Protests' shockwave hits Syria and Djibouti
Djiboutians want president out
The Egypt-Tunisia inspired protests' effect is sweeping the Middle East and North Africa region, as people in Djibouti are calling their president to go out, while Syrians protest against the state’s police.
Thousands of opposition supporters, mainly students, gathered in Djibouti Friday to demand President Ismael Omar Guelleh step down, witnesses said.
The rare demonstration in the tiny Horn of Africa country was organised amid mounting opposition to the president, who last year had the constitution amended to allow him to seek a third mandate in upcoming April elections.
"IOG out", read one banner, using the president's initials, as most Djiboutians do. "No to a third mandate", read another banner.
Amid a tight police deployment, the demonstrators gathered at a stadium with the intention of staying there until their demands are met.
Officials from the Union for Democratic Change, an umbrella group of three opposition parties, gave speeches calling for Guelleh's resignation.
The group's leader, Ismael Guedi Hared, told AFP before the demonstration that Guelleh should leave power and called for a sustained protest movement akin to those that have swept the Arab world in recent weeks.
"For the moment, our goal is to remove Ismael Omar Guelleh from power," he said.
Asked if he hoped for an Egypt-like scenario, he said: "Yes, that's it."
The 63-year-old Guelleh has been in power since 1999 and the new constitution allows him to stand for two more six-year terms.
Hundreds of Syrians staged a protest against security forces after traffic police beat up a young man in the capital's Old City, an opposition website reported on Friday.
The Dubai-based all4Syria.info said Imad Nasab, son of a shopowner in the cobbled commercial strip of Hariqa, was assaulted by traffic police officers, sparking a spontaneous rally on Thursday in solidarity with the victim.
"The Syrian people will not be humiliated," chanted the crowd.
"Police, thieves" and "We will sacrifice our soul and blood for you (President) Bashar (al-Assad)" were some of the slogans used by the demonstrators.
The website said they blocked traffic for three hours and called on the interior minister, who showed up at the scene, to arrest the policemen involved.
Popular revolts since last month that have brought down two veteran autocrats, Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, have sparked pro-democracy protests across the Arab world.
Libya, Yemen and Bahrain have cracked down on uprisings.
The Syrian people will not be humiliated