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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La contestation grandit dans les pays arabes

by Hassane Zerrouky

Dissent Growing in Arab Countries

Translated Sunday 3 April 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The movement is more social in Algeria but takes on a political form in Jordan, where the opposition is demanding reforms. In Yemen, the demonstrators want the head of state to go.

Algeria. Rising social pressure. The Algerian government is confronted with a growing social movement not seen since 1998, a year when there was a strong mobilization. There were violent clashes between the inhabitants of an Algiers neighborhood and the police on March 23 and 24 over the demolition of ramshackle dwellings. Near the Algerian president’s palace, there have been more and more sit-ins and other types of protest: substitute teachers and military contract employees demanding incorporation in the civil service, the families of the victims of terrorism demanding the indemnities the government promised them, etc. All this in the context of a sharp increase in wage demands: the strike of workers at Sonatrach (an oil company), rail workers who paralyzed the country for 48 hours, paramedicals and doctors in residence. All want a wage hike, like the university teachers, whose salaries have increased by 110%. The same goes for the 4,000 journalists working for the public media, who have scheduled a general strike for May 3. To which must be added the continuing demonstrations by the unemployed, despite the promise of the creation of 300,000 jobs.

Jordan. Tension persists. On Thursday, the gathering of the “young people of March 24”, who were camping in a square in the capital and demanding political reforms, was attacked by partisans of the regime until the police intervened. The outcome was one death and 160 injured. The following Friday, the Islamists and the partisans of the regime held separate demonstrations to show their strength in Amman. The Islamists were demanding constitutional reforms and the resignation of the Prime Minister, Maaroug Bakhit, who had recently been named by King Abdallah II following the dismissal of his predecessor, Samir Rifaï. The Jordanian monarch has refused to consider accepting Bakhit’s resignation, in the name of national unity.

Yemen. 70 dead in an explosion. A bombing or an accident? The explosion, which occurred in a munitions factory south of Sanaa (70 dead), came the day following an incursion by an Al-Qaida group, which loaded four vans with munitions, and in the context of continuing dissent against the regime of President Abdallah Saleh. Deaf to appeals demanding his resignation, the Yemenite president is attempting to regain control. On Friday, before several hundred thousand of his backers, he presented himself as the last rampart against the “Somalization” of the country. In an interview on state television, he issued an appeal for dialogue to his adversaries and accused the Islamists of “surfing on the youth movement.” What is more, he is reinforced by the words of the head of the Pentagon, Robert Gates, who said Sunday that the fall of the Yemenite president would pose “a real problem” to Washington in its struggle against Al-Qaida.

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