As the West intervenes in Libya, protest and repression continue to escalate throughout the Arab world. On March 20, lawmakers in Bahrain called on King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to declare a state of emergency and invoke martial law after 5,000 protesters marched to demand an end to the monarchy. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a state of emergency throughout the country March 18—one day after a massacre of protesters in the capital, Sanaa. The state of emergency will last 30 days and gives security forces greater powers to maintain order. Saleh stated that a “committee of neutral bodies” will investigate the massacre and called those killed during the protest “martyrs of democracy.” (Jurist, March 19)
Muslim clerics in Yemen urged soldiers to disobey orders for repression. “We call on the army and security forces to not carry out any order from anyone to kill and repress” demonstrators, read the joint statement by a group of influential clerics. Three cabinet ministers have now stepped down in the wake of the massacre. President Saleh declared a “day of mourning” for the slain protesters. But youth activists dismissed Saleh’s declaration as insincere. “After getting blood on his hands…he cried crocodile tears for the martyrs,” they said in a statement. (Middle East Online, March 20)
In Syria, security forces again fired on thousands of demonstrators March 20 in the town of Deraa, killing one and wounding some 100. (Middle East Online, March 20) Thousands demonstrated March 20 in Casablanca, Rabat and other cities across Morocco, calling for more democracy and curbs on the king’s powers. (Middle East Online, March 20)
In Egypt, an overwhelming majority voted “yes” to proposed constitutional amendments in a national referendum March 19. Both the National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood supported the amendments, which include lowering the presidential term limit and reforming criteria for potential presidential candidates. However, four human rights groups, including the New World Foundation for Development and Human Rights, filed a complaint with the judiciary committee claiming irregularities during the referendum vote. (Jurist, March 20)
See our last post on the regional revolutions.