Sporadic protests continued across Egypt for a third consecutive day on Thursday, despite a large deployment of security forces by the government. Meanwhile, protests have also erupted in neighboring Yemen.
Popular protests across the Arab world have spread to Yemen, where thousands of demonstrators turned out across the capital, Sana’a, on Thursday. The crowds are calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdallah Salih, who has been in office for decades, and for economic reform.
The Yemen Post newspaper reported that many opposition demonstrators carried banners condemning poverty, calling for new elections and demanding change. It added that pro-government rallies also took place in other cities.
Yemen’s interior minister, Mutahir al-Masri, indicated that security forces have been told to protect the demonstrators and that no violence has been reported.
He says that up to 1,200 people turned out to demonstrate at one location, while three to five thousand others turned out in another. He added that Yemeni security forces are doing their utmost to protect the demonstrators, who were expressing the will of the people.
A protest organizer in Sana’a criticized President Salih for enriching himself and not working in the interest of the nation.
He said that President Salih has not respected agreements that his party has signed and that he worries only about his personal interests and treats most people in Yemen like “slaves.”
In Egypt, clashes between protesters and security forces continued for a third day in Suez and Ismailia. Al Arabiya television reports that protesters threw firebombs in Suez. A police station and ruling party headquarters were damaged by fire overnight in the city.
Al Jazeera television reports that some 3,000 opposition activists have been arrested. Wire services put the figure at about 1,000.
Police say dozens of protesters were injured in the clashes with police in Suez.
Several hundred demonstrators turned out in several locations across the capital, Cairo, on Thursday, but only minor skirmishes with security forces were reported. Protesters have posted messages on Twitter and Facebook calling for further protests Friday.
The third day of turmoil in Egypt caused panic in business circles, as trading was suspended on the Cairo stock exchange for an hour. Stocks lost more than 10 percent of their value on Thursday, after a five percent decline on Wednesday. The Egyptian pound hit a six year low against the dollar.
Political sociologist Said Sadek of The American University in Cairo says the government needs to implement economic reforms to defuse the situation.
“Economics are a very important factor,” said Sadek. “The solution is very simple, if they just do it. They just have to show the people that they are serious about reform and that there are reforms that are being done now, not tomorrow, not after tomorrow, not next year. The time is right, and I think the American administration was right, when Mrs. Clinton [i.e., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] said the “time now is opportune for the Egyptian government to take up some of those reform issues.”
Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei told journalists in Vienna that he will participate in the Cairo protests. He and other opposition activists are asking President Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years in office.
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