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Egypt Protests Inspire Further Uprisings

  • Henry Ridgwell

Opposition supporters shout slogans during an anti-government protest in Sana'a, February 3, 2011

As the anti-government protests in Egypt descend into violence, there have been other demonstrations in countries across the Arab world calling for an end to authoritarian rule. The uprising has prompted some analysts to predict the downfall of other leaders in the region.

In countries across the Arab world people are taking to the streets to vent their rage against their rulers.

In Yemen, tens of thousands of protestors filled the capital Sana’a in a self-proclaimed ‘day of rage.’

They chant "No to corruption, no to dictatorship."

Mindful of the unrest spreading in the Arab world, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, announced on Wednesday that he would leave office when his term ends in 2013. His supporters staged a counter-demonstration in Sana’a Thursday.

Lutfi Shatara of the Yemeni news agency, Aden Press, says the anti-government protesters have taken their lead from Tunisia, where the president resigned and fled the country in the wake of anti-government protests.

"What happened in Tunisia - it gives the people in the Middle East belief in themselves," said Shatara.

That has prompted speculation of a potential domino effect spreading across the Arab world.

Nadim Shahadi is a Middle East analyst with Chatham House in London. His theory is that the dominoes began to fall in 2003, following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and toppling of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

"I believe that the trigger for this was the fall of the statue of Saddam Hussein," said Shahadi. "This was a huge shock to the region. When this falls, it’s a huge shock to the system and it shows how vulnerable they are, they’re really an empty shell. So, it demystifies the whole model of these Arab dictatorships."

Shahadi says the extraordinary speed with which the uprisings have taken hold - first in Tunisia and now Egypt - means U.S. President Barrack Obama’s approach of engaging with leaders in Arab countries in the Middle East seems out of date.

"This was OK last week," he said. "Today, it looks absurd. So, they have to think, rethink and adapt to whatever is changing on the ground."

The pace and the scale of the changes have taken the international community by surprise. Lutfi Shatara, of the Yemeni news agency, warns that, in Yemen, which is home to the terrorist group al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula and which is plagued by insurgency, the West must react quickly.

"If the international community does not take Yemen very seriously, there will be another Somalia, or even worse than Somalia, because there is al-Qaeda [in the Arabian Peninsula]," he said. "There are political differences; there are tribes; there are weapons; there is unemployment, and this will be even worse than Cairo."

There have been demonstrations in support of the Egyptian protests in Morocco and many other Arab countries. Among demonstrators there is a sense that momentum is building. Khalid Sefinani, a human rights lawyer from the Pan-Arab Association of Morocco, says the current protests are sending a message far beyond their borders.

He says the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia send strong messages to all the leaders in the Arab and Muslim world that they should restore dignity to the people, end corruption and abuse of law, or "meet the same fate as Egypt and Tunisia."

Analysts say Egypt is such a powerful player in the region that whatever happens there will have an impact on the future of the whole Arab world.