Cairo/Tripoli/Manama, Feb 18 (IANS) One week after Hosni Mubarak was forced out as Egypt president, the crowds Friday thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square again as winds of change swept across the region stirring unrest in Libya, where 45 people were killed in a pro-democracy uprising, and also in Bahrain and Iran.
While Egypt marked a week without Mubarak, who had ruled for 30 uninterrupted years, clashes across Libya against Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade regime claimed 45 lives and resentment simmered in Bahrain where thousands attended the funerals of those who had died in the military crackdown on sleeping protesters the day before.
And in Iran, where two people were killed in when security forces violently dispersed anti-government demonstrators, authorities prepared to stage a counter protest against the two main opposition leaders, according to information compiled from local media.
The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain — held an emergency meeting in Bahrain Thursday night to discuss developments in the region, reports said.
The irresistible domino effect of the people’s movement that started with Tunisia and toppled the Egypt government has also seen protests in Yemen, Jordan and Algeria.
It started in Tunisia and gained momentum in Egypt, where the opposition youth movement called on people to stage a million-strong demonstration in central Tahrir Square to mark a week without Mubarak.
“The revolution has not been concluded yet. It will be concluded after all demands have been met and the creation of a stable democratic system has started,” the April 6 Youth Movement, one of the organisers of anti-government protests that swept Mubarak from power, said in a statement.
DPA reported from Cairo that the demonstrators also plan to mourn those who died during the nationwide protests that began in late January. Authorities have put at 365 the number of people killed during 18 days of protest that triggered clashes with police and unrest.
Hundreds of people spent the night in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising.
In neighbouring Libya, security forces and people braced for more violence, after an estimated 45 people were killed in clashes across the country on Thursday, the “Day of Anger” against Gaddafi and his 41-year rule.
Online postings by opposition groups called for demonstrations against the country’s ruler to start after Friday prayers.
Videos posted online appeared to show the bodies of several young men in different locations, and hundreds of demonstrators tearing down a monument in honour of Gaddafi’s Green Book in the eastern coastal town of Tobruk.
In the Green Book, first published in 1975, Gaddafi outlines his philosophy of direct democracy through popular committees. Critics say that he actually uses those committees for political repression.
Coverage of the unrest in the Libyan media has shown pro-government demonstrators taking to the streets to proclaim their support for the country’s leaders, media reports said.
In Bahrain, where the US houses its 5th Fleet, thousands of people gathered for the funerals of those killed in clashes between demonstrators and police in Manama and planned for more protests against the ruling family.
Mourners waved banners and shouted slogans against the government. Some said they were ready to die for change, BBC reported.
Four people were killed early Thursday when police cracked down on sleeping protesters in Manama, an action that led to a minister reportedly quitting.
A pro-government demonstration is also expected to be held, just hours after Bahrain — a constitutional monarchy where Prime Minister Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa has been in power since 1971 making him the longest serving unelected prime minister in the world — banned public gatherings.
Tanks have been stationed at strategic points around the streets of Manama, a report said.
“There is going to be violence, there are going to be clashes,” a protester told BBC early Friday, ahead of the planned funerals.
Anger spiralled after Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised troops for their “bravery and readiness to assume their national duties”.
“The reports from Bahrain overnight are deeply troubling, here as elsewhere, violence should not be used against peaceful demonstrators and against journalists,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters.
In Iran, authorities prepared to stage a demonstration against opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi for allegedly undermining the Islamic system and collaborating with foreigners.
In separate statements, Moussavi and Karroubi condemned the suppression of Monday’s protests and rejected the accusations of links to foreign powers.