There were fresh protests on Friday in Egypt, Syria and Yemen, signalling that West Asia's pro-democracy uprisings, which began in Tunisia five months ago, are still far from running their course.
Having toppled Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's President for 30 years, earlier this year, protesters in their thousands on Friday demanded that the transitional military establishment should pitch definite markers on the ground to assure them that their “revolution” was truly on course. The protesters assembled at Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square demanding the interim government quickly seal Mr. Mubarak's fate, by taking punitive action against him and his inner circle.
Despite the perception that it is slow to act against, if not protecting, the ousted rulers, the decision by the rulers to ease some of the pressure on impoverished Palestinians in neighbouring Gaza has been widely welcomed. On Saturday, Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border with Gaza — the first visible sign that Cairo's Mubarak-era unpopular alliance with Israel may be beginning to fall apart.
Elsewhere in the region, protesters in Syria continued to push the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad on to the defensive. Building on the months of protests, anti-regime campaigners held massive demonstrations countrywide. Thousands marched in Abu Kamal on the border with Iraq, in the Kurdish area of Amouda and Homs, the scene of a bloodbath in the eighties that killed thousands.
In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared to cling on to power, despite serious clashes in capital Sana'a, which are threatening to pull the nation into a bloody civil war. People, fearing for their lives, are leaving in droves from Sana'a. On Friday, fighting escalated dramatically when the Saleh-regime used warplanes to target tribal fighters gathered in the Naham province, north-east of Sana'a. Since Monday, more than 80 people have been killed in fighting between fighters loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid tribal federation, and Mr. Saleh's forces.
The escalation in fighting in Yemen has alarmed neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian daily Arab News quoted Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the Kingdom's assistant Minister of Defence, as saying Riyadh was well prepared to defend its borders. Yemen is also facing a rebellion of ethnic Houthis in the north and a separatist's movement in the south — huge challenges which threaten to turn the embattled country into a failed State.
Reuters quoted Dubai-based security analyst Theodore Karasik as saying the chances of a peaceful democratic transition in Yemen were now slim. “It is going to look like Libya, and now it is becoming ... like Libya,” he said.