The Arab protests have typically used Friday prayers as a rallying point, and today was no different in multiple hot spots. A sampling:
• Yemen: Pro- and anti-government demonstrators held dueling protests in Sanaa. A week after it looked as if Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government would fall, the large protests on the pro-government side show at least that he will not go quietly. Anti-government protesters have lived in the streets since mid-February, and had their largest turnout yet today. And it wasn’t just the capital: other cities saw large protests as well.
WaPo writes about Saleh and the general, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who split from Saleh after decades and called on him to step down. That dynamic could determine the outcome. Hamid al-Ahmar (not sure if it’s a relation), the leader of the Islamist Islah party and a top political figure, demanded that Saleh step down today as well.
• Syria: Protesters gathered across the country today and met resistance from government forces. Tear gas, electrified batons, clubs and bullets were used, and a Syrian human rights group claimed at least seven deaths.
The most violent clashes occurred in the city of Douma, near the capital, where two activists said security forces had opened fire on more than 1,000 protesters after beating them and attacking with the electric batons. At least five people were killed and many others wounded, the Syrian human rights group, Insan, said.
“It is crazy, nonstop,” one activist, reached by telephone and who asked not to be named because of safety fears, said of the shooting in Douma. The type of ammunition used could not be immediately determined.
Another protester was killed during demonstrations in a small town outside the southern city of Dara’a, according to Ahmed Al Sayasna, a prayer leader in Dara’a.
In the capital, Damascus, witnesses said thousands had gathered at Al Rifai mosque and were met there by security forces and plain-clothed government supporters who barricaded them inside, beating those who tried to leave and killing one protester in the process, said Wissam Tarif, executive director of the rights group.
This never seems to work out well for the governments, as the dead are turned into martyrs. But it definitely seems dangerous to protest in Syria. Snipers looked out from rooftops on Friday.
• Jordan: Jordan has been on the periphery of the Arab uprising, but protests have been fairly consistent since January, and today hundreds of protesters camped in Amman. They have commandeered “Municipality Square” in the capital. Last week, police violently broke up an attempt to camp, but today the protesters met no resistance. The movement remains small, with about 2,000 coming out today.
• Bahrain: The suppression of peaceful protesters has continued in Bahrain, with checkpoints throughout the island nation, tanks in full view in the capital and night raids on the protesters’ homes. The Washington Post writes that sectarian tensions bubble under the surface:
The relentless crackdown has made major new protests a virtual impossibility for the time being, analysts and Shiite residents say. But the pressure is generating new anger among protesters who had been calling for democratic reform and equal rights for Shiites. Another explosion of unrest in the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet now seems inevitable, they say.
“We cannot stop,” said Ali Mohammed, a 33-year-old Shiite teacher fired from his job for participating in demonstrations at Manama’s Pearl Square last month. “We might go quite for a bit to mourn the dead and treat the injured and see those in jail, but then we will rise up again.”
• Tunisia: In case you thought the uprising was over in this, the first country in the region to depose a dictator, think again. Today police fired tear gas to break up a rally by Islamists protesting the country’s secular laws. It’s a sign that these uprisings are complex and not linear.