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Middle East protests continue

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By Stephen Lendman

They continue in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, and most recently in Iran and Bahrain, Al Jazeera saying:

"At least one person has been killed and several others injured after (Bahrain) riot police opened fire at protesters holding a funeral service for a man killed (a) day earlier."

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands in Manama, Bahrain's capital, demanding the regime's removal. Majority Shias want redress, saying Sunni rulers unfairly discriminate. However, more than sectarian issues are involved. Others include political freedoms, ending media and Internet state controls, prohibiting police use of excessive force, and addressing the extreme wealth gap between Bahrain elites and majority citizens.

On February 15, Al Jazeera's unnamed correspondent for his safety said:

"Police fired on the protesters this morning, but they showed very strong resistance. It seems like (a) funeral procession was allowed to continue, but police are playing a cat-and-mouse game with protesters."

Angered by deaths from their ranks, al-Wefaq Shia opposition members suspended their parliamentary participation, calling it a first step toward continuing or resigning, depending on future developments. In a rare gesture, Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, offered condolences on state television. Words, of course, don't suffice.

On February 15, Al Jazeera headlined, "Deaths reported in Iran protest," saying:

A member of parliament told the Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA) about two deaths and others injured, including members of Tehran's security forces. Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari said police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said, "Those who created the public disorder on Monday will be confronted firmly and immediately.

On February 13, AP headlined, "US Starts Farsi Twitter Account Aimed at Iranians," saying:

"The US State Department began sending Twitter messages in Farsi on Sunday in the hope of reaching social media users in Iran."

USA darFarsi told Iranians, "We want to join in your conversation." Other tweets accused Iran's government of targeting dissent while praising Egypt's protesters, the same ones Hillary Clinton urged to stay calm despite harsh security force crackdowns.

US tweets also called on Iran "to allow people to enjoy the same universal rights to peacefully assemble and demonstrate as in Cairo," what's viciously attacked when Americans protest against globalization, IMF and World Bank injustice, as well as Republican and Democrat party conventions over legitimate political and social justice grievances.

Washington's policy is do as we say, not as we do, including its imperial wars, torture and other civil and human rights abuses committed globally, including at home.

Yemenis Continue Protesting

Anti-government demonstrators protested for the fifth day, Al Jazeera saying thousands demanded political reforms, including President Ali Abdullah's ouster after ruling despotically for 32 years. Pro-regime loyalists and plainclothes police confronted them, dispersing crowds with tear gas, batons, tasers, electric cattle prods, rifle butts, and knives.

Lawyers dressed in black robes joined protesters, chanting: "The people want the regime to step down. Leave Saleh, (and) After Mubarak, Ali." Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra said:

"What we are seeing is thousands of pro-government protesters (and security forces), armed with batons, attacking the pro-democracy protesters and dispersing the crowd using violence. The situation is very tense. The government has been describing the pro-democracy protesters as traitors and accusing them of pushing foreign agendas. But the mood of the pro-democracy protesters is on the rise and they are saying that they will continue their fight to bring down this regime and to bring about a change."

The Yemen Post said, "Police and bullies hurled stones at the protesters fed up with bad living conditions, high unemployment rates, widespread corruption at the public institutions and oppression. They also beat them with stun batons, and police fired live ammunition in the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters."

Numerous injuries were reported. In Aden, dock workers stormed the Yemen Gulf of Aden Port Corporation offices, seizing top officials, including chairman Mohamed Bin Aefan. One protester said, "We have had it with corrupt officials and it's time to tell them to leave. What happened in Egypt and Tunisia motivated the workers to demand their rights."

Even after opposition parties accepted Saleh's dialogue offer, demonstrations grew. He also agreed not to change Yemen's constitution to remain president for life and have his son, head of the Republican Guard, succeed him. At the same time, a new National Defense Council law lets it freely tap phones, open mail, and monitor Internet and other electronic communications repressively.

For Washington, Yemen is strategically important, located near the Horn of Africa on Saudi Arabia's southern border, the Red Sea, its Bab el-Mandeb strait (a key chokepoint separating Yemen from Eritrea through which three million barrels of oil pass daily), and the Gulf of Aden connection to the Indian Ocean.

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