Arab world: Further News

EGYPT: [1] Cairo, March 24 2011: Egypt’s newest trade union was established on Thursday; the Independent Union of Public Transport Authority Workers. Hundreds of PTA workers attended the inauguration and preparatory conference of their independent trade union – at the Journalists’ Syndicate.

Joining this union are 60,000 bus-drivers, conductors, mechanics, and engineers employed in the PTA – from across greater Cairo. Tens of thousands have rallied for the establishment of representative, accountable and democratically-elected trade union committees.

Workers voted to break away from the General Union of Land Transport Workers, a yellow union within the (state-controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation. This new union is the fifth independent association to be established since 1957.

Over the course of the past two years five independent unions came into being:
The Real Estate Tax Authority Employees’ Union, the Independent Teachers’ Syndicate, Egyptian Health Technologists’ Syndicate, Pensioners’ Federation;

And today the Independent Union of the Public Transport Authority Workers.

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) – a confederation of the first four associations – was established on January 30th, 2011.

[2] ALGERIA: Residents of a slum in Oued Koreiche, a suburb of Algiers clashed with the police in a protest against discontinuance of water and electricity in their homes

LIBYA: [3] 24th of March: A French warplane has reportedly crashed in the Libyan city of Sirte, while the US-led coalition forces’ military operation intensifies the abject state in the African nation. The Libyan newspaper al-Watan reported Wednesday that Libyan forces shot down a French jet fighter which was bombing the city and detained its pilot. Sirte, some 600 kilometers east of the Libyan capital Tripoli is the despotic ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown. A spokesman of the French military, however, has denied Thursday reports that the fighter jet was shot down over the Libyan city. “No French plane was shot down in Sirte last night,” said Colonel Thierry Burkhard, French armed forces spokesperson.

YEMEN: [4]Following the regime’s brutal massacre of protestors on Friday, March 18, the revolution has moved forward in Yemen. The state apparatus has split, and most of the army has turned against President Saleh. After the repression failed to achieve its objectives, the ruling elite and the imperialist powers are desperately trying to find a “safe” alternative. But that will not stop the revolution.

While the imperialist intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the revolt in Yemen, and its implications for the Persian Gulf area, is of perhaps greater strategic consequence for the imperialists. In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the reactionary monarchy is already feeling the hot breath of the revolution on its neck, and the regime has deployed forces in Bahrain in an effort to crush the revolution and stop it from spreading to the heartland of the Arabian Peninsula.

The turning point in Yemen’s revolution occurred on March 18 after Friday prayers, when the revolutionary people in the streets called for President Ali Abdallah Saleh to leave. A brutal crackdown followed. Snipers hidden on rooftops opened fire on the crowds gathered for prayers outside Sana’a University, leaving 52 people dead and hundreds wounded. Scenes of chaos were reported at the makeshift hospital that the demonstrators set up within their camp.

Since protests began in late January, Saleh has tried to quell the dissent with concessions. He raised salaries and said he would step down when his term of office ends in September 2013. In recent weeks he has been trying to negotiate with the opposition, going so far as to offer a deal that would give more power to parliament and local authorities. But this did not work, and out of desperation, the regime – imitating the Gulf States’ repression in Bahrain – decided to take the road of brutal repression. Now, after the brutal massacre on March 18, negotiations are out of the question. The Rubicon has been crossed. This marks the end for the Saleh regime.

President Saleh has threatened the Yemeni people that any “coup” against him would lead to “bloody civil war” in this poverty-ridden country. This is the same argument used by Mubarak before his exit from power. According to Gregory Johnsen from Princeton University, “most Yemenis are no longer buying this argument.” To Al Jazeera English, he added: “What comes next in Yemen will be determined by the style and timing of Saleh’s exit. The question is whether he steps down peacefully, hands over to a transitional government, or digs his heels in and refuses to go, which will lead to violence.”

Although Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1979, has offered to step down by the end of this year (a case of too little and too late), there are certainly indications that Saleh will not step down without a ferocious fight. On Wednesday, at the behest of President Saleh, the parliament passed sweeping new emergency laws. The emergency law, last evoked during Yemen’s 1994 civil war, suspends the constitution, allows for greater media censorship, bans street protests and gives security agencies arbitrary powers to arrest and detain suspects without judicial process.

Saleh isolated

President Saleh’s position is starting to look increasingly fragile and it appears that the remaining amount of support left for him might be reaching critical levels.

A wave of military defections on Monday and Tuesday has left Saleh with only the loyalty of elite forces commanded by his son and nephews, many of them trained and equipped by the US. One of the prominent defectors is General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. This individual has been engaged in back-channel talks with Saudi Arabia, who happens to be one of Saleh’s leading benefactors. These negotiations, however, failed to yield a clear transition of power. The Saudi rulers have traditionally viewed Yemen as their country’s strategic backyard.

Mohsen is one of the country’s richest men, an influential member of Yemen’s old guard, and his defection from the president has led to a massive wave of defections. Armoured vehicles under Mohsen’s command surrounded the presidential palace, where the Republican Guard units under control of Saleh’s son, Ahmed, had taken up defensive positions. Forces loyal to the president have clashed with regular army troops in the eastern town of Mukalla.

Mohsen is positioning himself for Saleh’s inevitable exit. He is a veteran of the old guard and in the 1980s he worked with Saleh to defeat the “socialist” People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the South. In the 1994 civil war, he enlisted veteran Jihadis who had fought in Afghanistan to fight the “socialist” south, re-introduce landlordism and roll back all the progressive reforms that the nationalised economy had been able to offer. A western diplomat told the Wall Street Journal that the general has been “always sort of in the shadows as the back-up dictator,” and that even in the case of Saleh’s exit “you could have a Yemen that looks a lot like Yemen.”

For Saudi Arabia, the general is a “safe” alternative to the revolution. There is just one small problem: the revolutionary people, once brought to their feet, will not easily be satisfied with cosmetic changes and a “Yemen that looks a lot like Yemen”. On the contrary – they are fighting and dying for a Yemen that looks completely different form the Yemen of today – the Yemen of misery, of poverty, of tribalism, of dictatorship, of national subordination to imperialism. The revolutionary people want radical change, and they will not be satisfied with General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in the place of Saleh.

[5] AFGHANISTAN: 2 Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Attack

The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan has issued another apology for the killing of Afghan civilians. NATO says two civilians were accidentally killed in an air strike on Wednesday in the province of Khost. Two children were killed in another NATO attack last week, and nine boys died in another attack earlier this month.

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[1] Libcom.org, Egypt: Public Transport Workers Establish Independent Union
[2] Athens Indymedia
[3] Press TV:  ‘French warplane shot down in Libya’
[4] Frederik Ohsten, Yemen revolution: Saleh regime on the verge of collapse
[5] Democracy Now, latest updates.

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Αναρτήθηκε στις: 25/03/2011