The frustration of citizens that caused major changes in Tunisia and Egypt continues to be heard across the Middle East with protests in Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran. Each nation is unique and each state will undoubtedly employ whatever weapons of oppression it may have in order to quell the voices of the people.
Riot police in Bahrain used tear gas and runner bullets on protesters today and government supporters in Yemen hurled broken bottles and rocks at protesters there. It is uncertain if the protest movement has reached the critical mass required to cause change in these two places. Algeria has also seen its share of unrest which saw a massive turnout of security forces to prevent a few thousand people from protesting.
By most accounts the theocracy of Iran is the most brutal in treating with the concerns of those who object to the conduct of the government. Today the PBS.org blog noted that the turnout of protesters was large:
“Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30
10:30 p.m. From a Tehran Bureau correspondent: It was amazing today. About 350,000 people showed up. The crowds came from the sidewalks. There was no chanting on the main avenue. The security forces would try to disperse the crowd once in a while by firing tear gas. People would move to the side streets and start bonfires.
It was beyond anything we had expected. They didn’t shut off the mobile phones so word spread quickly [that they were not cracking down hard] before they shut them off around 4 p.m.
It seemed like the Basij were ordered not to act until ordered. They just stood around looking bewildered. When the riot police would drive by on their bikes, they just put the fires out.
Rarely did they arrest. I saw 10 people arrested; this means probably up to 1000 were arrested.
I was all over on foot and on the rapid transit buses. The crowds were EVERYWHERE. They were remarkable for their peacefulness. They filled a radius of about half a kilometer to 400 meters on both sides of Enghelab Avenue. It looks like for the first time people from working class areas were involved too.
Read more here.
Unfortunately, unlike Egypt, Iran is largely closed to outside media and it is unlikely we will see these protests play out live on our TV screen.
Those unfamiliar with the situation in Iran and its history of oppression might do well to have a look at the excellent 2009 short documentary Iran, Gay and Seeking Asylum by filmmaker Glen Milner . The film has been shown worldwide and has received awards including Best Short Documentary Film at the Phoenix Film Festival.