Thursday, January 27, 2011

Editorial: Popular Protests Grip the Middle East

Today saw the invigoration of protests in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a with an estimated 16,000 demonstrators posing a credible threat to the already fractured government. This comes after several continuous days of protest in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak's totalitarian regime, and over two months of protests in Tunisia, which effectively toppled the government last week. These developments have forced powers like the United States and Israel to take an observer's role, something that arguably neither country has experienced in any significant way since the fall of colonialism in the region over a half century ago. The popular protests have sparked serious political and social contemplation in other countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, where limited civil disobedience and pro-Hariri protests, respectively, seem to have some conceptual links to the events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. This Friday poses a potentially critical stage in the ramifications and breadth of these developments; like any other Friday, thousands of muslims will gather in places of worship throughout the Middle East. Friday will pose the true test of whether these secular protests will be able to maintain their true character, or whether religious leaders will opportunistically capitalize on the high level of public mobilization and use it to their ends. CrossTalk will be hosting a number of guests over the next several days including a politician from the People's Movement in Lebanon as well as protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square to interpret and comment on these events as they continue to unfold.

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