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Egyptian protests get a boost of energy

The New York Times is reporting on the latest development in Egypt, though the article has a few interesting related tidbits as well.  The story is, essentially, a Google executive largely involved with coordinating social media for the protest movement disappeared two weeks ago, and has just been released from his secret detainment.  He then gave an emotional interview that has spurred a lift in the fervor of the protests.

In the interview, Wael Ghonim wept over the death toll from clashes with the government. “We were all down there for peaceful demonstrations,” he said, asking that he not be made a hero. “The heroes were the ones on the street.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Ghonim galvanized Tahrir Square, briefly joining the tens of thousands of chanting protesters there. “We will not abandon our demand, and that is the departure of the regime,” he told the crowd, which roared its agreement, The Associated Press reported.

Other notes from the article include a raise for government employees:

Six million government employees would receive a 15 percent raise, which the new finance minister, Samir Radwan, said would take effect in April.

The raise mirrored moves in Kuwait and Jordan to raise salaries or provide grants to stanch anger over rising prices across the Middle East, shaken with the repercussions of Egypt’s uprising and the earlier revolt in Tunisia. In Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Friday he would cut in half his salary, believed to be $350,000, amid anger there over dreary government services.

Also, while last weeks clashes between protesters and the pro-Mubarak factions drew a lot of attention, the majority of deaths in the movement occurred a few days before then:

Human Rights Watch calculated that at least 297 people have died in the protests since Jan. 28, including 232 in Cairo, 52 in Alexandria and 13 in Suez. The majority of those deaths occurred on Jan. 28 and 29 as a result of live gunfire, the group reported, relying on hospital lists and interviews with doctors.

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Clinton Bluntly Presses Arab Leaders on Reform

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton wrapped up her four day tour of the Persian Gulf, with stops in Yemen, Oman, the UAE, and Qatar, by delivering a scalding critique of Arab leaders.  This NY Times article discusses the criticism Secretary Clinton laid out before an audience of Arab diplomats, business people, and human rights groups.  Topics included corruption, repressive political systems, a lack of rights for women and religious minorities, and socioeconomic mobility.

Excerpts from Secretary Clinton’s speech:

“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere.”

“If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.  Extremist elements, terrorist groups and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there appealing for allegiance and competing for influence.”

Indonesia works to improve maid treatment in Saudi Arabia

Migrant Indonesian maid workers in Saudi Arabia face terrible mistreatment.  The murder and torture of several maids this week, so Indonesia is now endeavoring to rectify the situation. 

Earlier Indonesia’s cabinet met to discuss the need for greater protection of the country’s migrant workers in the Middle East. There are estimated to be about one million.

Rights organisations say many foreign domestic maids in Saudi Arabia work in harsh circumstances and often suffer abuse from their employers.

The description the BBC News article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11795356) offers is brutal:

Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa is recovering in hospital in Medina.

Her injuries include gashes to her face and cuts to her lips, allegedly inflicted by her employers using scissors. She was also burned with an iron and suffered internal injuries, officials say.

Human Rights in Tunisia

Tomorrow Rob Prince will speak at our meeting about human rights in Tunisia.  Take a look at the series of posts he has put up on his blog.  As he notes in part 1, the Tunisian government has apparently censored his blog.  That link will take you to part four, so if you want more background start back at part one, here.