After several days of parallel power, in which opposition protesters had seized control of provinicial cities but not the capital, the government of Kyrgyzstan fell March 24. Angry protests broke out in Bishkek, the capital, and crowds repeatedly attempted to storm the White House, the central government building. At first security forces repulsed the protesters, but eventually gave way, allowing them to take the building.
The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan is divided by a popular uprising in the wake of contested elections, with the government of President Askar Akayev in control in the northern capital, Bishkek, but the southern city of Osh now in the hands of opposition protesters. Normality is starting to return to Osh following a wave of strikes and protests which culminated in the ouster of the official governor Kubanych Joldoshev and installation in power of an opposition leader, Anvar Artykov, who the central government refuses to recognize.
A powerful bomb tore through a shopping mall in the Christian area north of Beirut March 23, killing three Asian immigrant workers and bringing Lebanon closer to chaos weeks before general elections. (Reuters, March 23) It is the latest outburst in an escalating climate of violence that has many fearing a new outburst of civil war.
Palestinian Hillside Poisoned, Likely By Maon and Havat Maon Settlers - by Operation Dove
Traditional Friday jum'ah prayers led by a woman at a mixed-gender service, hailed as an historic first for Islam, were held March 18 at the Synod House of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a progressive Episcopal institution in New York City. An angry crowd of protesters across street were restrained by helmeted police armed with automatic rifles. Al-Jazeera TV was on hand with cameras as Muslim scholar Amina Wadud lead the service for some 150 worshippers following a short sermon in which she said: "Men and women are both equally essential in creation, and therefore reciprocally responsible for our relationship with Allah." New York's Newsday pictured a protester outside the event with a sign reading "MAY ALLAH'S CURSE BE UPON AMEENA WADUD." Major Islamic organizations in New York were either silent on the event, or openly opposed to it. The city's most established Muslim women's organization, Women in Islam, came only as observers and did not participate in the prayer. But participants interviewed by Newsday were enthusiastic. Said Nasheet Zaman, 22, a college student who came down from Ithaca, NY, for the event: "I just want to be a part of history, I guess. I fully support the fact that Dr. Wadud, as a woman, in leading the prayer." (Newsday, March 19)
Up to 50 worshippers are dead and twice as many wounded in a bomb blast at a shrine to the 19th century Sufi saint Pir Rakhel Shah at Gandhawa in Pakistan's conflicted province of Baluchistan March 19. The bomb went off as pilgrims at the shirne had lined up for a meal and were being served food. Although the shrine is at a Shi'ite mosque, it is revered by Sunnis as well, complicating a potential sectarian motive.
The world is paying little note, but there is a popular uprising underway following contested elections in Kyrgyzstan, a key US ally in Central Asia. On March 20, protesters rallying against President Askar Akayev burned down police headquarters in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, in response to a pre-dawn action by special police units who briefly took back control of a regional administration office that had been occupied by opposition activists since early March.
At least six were wounded by a car bomb which wrecked the front of a government building in a predominantly Christian suburb of Beirut March 19.