The Middle East protests that have slammed into Tunisia, Yemen ,Iran, Bahrain and Egypt have now hit Libya — and as in many of the other places the goal is to bring about change and pose a challenge to an entrenched autocratic establishment. A key tool again: Social networking.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Libya Wednesday in the first sign that the nding the resignation of Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.
The Aunrest which toppled governments in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt has spread to the North African nation.
Witnesses said protesters in the eastern port city of Benghazi chanted slogans demassociated Press said that the crowds did not appear to direct their anger at Moammar Gadhafi, who is Africa’s longest-serving leader. He has ruled for 41 years.
However, Dubai-based television news service Al-Jazeera reported that sources said the demonstrators chanted slogans against the “corrupt rulers of the country.”
Al-Jazeera said the protesters are calling on citizens to observe Thursday as a “Day of Rage,” hoping to emulate the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and end Gadhafi’s regime.
As in the previous uprisings, Libyan activists were using social networking websites including Facebook.
Libya is the latest country to experience unrest, following the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Iran, Bahrain and Yemen also are experiencing ongoing demonstrations.
Hundreds of people clashed with police and government supporters overnight in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, a witness and local media said, in a rare show of unrest in the oil exporting country.
Protesters angered by the arrest of a human rights activist threw petrol bombs, set cars ablaze and chanted “no God but God!” in clashes that left dozens injured, according to reports from the city.
Libya has been tightly controlled by leader Muammar Gaddafi for over 40 years but has also felt the ripples from popular revolts in its neighbours Egypt and Tunisia.
Libyan state television said that rallies were held in the early hours of Wednesday morning across the country in support of Gaddafi, who is Africa’s longest serving leader.
Reports from Benghazi, about 1,000 km (600 miles) east of the Libyan capital, indicated the city was now calm but that overnight, protesters armed with stones and petrol bombs had set fire to vehicles and fought with police.
The protesters were angry about the arrest of a human rights campaigner and demanded his release.
Gaddafi opponents used the Facebook social networking site to call on people to go out onto the streets across Libya on Thursday for what they described as a “day of rage.”
The violent clashes reported from Benghazi, on Libya’s north-east coast, could well be a foretaste of what is to follow.
Opponents of the regime are calling for major protests this Thursday, spreading the word by internet.
Libya has had protests before, successfully quashed by the powerful security forces. But those were before the leaders of both Libya’s neighbours – Tunisia to the west, Egypt to the east – were driven from power.
There has been much speculation among young, educated Arabs, that the days of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime are numbered.
He himself has been in power for 42 years, making him the Arab world’s longest-serving ruler, just ahead of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos.
Officially, he does not rule Libya, it is government by committee, with the country adopting various titles like The Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
In practice, it is effectively a police state where political parties are banned and dissent is crushed.
Sky News’ Lisa Holland explains why events in Libya could be highly significant:
The real test of whether the world is witnessing historic social change the scale of which hasn’t been seen since the fall of the Berlin wall may well have arrived.
This week protests have begun in Libya – ruled since 1969 by Africa’s longest serving leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. If he goes all bets are off.
In the wake of the collapse of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, the internet is buzzing with attempts to galvanise a day of protest across Libya on Thursday.
Already rubber bullets and tear gas have been fired in the second city of Benghazi as several thousand demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the arrest of a prominent human rights lawyer.
….Colonel Gaddafi has always insisted that the country is run by a series of people’s committees though most outside observers says Libya is a police state with him firmly in control.
Yet it’s widely expected that his son is being positioned to take over when the time comes. And that is a key plank of discontent across the Arab world – they are fed up with nepotism….
….Just like Mr Mubarak he sees himself as an embodiment of his country and believes he has nurtured the once isolated North African nation to its newly elevated status of importance.
In the end Mr Mubarak was told by the army he had to go.
The template of factors for a perfect storm of change in Libya is different but if the brewing storm leaves Colonel Gaddafi beached from politics too then the domino effect really does show no signs of stopping.
Here’s a Russia Today report on the domino effect in the Middle East:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.