonymous source
Today’s “Day of Anger” in Yemen’s capital has been relatively calm so far, in contrast to deadly protests over the past several weeks in which security forces and pro-government gangs fired on protesters in Aden and Sanaa, killing at least 11 and wounding many more.

Demonstrators here in Sanaa continue to gather in two locations. People seeking the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh camped out at the gates of Sanaa University—a site they call “Change Square.” Demonstrators who back Saleh—with assistance from the government—are camped out five kilometers away at Tahrir (Freedom) Square.

A festive air prevailed at the university site, with protesters dancing and singing. Protesters have to pass through military and student checkpoints to reach the sit-in. They have erected dozens of small tents and about 10 larger tents, where hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people sleep at night and around which they congregate by day. A camera at the site provides a live feed.

There have been isolated scuffles between soldiers and demonstrators today but no attacks on the protesters, and security forces have allowed national and international media to film the crowds with relative freedom.
Sarah Leah Whitson(Tunisia, February 28, 2011) - Sarah Leah Whitson, director, Middle East North Africa

(Ras Ijdir, Tunisia, February 27, 2011) - Tirana Hassan, emergencies researcher

Crowds of Tunisians, along with Egyptians and Iraqis, crossed from Libya into Tunisia near Ras Ijdir today. They spoke of relative calm in the west of Libya, though some heard nighttime gunfire in Tripoli, the capital, and expressed worries that government-employed foreign mercenaries might harm them.

They said that the towns of Zawiya and Zuwarah near Tripoli were in control of anti-Ghaddafi civilians. A half-dozen Egyptians said they had spent six days outside the airport in Tripoli hoping for a flight out. The Egyptians chanted for help from their diplomatic representatives in Libya, but that help never came. Instead, the Libyan police arrived and kicked them, beat them with sticks, shocked them with electric prods and at one point, fired buckshot at them. A group of Bangladeshis said their Chinese employers left them behind, although the firm had arranged for other nationalities to be flown out.

Compounding chaos at the border was the arrival of hundreds of Tunisians from inside Tunisia, some bearing food, some just there to gawk. Reinforcements of Tunisian police and soldiers came by day's end to maintain order.

Source(Aden, Yemen, February 27, 2011) - anonymous source

We can confirm that security forces have killed at least nine people during anti-government protests since February 16 in the southern port of Aden, but we believe the toll is higher. We established the exact circumstances of these nine killing trough interviews with family members and witnesses. Six people were killed by police and military who opened fire in several districts of Aden the night of February 25. Of those six, one was a young male bystander and another was a man watching the protests from his window.

At least three of the dead and seven injured are in the Aden military hospital morgue, with no access to relatives or others outside the hospital, one medical source told us. Witnesses told us earlier that security forces had taken bodies immediately after they were shot.

We estimate as many as 150 people have been injured in the protests in Aden since mid-February. One hospital alone has received 31 injured since February 25.

Security remains heavy in Aden, with armored vehicles and four-wheel-drives mounted with machineguns patrolling streets, particularly in districts such as al-Mu’alla and Al Mansoura, where protesters had gathered Friday night. Protesters are still gathering today but in much smaller groups.

(Tunis, Tunisia, February 27, 2011) - Eric Goldstein, researcher

Today, at 6pm, hundreds of police in uniform, many in riot gear, patrolled the main avenue. In addition, scores of young men in street clothes, some of them masked, clutching clubs, wooden planks and table legs, milled about, some of them fraternizing openly with the uniformed police. Their affiliation, if any, could not be determined.

(Tunis, Tunisia, February 27, 2011) - Eric Goldstein, researcher

This afternoon at about 4 o'clock, theTunisian government announced the resignation of its controversial prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi. It was the culmination of a weekend in which the Tunisian capital was beset by the worst violence it has experienced since the departure of President Ben Ali on January 14.

(Tunis, Tunisia, February 27, 2011) - Eric Goldstein, researcher

The worst violence to hit the Tunisian capital since the departure of President Ben Ali on January 14 continued for a third straight day today. The main downtown artery, Habib Bourguiba Avenue, was this afternoon the scene of battles between security forces and rock-throwing youths.

On February 26, at least three people were shot dead on or near the avenue during such confontations. Another was killed the day before.

Today at about 1pm, Human Rights Watch saw security force members, some dressed in the dark uniforms of anti-riot brigades, working with others who wore plainclothes and carried sticks and clubs, charge the rock-throwers on foot into the narrow streets that lead to the avenue. We watched policemen beat two youths whom they caught, using their clubs and their hands, and throwing rocks back at the youths. A BBC journalist at another point along the avenue reported seeing groups of both uniformed and plainclothes police savagely beat five individuals they had apprehended, including one whom they beat until unconscious and then dragged him away by his feet.

The police also fired numerous rounds of teargas toward the protesters, who lit bonfires in the street and erected crude barricades across the street. A policeman who observed journalists and Human Rights Watch on hotel balconies filming the action gestured for us to stop and pointed a gun in our direction. Moments later, the hotel front desk called our rooms and told us the police had come in to order us to stop filming. Armored personnel carriers marked “National Guard” on the side moved along the avenue, with guns pointing out. Helicopters circled above, at a low altitude.

Habib Bourguiba Avenue was also the scene on February 25 of an initially nonviolent protest against the transitional government in front of the Ministry of Interior. Human Rights Watch observed that protest as it degenerated into stone-throwing at the police who responded with warning shots in the air, extensive use of tear gas, and the killing of at least one youth by live ammunition.

Today’s clashes occurred at a distance from the Ministry of Interior, which is now encircled by barbed wire. As of 3pm, protesters were still throwing stones and the police were firing tear gas toward the other end of the avenue, near the French Embassy. The avenue was covered with debris, mostly rocks and broken glass.

Human Rights Watch viewed the funeral cortege of the youth killed February 25 pass at about 4pm on February 26 through the Place de la Qasbah, which has been occupied since last Sunday by protesters demanding the ouster of the transitional government and in particular, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who is the main holdover in the government from Ben Ali’s cabinet.

The relationship, if any, is unclear between those throwing rocks on Habib Bourguiba Avenue and those occupying the Place de la Qasbah to demand the government’s departure.

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry, in acknowledging the three deaths on February 26, blamed unnamed “agitators” for the violence, accusing them of hiding among peaceful protesters to terrorize the public and attack law enforcement agents. It said that 100 people had been arrested February 26 and 88 the day before.

Officials said that on February 25, protesters attacked the Interior Ministry and burned or vandalized three nearby police stations, injuring 21 police officers.

The exact circumstances of the fourth fatal shootings are not known.

Tunisia remains under a state of emergency, but a nighttime curfew, imposed shortly after the ouster of Ben Ali, has been lifted.


Police charging rock-throwing youths on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, February 27, 2011.
© 2011 Private

Source(Manama, Bahrain, February 26, 2011) - Human Rights Watch researcher

Human Rights Watch is observing at Pearl Square. Thousands of Bahrainis have packed the square awaiting Hassan Mushaima's arrival. The energy is unbelievable. Crowds chanting and fireworks going off every now and again. Mushaima is the leader of the banned opposition group Al-Haq. He was one of 25 opposition members and activists charged with terrorism. Twenty-three of the 25 were released several days ago after seven months in prison. Mushaima was in London at the time of the crackdown and remained in exile -- until now.

Source(Yemen, February 26, 2011) - anonymous source

The casualty toll from last night's attacks on protesters in Aden is rising. This afternoon, we spoke to doctors from two out of three hospitals that received the victims last night. One hospital treated 29 wounded victims, one of whom died and two remain in critical condition. The wounds, according to the doctor, were mostly in the legs. Two victims had been wounded by machine-gun bullets, the doctor said. A doctor from another hospital said that he saw at least two killed and five wounded protesters last night. Another two injured were delivered to the third hospital. One of the doctors told us, however, that he believed more people were killed last night as patients reported seeing many bodies on the street after the shooting. The doctor thought that police might have picked up the bodies and delivered them directly to morgues.

At least some of the wounded protesters did not go to the hospitals out of fear of being arrested. One of the protesters, who had a bullet in his left side, said that his friends initially delivered him to Al Jamhuria hospital last night, but before he could receive help, a doctor there warned him he should leave. The witness said: "The doctor told me to leave quickly, because security forces were in the hospital arresting people. I was covered in blood--i covered the wounds with bandages and held my X-ray film close to my shirt to cover the blood, and walked out of the hospital. I saw uniformed security forces everywhere in the hospital yard." Witnesses also said that after the shooting in Al-Maalla last night, the protesters could not pick up the bodies or deliver the wounded to the hospital until 3 a.m. when the fire finally stopped.

This morning we were at the site where the protest took place last night in Al-Maalla. There was blood on the street, bullet marks on the buildings and cars, and remains of the made-shift barricades the protesters made to prevent the police from entering the neighborhood. But despite last night's bloodshed, people were already gathering again--they said now they were even more determined to continue the protest and demand justice for the killings, although they expected an even harder crackdown tonight.

(Cairo, February 26, 2011) - Dan Williams, senior emergencies researcher

The Egyptian Army issued an apology today for having driven off demonstrators from Tahrir Square and a street near parliament in post-midnight raids. Military police used electric prods and sticks to chase the protestors from both places, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

The army offensive was a surprise conclusion to an otherwise peaceful, daylong demonstration on Friday. Protestors had gathered in the square to demand that a new cabinet replace the current one which includes holdovers from the era of ex-President Hosni Mubarak and is headed by a former military man, MAhmed Shafik.

The late night raid raised the question of the limits of the military’s tolerance of post-Mubarak protests and labor strikes. In a statement published on Facebook, the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, a group of high-ranking officers that have been ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, tried to allay fears it was taking a hard line. It said the incident resulted from “unintended friction” between military police and sons of the revolution.” The statement said the army would try to keep it from happening again.

One witness, Ahmed Gharbiya, 37, said red beret-wearing military police tore down plastic tarps set up as tents in the center of Tahrir, shocked demonstrators with electric prods and hit them with sticks as they chased them toward Talaat Harb Street. Some of the soldiers wore black masks. Another demonstrator, Ramy Raouf, 24, an activist with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said soldiers surrounded demonstrators near the parliament building, then attacked, hitting people with the butts of rifles and poking them with electric prods.

(Cairo, February 26, 2011) - Dan Williams, senior emergencies researcher

Early Saturday morning, soon after midnight, according to protesters in Tahrir Square, security forces used batons and fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators who remained from the large demonstration there much of the day on Friday.

While most everyone at the large demonstration during the day was beaming, pieces of Egypt’s dangerous past, bitter present and uncertain future made their appearance, too, late in the day. Out of the past, in a clot of protestors in one corner of the huge plaza, were members of Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamist group that in the 1990s terrorized Egyptians and foreigners alike with attacks on civilians, police and government officials. One of its most notorious attacks was the 1997 assault on tourists at the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. Its Egyptian leadership has renounced violence and many of its members were released from prison in 2003 along with hundreds of other Islamists. Today, the group called for the release of Omar Abd al-Rahman, sentenced by a US court in 1996 to life in prison for plotting to blow up the United Nations building, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, and a US government building, all in New York City.

Some demonstrators also carried photos of dead victims of government violence during the upheaval that unseated President Hosni Mubarak from power. They wanted someone held accountable for the carnage. Others demanded the release of political prisoners held in Egyptian jails. As for the future, some carried banners proclaiming a new Egypt based on secular civic values, with one that said that Egypt must be made safe for investment. Individuals with beards associated with pious Muslims and a few wearing white tunics common to Salafis, spoke in favor of a state ruled under Islamic law. But these were subplots operating on the margins of what was mostly a united call for the current cabinet to expel ministers with ties to the Mubarak regime. Egypt has much to resolve as it determines its new political identity in the coming months and probably years.

Sarah Leah Whitson(Tunisia-Libya border, February 25, 2011) - Sarah Leah Whitson, director, Middle East North Africa

Standing today on the Tunisian side of the border with Libya, we watched hundreds of refugees stream across. We have talked to a dozen Egyptians who have come directly from Zawiya, a city between Tripoli and the Tunisian border, that they say is encircled by troops loyal to Qaddafi. Although Zawiya is largely under the control of demonstrators, they say that pro-Qaddafi troops reportedly fired live ammunition at persons exiting mosques after the Friday prayer, killing several of them.

One Egyptian said that after the televised speech on February 21 of Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam blaming foreigners in part for the revolt, ten to fifteen armed men wearing plainclothes burst into the homes of several Egyptians in Libya, accusing them of fomenting trouble. The armed men told the Egyptians that they had until today to leave Libya.

(Tunis, February 25, 2011) - Eric Goldstein, North Africa researcher

For the past 90 minutes, Human Rights Watch has watched police firing tear gas at demonstrators in front of the Interior Ministry in downtown Tunis. The demonstrators, who crowded the ministry steps, the sills of its ground-floor windows, and the sidewalk and street outside, chanted patriotic songs and slogans against the transitional government. Some began hurling stones at the building and lit bonfires on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba.

The police fired multiple rounds of tear gas into the crowd, scattering the demonstrators, who covered their mouths and noses with caps and handkerchiefs as they ran. The demonstrators kept returning, though, in diminished numbers, chanting, “Esh-shaab tourid isqaat an-nithaam” (The people want the regime to fall), only to retreat once again in response to more tear gas rounds.

The demonstration was an extension of the mass sit-in today at the Place de la Qasbah, where thousands of high school and university students swelled the ranks of protesters who have been there since February 20 demanding the ouster of Tunisia’s transitional government.

The Place de la Qasbah is in front of the office of the prime minister, a particular target of the demonstrators’ wrath. Mohamed Ghannouchi, who was prime minister when President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, retained this post in Tunisia’s transitional government even though all of the other key ministers from the former ruling party have been replaced.

The transitional government has pledged to organize free and fair elections in the coming months. But some demonstrators seek the election of a constitutive assembly to replace the transitional government and lead the transitional period. Some have pledged to occupy the Place de la Qasbah until the transitional government is replaced; tents are in place to accommodate those spending the night on the square.

An earlier occupation of the Place de la Qasbah ended with the security forces forcibly evicting the protesters on January 29. Today, helicopters flew over the Place de la Qasba demonstration, and security forces monitored from a distance, but did not intervene. Similar anti-government demonstrations took place in other Tunisian cities today.

(Cairo, February 25, 2011) - Dan Williams, senior emergencies researcher

A crowd filled Tahrir Square, home of the demonstrations that brought down Hosni Mubarak on February 11, reminding the current military rulers of Egypt that the protesters want a clean break with the dictatorial past. The main slogans put out by organizers, which included youth groups, opposition political parties and the Muslim Brotherhood, aim at a cabinet shake-up to remove Mubarak-era ministers, in particular Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy, appointed while Mubarak was still in power to replace the widely despised Habib al-Adli. A few signs called for the ouster of the Mubarak-appointed prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, a former air force marshal; a poster showed him on a jet flying to the moon. Clusters of demonstrators called for release of political prisoners.

The gathering was peaceful, even festive. Friday mass outpourings in Tahrir are becoming a kind of traditional weekend outing. Mothers pushed kids in strollers and vendors hawked commemorative T-shirts and Egyptian flags (and some pre-Gaddafi red, black and green Libyan banners). Vendors hawked peanuts and koshary, the staple Egyptian dish of noodles, lentils, chickpeas and fried onions. The crowd in Tahrir effectively resisted calls by the authorities to end demonstrations.

Yesterday, the army issued a statement that said the military's ''sublime goal is to achieve the hopes and aspirations of this great nation." The demonstration was a memo to the authorities about what some of those goals are.


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Peter Bouckaert(Benghazi, Libya, February 24, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director

We arrived in Benghazi towards evening and were greeted with joy. The lawyers took us straight to the courthouse where the revolt in Benghazi started after the arrest of a lawyer. There’s a big celebration on the Corniche tonight, despite the bad weather. Everyone is excited and hopeful, saying they can't believe what’s happening.

The protesters have organized committees to run the city, with a media committee that published the first issue of its newspaper today. But there is much to investigate: the deaths of protesters, captured mercenaries, destroyed army base. We’ll visit the hospital and see more lawyers tomorrow. Tonight was about watching the celebration.

Peter Bouckaert(Tobruk, Libya, February 24, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director

After long delays at the Egyptian-Libyan border we entered eastern Libya. On the Libyan side of the border, we found no officials, just a lot of people, many armed, but very friendly. There were thousands of Egyptians leaving Libya, many carrying their few possessions on their shoulders, wrapped in blankets. Everyone kept saying “welcome, welcome,” and flashing us victory signs. One of the more arresting sights at the border was a woman in a leather jacket with an AK-47 manning a checkpoint, her hair uncovered – this is definitely not an Islamic revolution. We were waved through checkpoint after checkpoint by friendly armed men on the road to Tobruk, and several times were offered free bottled water. The situation in the villages along the road is calm, with many groups of men sitting around discussing the situation, and electricity is normal, shops are up and running.

Our driver explained that the tribes in the East have taken control of the security situation, and that the army and the police in the East are now 'with the people.' Gaddafi's remaining government is making life difficult for the many foreign observers entering Libya. Most of the internet and mobile phone network has been taken down, and even the Thuraya satellite coverage over Libya has been closed. So it is extremely difficult to get news out, and journalists at our hotel were struggling all night to contact their media outlets and file stories.

At our hotel, local residents were glued to the TV, watching the coverage of events in Libya, and occasionally stopping to view mobile phone footage taken by witnesses to the carnage in Benghazi. Among the footage we viewed was one of several dozen bound and blindfolded men, many in military and police uniforms, we were told had been executed in Benghazi, under unclear circumstances. The person who took the footage said the dead were soldiers and police who had refused orders to attack the civilian population, and had been killed for their refusal. We have a lot to investigate in the coming days.

(Manama, Bahrain, February 24, 2011) - Tirana Hassan, emergencies researcher

Several hundred protesters have taken to the street to protest, walking from Pearl Square to the financial district. It is the first time I have seen them come this far from the square and disrupting traffic. They are carrying seven fake coffins, commemorating the seven people killed by security forces since February 14, and marching past a police station. There are no police to be seen around the march. They are being allowed to protest. They are saying it's a lead up before tomorrow, when the weekend starts.

Tom Malinowski(Washington DC, February 23, 2011) - Tom Malinowski, advocacy director

Source(Rabat, Morocco, February 23, 2011) - Human Rights Watch researcher

Police in Morocco’s capital city of Rabat today forcibly dispersed a small demonstration called for by the Moroccan Democratic Network for Support of the People. It was due to take place at 5pm in front of the Libyan Cultural Center in the Orangers neighborhood, in protest against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi. The police beat would-be participants as they arrived, including Abdelkhaleq Benzekri, Abdelillah Benabdeslam, Montassir Idrissi, and Taoufik Moussa’if. Moussa’if, a human rights lawyer who is active in the judicial reform association Adala, said that as protesters arrived, an official warned if they did not disperse he would order the use of force. When they refused to obey, the official ordered the use of force. Moussa’if told Human Rights Watch that the police beat him on the head, shoulders, and feet. Benabdeslam, of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, told Human Rights Watch that baton-wielding police clubbed the protesters hard on various parts of their bodies.

The Moroccan Democratic Network for Support of the People is a recently formed coalition formed to support reform movements across the Arab world.

This police violence come one day after the police assaulted demonstrators in Bab el Had square, including Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

In the southern city of Agadir, police arrested at least four students today, as they were distributing a bulletin announcing a sit-in planned at al-Amal plaza downtown. The police questioned and photographed them before freeing them with a warning they would be arrested if they proceeded with the sit-in, according to Mohamed Nafaa, a member of the Inezgane-Aït Melloul branch of the AMDH.

Reports from Fez say that at least 30 people, among them 16 students, are still in detention after demonstrators clashed with security forces on February 21.

(Manama, Bahrain, February 22, 2011) - Tirana Hassan, emergencies researcher

Elated and resolute crowd marching to the pearl roundabout this afternoon, men, women, children in their thousands. Chants ringing out, with the crowd calling for the fall of the regime and for sunni,shia unity."No Sunni, no Shia, we are all Bahraini." At the roundabout the crowd erupted in cheers as several policemen joined the protestors and were carried on their shoulders.

(Rabat, February 21, 2011) - Dan Williams, senior emergencies researcher

Anti-riot police and uniformed auxiliary forces used violence to break up a small demonstration of pro-reform activists at Bab Al Had Square in central Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that police charged the group of about two dozen demonstrators after the group staged a sit-in at the plaza and chanted, “Freedom, freedom.” Khadija Riyadi, who heads the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, was first attacked by police bearing truncheons and then punched by a person in civilian clothes while standing near a journalist. She was taken to Ibn Sina Hospital for observation. Three demonstrators – Rabia Bouzidi, Driss O’mhend, and Mohammed Sbar – along with a bystander named Fouad were injured, and also taken to the hospital.

Other protesters were beaten but not taken to the hospital. Among them was Mohamed Elaouni, a member of the Democratic Coordination for Support to People, an independentnon-governmental organization. The incident took place just a day after nationwide protests were largely carried out peacefully and without police interference. The country’s ruler, Mohammed VI, speaking at a ceremony today in Rabat, said he would not give in to what he called “demagoguery.”

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