Libyan security forces fired on a funeral procession through the city of Benghazi on Feb. 20, as residents buried dozens of dead from a crackdown the day before. Witnesses described “massacres” in Benghazi and other eastern cities, with government troops and “African mercenaries” that have been called in “shooting without discrimination” into the crowds. The uprising, now in its fifth day, is still concentrated in the east of the country, but is spreading west, with protests reported in Misrata—just 200 kilometers from Tripoli, the capital. A tally by Human Rights Watch puts the number of dead in the uprising at 173, but independent sources in Libya gave figures as high as 500. (The Guardian, NYT, Middle East Online, Feb. 20)
In Bahrain, tens thousands of protesters marched into Pearl Square, central plaza of the capital, Manama—one day after security forces opened fire on demonstrators there. Protest leaders demand that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa dissolve the government and fire his uncle, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has held the post of prime minister for 40 years.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa has emerged as the public face of the regime, calling for a national dialogue and period of mourning as a step toward reconciliation. But the Shi’ite-led opposition movement al-Wafaq says that with six dead, hundreds injured and many missing, the regime must first meet their demands for an interim unity government. (NYT, Feb. 20)
In Kuwait, hundreds of stateless Arabs marched for a third day to press for basic rights and citizenship of the oil-rich Gulf state. Up to 300 took to the streets in Jahra, west of Kuwait City and around 200 marched in Sulaibiya, southwest of the capital. Stateless Arabs, locally known as bidoons, claim entitlement to Kuwaiti citizenship, but the government calls them “illegal residents.” (Middle East Online, Feb. 20)
Hundreds of students in Yemen took to the streets in an eighth day of anti-regime protests. Marches were held in the capital in Sanaa and in the southern port of Aden—where one protester was shot dead by police. (Middle East Online, Feb. 20)
See our last post on the new Middle East revolutions.