Middle East protests show no sign of stopping

22 March 2011

Death toll rises, but widespread protests in the region shows little sign of abating in the short term

The death toll around the Middle East continues to rise as security forces try desperately to contain anti-government protests. Three months on since protests broke out in Tunisia, there is little sign of a speedy return to stability for the region.

Although no leader has been toppled since the ousting of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, several now seem close to falling.

Libya’s Muammer Qaddafi is clinging on to power despite the US and its European allies launching strikes against his forces.

Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh is also refusing to go, despite support for him ebbing away even within his own military.

Protests also show little sign of stopping in Bahrain, with the youth movement continuing to draw people onto the streets regardless of the presence of Saudi Arabian troops. In Syria, opposition to President Bashar al-Assad appears to be growing after the deaths of scores of people.

In Saudi Arabia, small protests have occurred, although they have been met is with a heavy police presence and large numbers of arrests.

All these demonstrations owe their inspiration to the protests in Egypt and Tunisia. The success of those two revolutions will continue to reverberate around the region for a long time. A precedent has been set. Regional strongmen can be removed by a popular movement.

Over the next few weeks and months, long-standing regimes will try hard to break the optimism of anti-government protests through further handouts and minor reforms.

Now though, with so many other protests under way, expanding the number of potential trigger points that could further boost resolve on the Arab street, containing the demonstrations will be a difficult task.

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