Another year of protest in the Middle East

Telegram från AFP / Omni
02 dec 2019, 12.35

Mass protests have rocked several Arab countries this year, forcing out presidents and prime ministers in an echo of the 2011 revolts in countries including Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Here is a round-up of this year's protests in the Middle East.

Following calls for action on social media, hundreds of people demonstrate in Baghdad and cities in the south on October 1 against unemployment, corruption and poor public services.

The protests expand and quickly explode into violence, with thousands defying security forces who open fire with live bullets.

In four days, dozens are killed and hundreds wounded.

After a two-week pause, protests resume on October 24, a day before the anniversary of the first year in office of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's government.

Violence intensifies and protesters demand the government quit, also directing their anger at neighbouring Iran which is accused of propping up the administration.

On December 1, parliament accepts the prime minister's resignation, although he stays on in a caretaker role.

In two months of unrest, more than 420 people are killed and thousands wounded.

Protests erupt on October 1, hours after the government announces a messaging apps tax, tapping into frustrations about a sharp downturn in the economy.

The measure is quickly scrapped but the demonstrations spread, with thousands gathering in Beirut and other cities to demand an overhaul of the entire political class, accused of being corrupt and incompetent.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns on October 29 but demonstrations continue for a new government independent of traditional political parties, which are divided along sectarian lines.

The protests are largely peaceful although there are sporadic attacks on mass gatherings by supporters of the Shiite parties, Hezbollah and Amal.

Anti-government protests that began in December 2018, following the tripling of bread prices, intensify in early 2019 and from April become concentrated outside the army headquarters in Khartoum.

On April 11, the army arrests President Omar al-Bashir -- ending his 30 years in power -- but protesters demand a civilian government.

On June 3, armed men disperse the sit-in at the army headquarters. The crackdown leaves scores dead.

After weeks of negotiations, the protest leaders and military on August 17 sign an accord establishing a joint council to oversee a transition to civilian rule, with democratic elections in 2022.

Clashes during the months-long protest movement cost the lives of more than 250 people, according to doctors.

On February 22, thousands demonstrate in Algiers and other cities against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's plans to run for a fifth term after 20 years in power.

After the army withdraws its support, Bouteflika resigns on April 2.

But the protest movement carries on, with large demonstrations every Friday demanding an overhaul of the entire political establishment, including the resignation of key figures.

The interim authorities, backed by powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, call new polls for December 12 but the opposition rejects elections under the current establishment.

On September 20, small protests break out in Cairo and other cities calling for the removal of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who took power in 2014.

The rare demonstrations are quashed quickly, security forces rounding up dozens of people and imposing tight security at Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

Rights groups say more than 2,000 people, including lawyers, activists, professors and journalists, have been detained in the crackdown.