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Arab Spring flares up

Egypt’s Tahrir Square, at the start of the uprising
Flickr, Jonathan Rashad

The popular uprising across the Middle East has intensified this week with the eruption of violence in Egypt and the resignation of Yemen’s president President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

As the Washington Post reports, the level of violence in Egypt has reached levels unseen since the original protests which nine months ago forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office. Protesters are demonstrating against what they see as the military’s attempt to hold on to power. So far, 38 people have been reported killed and the UN has condemned the interim government’s response.

Meanwhile, Time magazine says, the UN has announced that Yemen’s President Saleh has agreed to step down if he is allowed to flee to Saudi Arabia and avoid prosecution.

In Syria, the government has continued to crack down on protesters with a death toll so far estimated at 3,500. As Reuters reports, many believe Syria’s violent response to the popular uprising could foment widespread bloodshed and violence for the entire region.

The only bright spot right now is Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, sparked by the suicide of a fruit seller long abused by the authorities. As the AP reports, Tunisia’s first fairly elected political assembly went to work this week:

Tunisia’s newly elected assembly held its inaugural meeting Tuesday, and begin the yearlong process of shaping the constitution and the democratic future of the country that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

And it didn’t take long for the legislators to feel one result of free speech: hundreds of people protested outside Parliament, demanding everything from women’s rights and a crackdown on security forces to limits on Qatar’s influence over Tunisia’s affairs.

Yeah, democracy is messy. Whether the rest of the Middle East and north Africa follows Tunisia’s promising lead remains in question.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.