Arab Spring Weekly Update

August 18, 2011
President Barack Obama and many other world leaders have asked Syria’s Bashar Assad to step down, but the Syrian dictator is continuing his relentless crackdown.  The group Local Coordination Committees puts the death toll at over 2,500 since the start of the uprising, the vast majority being civilians. As the protests continue to spread, Syria Free Press posted an alarming update:

فري برس || دمشق || عاجل || قطع الكهرباء عن مخيم اليرموك بعد الافطار و تضييق الخناق على المخيم تحسباً لخروج مظاهرات بعد صلاة التراويح
والله بشار عم يـأبدع باصلاحاته
Free Press, Damascus, Urgent:  The electricity of the Yarmouk refugee camp was cut off after Iftar, and the stranglehold on the camp is being tightened in anticipation of the demonstrations after the Tarawih prayer. Gosh, Bashar is really making reforms.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently checked out of a hospital in Riyadh, appeared on television to once again promise his return. Speaking to a group of around 5,000 tribal leaders, Saleh also condemned the opposition, stating, “[The] youth’s revolution has been stolen by opportunists and bandits.” Blogger Afrah Nasser commented on his speech: “He sounded as if the whole world would be waiting for him to get back to Yemen. Little did he know, very negative events would [await]...”

Rebels have taken control of the only functional oil refinery in the western city of Zawiyah and blocked off a main highway that connects it to the Libyan capital Tripoli. Though pro-regime authorities claimed that the reports were untrue, Twitter users were able to verify the accounts:

@ChangeInLibya Mhalwes
Gaddafi's prime minister: "We control the Zawiya refinery". This says otherwise:… /… #libya #feb17

In an attempt to cope with political climate of the region, King Abdullah has said he will relinquish some power.  However, political analysts and members of the opposition expressed doubt that these actions will be substantive enough to effect real change on the ground or allow for the long term preservation of the monarchy. One Jordanian tweeted:

@FadiaFaqir Fadia Faqir فادية
The 42 proposed changes to the nearly 60-year-old constitution would allow King Abdullah to retain most of his absolute powers #reformjo

Many Egyptians are worried by judge Ahmed Refaat’s decision to end the live broadcast of Hosni Mubarak’s trial.  According to Al Jazeera, a number of citizens expressed concerns that the corruption and backroom dealing that characterized much of Mubarak’s reign has contaminated his trial as well. However, not all were unhappy with Refaat’s decision as some lawyers were attempting to use the trial for professional gain. One Egyptian blogger, who was commenting on the trial as it happened, wrote, “...other law experts support the decision to end the terrible TV show of civil claims lawyers.”

Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) allegedly found no “crimes against humanity” committed against protesters in the crackdown by Bahraini authorities earlier this year. The news incited new unrest in the Gulf country, leading to 30 deaths. After protesters broke into the commission’s offices, BICI released a statement stating that no conclusions had been made, and that the investigation was “ongoing and will continue until all relevant evidence has been gathered.” With tensions high in the country, one Bahraini Twitter user attempted to pacify the angry protesters:

@angryarabiya angry arabiya
I ask people not to let their justified anger make them disrespectful towards any1, but to say opinions & stand up for rights #bahrain

Blogger Nesvan wrote a message of support for young Iranian poet Hila Sadighi after she was sentenced to jail for writing a poem that glorified the Green Movement:

چهار ماه حبس تعزیری با 5 سال تعلیق در سرزمینی که با شعر و شعور و شهامت بیگانه است، کمترین حکمی است که می توان  برای شاعری به زیبایی تو برید. کاش روح  ما هم به زیبایی تو بود. درود.
به قلم
Four months in jail and a 5 year suspension from publishing is the lowest sentencing that a court in a land unfamiliar with such poeticism, sensitivity, and daring could give to a poet as beautiful as you. If all our souls could be beautiful, like yours. I salute your pen and your style.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi online activists have created a logo for the ongoing Women2Drive campaign. Authorities have yet to lift the ban on granting women drivers licenses. One frustrated Twitter user wrote:

RubaMoh Ruba Mohammed رُبى
Dear #Saudi: Stop being stupid. Women used to ride camels/horses in the time of the Prophet, who are you to ban driving cars? #Women2Drive

An environmental disaster continues to mystify Moroccans, as hundreds of pounds of fish washed up dead on the banks of the Moulouya River, in the northeastern part of the country. Many in Morocco are trying to find the reason for the disaster, and activists have used Facebook to try to find an answer. Instead of looking for the person to blame, however, one blog suggests that this is an opportunity for the country to come together: “It’s time for everyone to undertake some kind of collective action. One that breaks with the cycle of indifference and the feeling of the two Morocco’s, the us versus them attitude dividing our nation.”