2011-01-16 Early reports of unrest in Libya [UPDATE 1]

EA World View is reporting protests in Darna on the northeast coast of Libya, in Beida, the third-largest city, and at the Press Syndicate in Cairo, supporting the rising in Tunisia and calling for a change in Egypt's politics: "Revolution, revolution until victory, revolution in Tunisia, and revolution in Egypt!"

More news is appearing under the hashtag #Libya including the following:


al-bab.com has some perspective. Colonel Gaddafi has been in power for almost 42 years, compared with a mere 23 for Ben Ali.

Contrary to what many people imagine, protests and even large-scale riots are not uncommon in the Arab countries. They occur mostly in marginalised regions or among marginalised sections of the population and, normally, they pose no great threat to the regime.

Last month – one day before the trouble started in Tunisia – there was a Sunni-versus-Shia riot in the Saudi city of Medina. Eight hundred people are said to have taken part; windows were smashed and dozens of cars damaged or destroyed. Outside the kingdom, hardly anyone noticed.

The tricky part is judging the significance of such protests when they occur. One test is whether they are outside the norm for the country concerned: ten dead in a tribal battle with the Yemeni army would be no big deal, but the same thing in Oman, next door, would be hugely significant.

Applying the "Tunisia test", the following are also useful pointers for distinguishing minor from major protests:

1. Disturbances sustained for more than a few days.

2. Disturbances steadily growing in strength and spreading to other areas, especially those areas not traditionally regarded as marginalised.

3. Focus of protests shifting strongly from the original grievances to a more generalised critique of the regime.

4. Regime starting to show signs of inability to reassert control.

Al Jazeera (Arabic) reports people in several Libyan cities have broken into thousands of housing units after an interview in Sabha with Muammar Gaddafi. Thousands of citizens stormed a project containing 800 residential units in the city of Benghazi in Aguarcp. [Very bad translation: if anyone has a better, please post in the comments. Thank you.]

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