2011 in images

A selection of images that I took in parts of the Arab world over the last 12 months.

LEBANON

One week after Tunisians overthrew Ben Ali and on the same day of the first Egyptian protests, Lebanese supporters of the Sunni Future movement called for a “day of rage” across Lebanon to protest the parliament’s selection of Najib Miqati as the new prime minister. The day remained relatively uneventful as a few hundred took to the streets near Tariq al-Jadide in central Beirut burning tires and threw stones at army and police into the night. The day did highlight the tense political situation that continues in Lebanon between the country’s religious sects.

On May 15, Palestinian refugees inspired by the wave of Arab revolts called for their own revolution. They marched to the border with Israel in south Lebanon and demanded the right to return to the lands they and their descendants were forced to flee in 1948. At the border fence the unarmed demonstrators were met with Israeli sniper fire. Eleven were killed before the Lebanese army intervened by firing in the air and forcing demonstrators to flee the area. When activists tried to return and “occupy” the area they were stopped by Lebanese authorities in the weeks following. (My piece in the Guardian: Palestinians in Lebanon, at the lonely end of the Arab uprisings)

Unfortunately, it’s been nearly impossible for foreign journalists (especially Americans) to enter Syria and cover the uprising there because of the government clampdown. In neighboring Beirut, activists are also finding it difficult to show their solidarity with the protesters in Syria. At a protest outside the Syrian embassy in Beirut in April, solidarity activists were harassed by Syrian and Lebanese authorities and also by pro-Bashar al-Assad Lebanese and Syrians. A few brave activists (pictured here) managed to hold signs for around ten minutes before they left. Weeks later at a similar action outside the embassy, a number of solidarity activists were attacked and many were injured. The events highlight the close relationship between the two nations’ people, either with or against the uprising to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were vocal about the visit by PA president Mahmoud Abbas to Lebanon in August. “Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t represent me as a Palestinian, nor does he care about the struggle and the hardship of the people,” said novelist Mahmoud Hashem, 44, as he prepared fresh orange juice shortly before iftar, the fast-breaking meal during Ramadan. “His visit is pointless. It’s a visit for his [Fatah] party just so he can lift this flag on the embassy. Abbas doesn’t know about suffering and us being deprived of civil rights and the right to work, and Abbas doesn’t care about the living conditions of the people here.” (My photo story for AJE: Refugees in Lebanon react to Abbas visit)

Hizballah head Hassan Nasrallah made a surprise appearance at an Ashura rally in south Beirut in December. The public appearance on the Shia holiday was his first in years. Hizballah is a close ally of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Nasrallah offered support to the embattled regime. With the uprising continuing in Syria, in the coming year Hizballah and the governing coalition it’s a part of will face challenges from the Western-backed March 14 alliance, which includes the Future movement. (My photo story on Ashura in Lebanon for AJE: In pictures: Nasrallah attends Ashoura rally)

EGYPT

January 28 was a day I will never forget. After seeing the images from unprecedented protests of tens of thousands in Cairo three days earlier, I knew revolution would happen the following weekend. I arrived on Friday morning to a city cut off from the world. There was no mobile phone service, internet, only state TV and land line telephones were available. I went with Egyptian friends to the working-class Imbaba area of Cairo. None of us had any idea to expect. We waited near a major mosque for protests to begin after prayers. Nothing happened and worshippers walked away. Disappointed, we got in a taxi and left for another more central part of the city where protests were expected. Our taxi become stuck in traffic as we were leaving the area and I looked up ahead. “Let’s go, ” I said as we exited the taxi and joined a group of about 50 people chanting against Mubarak and for people to join them. That number would soon be tens of thousands, and that was only in one area of a city of 20 million.

In Imbaba on 28 January, police fired tear-gas at protesters who responded by throwing stones, some threw Molotov cocktails. The battle went on for hours until the protesters won and made their way to Tahrir Square. Before it ended I was detained by a group of plainclothes officers who demanded my cameras memory cards. Thanks to Egyptian activists who managed to sneak away the cards and fought back against the officers we managed to safely get out the images from this day in Imbaba where I was the only journalist present to document what happened.

A woman from Imbaba withstands tear-gas to document the protests on her mobile phone on 28 January.

This is the brave young activist Mina Daniel being treated for his wounds at a makeshift hospital on January 30. He was injured by police shotgun near Tahrir Square. In October, Daniel was killed by the army at a protest demanding rights for the country’s Christian minority. (See my blog post on Daniel here)

This picture was taken during the battle of Tahrir on February 3, when plainclothes officers and Mubarak supporters tried to attack the ongoing sit-in at Tahrir. Protesters fought back and the battle lasted for two days. Seconds after I took this picture I looked toward the frontline of the pro-Mubarak attackers when a small object appeared in the corner of my vision. The next thing I know I heard a ringing noise and a warm liquid began to cover my face. I was hit with a rock. I started walking away from the frontline before I was grabbed by four or five anti-Mubarak protesters who grabbed me, one shouted “Allahu Akbar!” as they carried me to a medical tent. I received treatment and a big white bandage over my forehead, which afforded me endless amounts of street credit in the revolutionary camp. I still have a scar from the incident on my forehead.

February 10, Mubarak has got to go. That’s what everyone in Tahrir thought, and we came on TV and announced he wouldn’t the crowd exploded with rage. Here a 21-year-old activist watches Mubarak’s speech next to a man in his 60s who was a former political prisoner for almost 20 years under Mubarak for belonging to an Islamist group.

Tahrir Square early in the morning on February 11. By day’s end, Mubarak would no longer rule Egypt.

A protester carries a sign near Tahrir Square minutes after Mubarak stepped down as president of Egypt.

Khaled Said’s mother, (left) uncle and sister react to the news about Mubarak stepping down at an apartment next to Tahrir Square. Said was a young man from Alexandria beaten to death by police in 2010. Activists protested his death and police brutality in general on Police Day, which was a holiday created by the Mubarak regime that was to be first celebrated on January 25 when tens of thousands protested and called for Mubarak’s ouster.

TUNISIA

I was fortunate enough to visit the country where it all started briefly in March, two months after Ben Ali fled Tunisia. This image was taken on the final day of a sit-in at al-Kasbah. The next day all the graffiti that covered the square was removed. I met wonderful people around the country, but the highlight of my trip had to be visiting the hometown of my friend Sami Ben Gharbia. Sami is a blogger/activist who had just returned to Tunisia for the first time since being exiled 13 years before that. (The graffiti in this picture says: “Tunisian people = Muslim + Christian + Jew,” See my post on revolutionary Tunisia)

BAHRAIN

From the moment the uprising in Bahrain started just days after Mubarak’s ouster, I wanted to visit the small Gulf country. I finally was given that opportunity this past fall and I spent more than one month over two visits reporting from Bahrain for Al Jazeera English and others.

Like in Syria now and other countries before that, funerals for people regularly killed by police in Bahrain become political protests with chants against the regime. This image was taken during my second trip in Bahrain in November during the funeral for Ali al-Baddah, a 16 year old who was run over by a police SUV during a protest early in the morning on November 19.

I went to a small pro-regime demonstration in November against the opposition and protesters. During the demonstration I searched desperately for someone who I could joke with about how people were rallying against foreign interference in Iran while many of them waved Saudi Arabian and Emirati flags like the woman pictured here.

One day after the release of a fact-finding commissions report, Bahrainis in A’ali village hold a funeral for a man killed in his car by a speeding police SUV on November 23. (My photo story for AJE: In pictures: Violence follows Bahrain funeral)

After funerals and protests police indiscriminately fire tear-gas in villages across Bahrain. Like in Egypt and other countries, the tear-gas is usually …

… made in the USA (See AJE photo story “Breathing in the dark” and report on “48 hours in Sanabis“)

After tear-gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs and oftentimes shot gun are all fired at demonstrations, protesters and locals take to rooftops to watch police and chant for the downfall of the al-Khalifa regime. January of 2012 will mark ten months of protests in Bahrain, one of the longest uprisings in the Arab world. Despite this, Bahrain is regularly excluded from lists of Arab countries that have seen uprisings in 2011. I blame this on the lack of coverage it’s received, especially in the Arab world, and discrimination by people outside the country who buy the government position that protesters are influenced by Iran without question and inaccurately describe protests for rights as part of a sectarian conflict. Every protester who I spoke to in Bahrain assured me it’s their own desire for freedom that is keeping them in the streets and not any foreign power. As protests continue on a daily basis, let’s see if Bahrain protests will finally get the attention they deserve in the new year.

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