With the revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt as their inspiration, rebels have begun or are continuing protests throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Every country's unique history and current circumstances are shaping what happens, but these ad hoc resistance movements all have one thing in common: they are heavily youth-based even though older people participate, and tools like Facebook and cell-phone texting play a major role in what's happening.
Iran: Thousands of Iranians clashed with security forces Monday in Tehran. Police fired tear gas and paintballs in the first major street demonstrations since December 2009, when eight protesters were killed. Arriving silently in small groups, protesters appeared in Azadi (Freedom) Square despite a government ban. Among the chants were "Death to the Dictator!" Reports said that, in some cases, young protesters retaliated against security personnel by beating them. Iranian authorities earlier in the day surrounded the house of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to keep him from attending the protest.
Bahrain: The pungent smell of tear gas was also evident Monday in villages around Manama, the capital city of Bahrain. Rubber bullets were fired into peaceful crowds. The government, which is Sunni Muslim, tried cash payments to buy off the country's Shi'ite majority ahead of today's protests, which took place under the name "Day of Rage." The following cell-phone video showing security forces clashing with protesters was taken in the Karazan, near Manama, around 5 p.m. local time Sunday.
Yemen: A fourth day of protests took place in the capital of Sanaa Monday, with some of the thousands of demonstrators responding with stones to counter-demonstrators and police wielding truncheons, tasers, knives and tear-gas guns. About 3000 protesters marched from Sanaa University towards Al Tahrir Square in the center of the city. Chanting "No corruption after today" and "After Mubarak, Ali," they demanded that President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, step down immediately. The city has seen nearly daily protests since January. Saleh has said he will not run again when his seven-year term ends in 2013 and has entered talks with a parliamentary alliance that was previously leading the protests.
Algeria: Algeria, facing increasing anti-government protests, has shut down social media web sites, according to some sources. The National Co-ordination for Change and Democracy, an anti-government coalition of opposition parties, human rights groups and unions, seeks to end the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Some 30,000 security forces stopped a demonstration slated for Saturday, but the coalition has said that, despite the ban, it will hold protests every week until the president quits. While Algeria operates under some of the same circumstances as Egypt and Tunisia, including a population that is 60 percent under age 30, a 30 percent unemployment rate, rising food prices and corruption, the president is a figurehead, with the real power held by the military behind the scenes. Some 10 to 15 generals are in charge. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, where the army remained neutral or sided with the protesters, that will not happen in Algeria.
Libya: With Muammar Gadhafi in power since 1969, Libya suffers some of the same problems as the rest of North Africa and the Middle East - arbitrary and authoritarian rule, a young population suffering from 30 percent or more unemployment, and profound corruption. But Libya contains the largest proven reservoirs of oil on the African continent and Gadhafi can afford to buy people off in ways that neither the Egyptian nor Tunisian rulers could do. And unlike some of the nations in revolt, there are not even fake elections or a pro-forma opposition in a phony parliament.
Gadhafi has placed three of his sons as heads of different parts of the military. Large numbers of the dictator's "green" thugs routinely spy on the population, and the erratic but iron-fisted ruler is not shy about imprisoning or murdering dissidents. My American-born wife left Libya in 1983 after students were hanged by the government on the campus at Al Fateh University and high school students were bused in to watch. More students were hanged or shot on February 17, 1987. Dissidents inside and outside Libya have chosen the 17th as the day for what they hope will be a large anti-government protest in Tripoli, the capital. There may also be protests in the country's second-largest city, Benghazi. Dissidents at various anti-government web sites have reported that some 100 protesters were arrested in Tripoli on Saturday.