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Middle East / North Africa

  • Written by Vicken Cheterian

The Arab crisis: food, energy, water, justice

'The explosive combination of mass unemployment and rising food prices threatens social explosion in other parts of the Arab world.' Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN. Tunisia’s popular uprising is reverberating across the Arab world. But such movements face problems that go far wider than dictatorship to encompass the whole range of human security, says Vicken Cheterian.

The desperate act of an unemployed university graduate living in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid sparked a wave of popular unrest that in January 2011 overthrew the authoritarian regime of the president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi has been echoed in other parts of the Arab world. In Algeria, riots and demonstrations in protest against steep rises in basic foodstuffs (the price of sugar and cooking oil, for example, went up by 30% on 1 January 2011) forced the authorities to rescind the increases; the protests continue in Egypt and elsewhere, even in the face of deaths and injuries, and have broadened into demands for greater freedom.

  • Written by IRIN ae/cb/bp

Egypt: Protesters voice grievances, aspirations

Young protesters in Cairo. Photo: Flickr/darkroom productions.[CAIRO] Large-scale protests across Egypt since 25 January have led to deaths and injuries, food and petrol shortages, and transport chaos. IRIN interviewed some of the demonstrators demanding regime change in Cairo about their daily lives. Some extracts:

Nermeen Khafagy, 41, archaeologist, holding a placard marked “Mubarak must leave”. She says she has been a political activist since her university days: I took part in the demonstration because there is corruption, unemployment, and poverty. Mubarak’s rule opened the way for the poverty of the majority, and the corruption of everybody. Our educational system is becoming very bad. The water we drink is contaminated. Farmers’ lives have been destroyed by the bad policies of the government. There are economic monopolies.

  • Written by IRIN sab/at/cb

Yemen: Somali pirates threaten fishermen's lives, livelihoods

Fish vendor lonja al Hodeida, Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Photo: Flickr/Amaya H.[MUKALLA] Salem Khames Balghay, 53, says his son and brother, who are fishermen like him, have been held by Somali pirates since October. "In mid-October, we lost contact with them," he said.

The family is from the coastal town of Kusair, about 80km east of the southern city of Mukalla. Three other fishermen went missing at the same time.

Two weeks ago, Salem got a phone call from his brother. "He called us from Somalia and told us they were in the custody of pirates in Gar'ad District [Mudug Region], Somalia."

The detained fisherman said on the phone that the pirates had refused to set them free until they had kidnapped a ship. Their captors only had small boats and had thus commandeered the fishermen's boats, saying they needed them as they were more seaworthy.

  • Written by Noah Bernstein

A media eclipse: Israel-Palestine and the world's forgotten conflicts

A patient in the public hospital in Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The poorest people receive little help in such hospitals, as health facilities are at a minimum. It is estimated that about a 1,000 people die every day in the country. Many of the deaths are caused by disease and malnutrition in a society destroyed by years of civil war. © Hugo Rami/IRIN, 2006. 

Global coverage of world conflicts pales into insignificance when compared with reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Noah Bernstein explores the causes and consequences of such an imbalance, as part of an OpenDemocracy series, forgotten conflicts.

In a forty-eight hour period beginning on Christmas Eve 2008 the Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killed, dismembered and burned at least 200 Congolese civilians. Soldiers raped women and girls, twisted the heads off babies, and cut the lips and ears off those they did not kill. They hacked the rest to death using machetes or axes. Child soldiers helped abduct other children.

During the same period the Israeli government and Hamas officials entered the final stages of failing ceasefire talks. War was on the horizon, but had not yet begun. An errant Hamas rocket killed two Gazan sisters; otherwise there were no cross-border casualties.

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