CAIRO — Tunisia’s fledgling democracy, the only one remaining from the popular revolutions that swept the Arab world a decade ago, trembled on the brink of collapse Monday after its president sought to seize power from the rest of the government in what his political opponents denounced as a coup.
The president, Kais Saied, who announced the power grab late Sunday, did not appear to have completely succeeded in taking control as of Monday evening, as chaos enveloped the North African country. But many Tunisians expressed support for him and even jubilation over his actions, frustrated with an economy that never seemed to improve and a pandemic that has battered hospitals in recent weeks.
With Syria, Yemen and Libya undone by civil war, Egypt’s attempt at democracy crushed by a counterrevolution and protests in the Gulf States quickly extinguished, Tunisia was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring revolutions with a democracy, if a fragile one.
But the nation where the uprisings began now finds even the remnants of its revolutionary ideals in doubt, posing a major test for the Biden administration’s commitment to democratic principles abroad.
statement. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in a phone call Monday with Mr. Saied, encouraged him “to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights,” a spokesman said.
Defying the Tunisian president, the prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, said he would hold a cabinet meeting even after Mr. Saied announced the dismissal of him and several ministers. Parts of Parliament said they would meet virtually even as soldiers cordoned off the Parliament building.
But the danger remained that Mr. Saied would back up his power grab with greater force, whether by further deploying the military or arresting top officials.
“This is a very concerning development that puts the democracy at great risk of unraveling,” said Safwan M. Masri, executive vice president of Columbia University’s Global Centers network, who studies Tunisia. Referring to Mr. Saied, he said: “An optimistic scenario would be that the Parliament and the Constitution and democratic institutions would prevail and that he would be forced out of office. But I would not bet any money on it.”
Already, the president has announced that he was assuming the public prosecutor’s powers and stripping lawmakers of immunity.
whether the revolution was worth it.
Protests and strikes frequently racked the country, and popular discontent widened the gap between elites who praised Tunisia’s democratic gains and Tunisians who simply wanted to improve their lot.
The coronavirus pandemic made things worse by devastating Tunisia’s tourist industry, an important economic engine. The virus has shaken the government and the health system even further in recent weeks as Tunisians have died of Covid-19 at the highest rate in the Middle East and Africa.
On Sunday, demonstrators across Tunisia called for the dissolution of Parliament, giving Mr. Saied some popular cover to announce that night that he was firing Mr. Mechichi, freezing Parliament for 30 days and assuming executive authority.
Tarek Megerisi, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “They blame them for all the country’s problems and think that they need to be removed.”
The showdown was a long time coming, with Mr. Saied locked since his election in political infighting with Mr. Mechichi and the speaker of Parliament, Rachid Ghannouchi.
Mr. Saied has been hinting for months at expanding his authority by refusing to swear in ministers and blocking formation of a constitutional court, raising alarm among opponents and political analysts.
In response to chaos in Tunisia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout last week and a surge in cases that has overwhelmed hospitals, Mr. Saied stripped control of Tunisia’s coronavirus response from the Health Ministry and handed it to the military.
On Sunday night, Mr. Saied cited Article 80 of the Constitution, which he said permits the president exceptional powers. He said he had consulted both Mr. Mechichi and Mr. Ghannouchi and held an emergency meeting with other officials before acting.
Mr. Saied said he was doing so to preserve the country’s “security and independence and to protect the normal operation of state institutions.”
Article 80, however, accords the president such powers only if the country faces an imminent threat and only after the prime minister and parliament speaker have been consulted. Mr. Ghannouchi denied that he had been.
In a statement, Mr. Ghannouchi deplored what he called a “coup” and described the suspension of Parliament as “unconstitutional, illegal and invalid.” The assembly “remains in place and will fulfill its duty,” he said.
In a televised statement, Mr. Saied said, “This is not a suspension of the Constitution.” And he sounded an ominous warning to adversaries:“Whoever fires a single bullet, our armed and security forces will retaliate with a barrage of bullets.”
Videos posted to social media showed crowds cheering, honking, ululating and waving Tunisian flags after the president’s actions Sunday night, the dark night lit up by red flares. Other videos showed Mr. Saied wending throughcheering supporters alongthe main thoroughfare of Tunis, where revolutionaries gathered during the 2011 protests.
The next step for Tunisia is unclear. The country has so far failed to form the constitutional court, called for in the 2014 Constitution, that could adjudicate such disputes.
In his statement, Mr. Saied said cryptically that a decree would soon be issued “regulating these exceptional measures that the circumstances have dictated.” Those measures, he said, “will be lifted when those circumstances change.” He also fired the defense minister and acting justice minister on Monday afternoon.
Tunisia’s divisions reflect a wider split in the Middle East between regional powers that supported the Arab revolutions and the political Islamist groups that came to power at the time (Turkey and Qatar), and those that countered the uprisings (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). While Turkey and Qatar expressed concern on Monday, the others remained quiet.
Reporting was contributed by Nada Rashwan from Cairo, Lilia Blaise and Massinissa Benlakehal from Tunis, and Michael Crowley from Washington.
HONG KONG — With each passing day, the boundary between Hong Kong and the rest of China fades faster.
The Chinese Communist Party is remaking this city, permeating its once vibrant, irreverent character with ever more overt signs of its authoritarian will. The very texture of daily life is under assault as Beijing molds Hong Kong into something more familiar, more docile.
Residents now swarm police hotlines with reports about disloyal neighbors or colleagues. Teachers have been told to imbue students with patriotic fervor through 48-volume book sets called “My Home Is in China.” Public libraries have removed dozens of books from circulation, including one about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
when antigovernment protests erupted.
Now, armed with the expansive national security law it imposed on the city one year ago, Beijing is pushing to turn Hong Kong into another of its mainland megacities: economic engines where dissent is immediately smothered.
goose-step in the Chinese military fashion, replacing decades of British-style marching. City leaders regularly denounce “external elements” bent on undermining the country’s stability.
Senior officials in Hong Kong have assembled, right hands raised, to pledge fealty to the country, just as mainland bureaucrats are regularly called on to “biao tai,” Mandarin for “declaring your stance.”
also warn of termination or other vague consequences if violated. Mr. Li had heard some supervisors nagging his colleagues to fill out the form right away, he said, and employees competing to say how quickly they had complied.
“The rules that were to protect everyone — as employees and also as citizens — are being weakened,” Mr. Li said.
purge candidates it deemed disloyal, Beijing called the change “perfecting Hong Kong’s electoral system.” When Apple Daily, a major pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close after the police arrested its top executives, the party said the publication had abused “so-called freedom of the press.” When dozens of opposition politicians organized an informal election primary, Chinese officials accused them of subversion and arrested them.
helped lead an operation that smuggled students and academics out of the mainland.
But Beijing is more sophisticated now than in 1989, Mr. Chan said. It had cowed Hong Kong even without sending in troops; that demanded respect.
end of an era.
The rush of mainland money has brought some new conditions.
declaring that those who do not go risk missing opportunities.
Growing up in Hong Kong, Toby Wong, 23, had never considered working on the mainland. Her mother came from the mainland decades earlier for work. Salaries there were considerably lower.
promising to subsidize nearly $1,300 of a $2,300 monthly wage — higher than that of many entry-level positions at home. A high-speed rail between the two cities meant she could return on weekends to see her mother, whom Ms. Wong must financially support.
Ms. Wong applied to two Chinese technology companies.
“This isn’t a political question,” she said. “It’s a practical question.”
many signals were missed.
Mapping Out China’s Post-Covid Path: Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is seeking to balance confidence and caution as his country strides ahead while other places continue to grapple with the pandemic.
A Challenge to U.S. Global Leadership: As President Biden predicts a struggle between democracies and their opponents, Beijing is eager to champion the other side.
‘Red Tourism’ Flourishes: New and improved attractions dedicated to the Communist Party’s history, or a sanitized version of it, are drawing crowds ahead of the party’s centennial.
The Hong Kong government has issued hundreds of pages of new curriculum guidelines designed to instill “affection for the Chinese people.” Geography classes must affirm China’s control over disputed areas of the South China Sea. Students as young as 6 will learn the offenses under the security law.
Lo Kit Ling, who teaches a high school civics course, is now careful to say only positive things about China in class. While she had always tried to offer multiple perspectives on any topic, she said, she worries that a critical view could be quoted out of context by a student or parent.
accused it of poisoning Hong Kong’s youth. The course had encouraged students to analyze China critically, teaching the country’s economic successes alongside topics such as the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Officials have ordered the subject replaced with a truncated version that emphasizes the positive.
“It’s not teaching,” Ms. Lo said. “It’s just like a kind of brainwashing.” She will teach an elective on hospitality studies instead.
Schoolchildren are not the only ones being asked to watch for dissent. In November, the Hong Kong police opened a hotline for reporting suspected violations of the security law. An official recently applauded residents for leaving more than 100,000 messages in six months. This week, the police arrested a 37-year-old man and accused him of sedition, after receiving reports that stickers pasted on the gate of an apartment unit potentially violated the security law.
most effective tools of social control on the mainland. It is designed to deter people like Johnny Yui Siu Lau, a radio host in Hong Kong, from being quite so free in his criticisms of China.
Mr. Lau said a producer recently told him that a listener had reported him to the broadcast authority.
“It will be a competition or a struggle, how the Hong Kong people can protect the freedom of speech,” Mr. Lau said.
censor films deemed a danger to national security. Some officials have demanded that artwork by dissidents like Ai Weiwei be barred from museums.
Still, Hong Kong is not yet just another mainland metropolis. Residents have proved fiercely unwilling to relinquish freedom, and some have rushed to preserve totems of a discrete Hong Kong identity.
font of hope and pride amid a resurgence in interest in Canto-pop.
Last summer, Herbert Chow, who owns Chickeeduck, a children’s clothing chain, installed a seven-foot figurine of a protester — a woman wearing a gas mask and thrusting a protest flag — and other protest art in his stores.
But Mr. Chow, 57, has come under pressure from his landlords, several of whom have refused to renew his leases. There were 13 Chickeeduck stores in Hong Kong last year; now there are five. He said he was uncertain how long his city could keep resisting Beijing’s inroads.
“Fear — it can make you stronger, because you don’t want to live under fear,” he said. Or “it can kill your desire to fight.”
HONG KONG — Nearly a year ago, a 23-year-old ramen cook rode a motorcycle through a Hong Kong neighborhood, flying a large flag emblazoned with a popular antigovernment protest slogan. He collided into several riot police officers as they tried to stop him.
In a different era, the rider, Tong Ying-kit, might have been accused of dangerous driving and assaulting a police officer. Instead, the authorities arrested him last July under a draconian national security law Beijing had imposed on Hong Kong, only hours earlier, that took aim at dissent and other political activity challenging China’s rule.
Mr. Tong stood trial on Wednesday, the first among the more than 100 people in Hong Kong who have been arrested under the sweeping new rules. His case is a test of how the city’s vaunted judicial system, based on British common law principles of fairness and independence, will interpret and enforce Beijing’s far-reaching security law, in which political crimes are vaguely defined. China says the law is necessary to root out threats to Beijing’s sovereignty, but human rights activists, opposition leaders and scholars have said the law puts the city’s judicial independence in peril.
“The national security law constitutes one of the greatest threats to human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover,” wrote Lydia Wong and Thomas Kellogg, scholars at Georgetown Law School, in a report in February.
arrested more than 50 opposition politicians — most of the leading figures in the city’s beleaguered pro-democracy camp — for organizing an informal election primary, accusing them of trying to overthrow the government.
They have arrested Jimmy Lai, a pugnacious media tycoon, and top editors at his stridently pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, accusing them of conspiring to collude with foreign forces, the first time the law has been used to target news organizations.
As part of the same investigation, the police on Wednesday also arrested one of the paper’s journalists, Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote columns and editorials under the pen name Li Ping.
The authorities have also used the security law, to a lesser extent, against ordinary protesters such as Mr. Tong. Little is known about Mr. Tong, even now, one year after his arrest. A former lawmaker who has met him said he was a cook at a ramen restaurant who took part in pro-democracy protests in 2019 and helped provide first aid.
Even before Mr. Tong’s first day in court, his case has raised questions about whether the security law has empowered the authorities to chip away at the legal protections that had until now been typically granted to defendants.
charged under the law have been released on bail.
power to do so under the new law has been seen by critics as eroding the autonomy of the courts.
How the judges parse the specific charges against Mr. Tong will be scrutinized for whether the law is being used to curb genuine threats to China’s security, or merely to stifle voices critical of the ruling Communist Party.
Mr. Kellogg of Georgetown questioned whether Mr. Tong’s act of driving into the police officers qualified as terrorism. “It’s not clear to me that Tong was engaged in the sort of organized, planned and often large-scale political violence that is the hallmark of terror attacks,” he said.
The police obtained hundreds of videos of Mr. Tong’s ride, and about 20 of those were introduced into evidence at his trial. The prosecutors and defense attorneys are likely to argue over whether Mr. Tong intentionally drove into the police officers. Three officers were injured as they moved to stop him.
The terrorism charge, and the allegation of violence it carries, makes Mr. Tong’s case unusual. But his other offense, centering on political expression, has become commonplace.
The slogan emblazoned on his flag, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” was coined by a now-imprisoned activist, Edward Leung, in 2016. During the 2019 protests it became ubiquitous: a rallying cry that was chanted by students in schoolyards and protesters in street marches, emblazoned on banners and graffitied on walls that have since been painted over.
Mr. Tong’s lawyers are expected to argue, as have many protesters, that the phrase represents a desire to reclaim Hong Kong’s unique identity from the heavy-handed influence of Beijing. The government has said the slogan represents a call for independence, and thus violates the security law.
That a political slogan could constitute a criminal offense is still a new and unsettling idea in Hong Kong, where residents had for decades enjoyed the right to protest, freedoms largely unseen in mainland China.
“We must bear in mind the context. The words he had, we need to understand that during that period those words were quite commonly spoken and exhibited on many flags and banners in peaceful and even non-peaceful protests in Hong Kong,” said Eric Cheung, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong.
“The meaning of these words differ from person to person,” Mr. Cheung said. “You now say that using these words carry only that meaning which amount to intention to subvert the country, I think that is a debate.”
Even if Mr. Tong is not convicted of terrorism, he faces a separate charge of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
As he awaited trial, Mr. Tong was sharing a cell with 10 men, according to Shiu Ka-chun, a former lawmaker who wrote on his social media page last year that he had been visiting him regularly. Mr. Shiu declined to comment about Mr. Tong. But in his social media posts, he wrote that Mr. Tong has been reading books on history, including a memoir by Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first democratically elected president.
“For those comrades who are continuing to take a stand, he says wait and be patient,” Mr. Shiu wrote. “For those who have left Hong Kong, he looks upon that calmly and thinks, ‘Hong Kong is in your hearts, everywhere is Hong Kong.’”
KIBBUTZ NIR DAVID, Israel — A whimsical chain of inflatable rafts tethered together by a flimsy rope floated along the Asi, a gentle stream that runs for a mile through a sunbaked plain in northern Israel.
The boats were packed with residents of the area, their children and day trippers from farther afield, but this was no picnic, even though it was a holiday. The goal of this unarmed armada was nothing less than reclaiming the small river.
“This is a strategic takeover!” the leader of the ragtag crew, Nati Vaknin, shouted through a bullhorn as he waded ahead of the group.
The flotilla’s destination was a forbidden paradise: an exquisite, aquamarine stretch of the stream that runs through, and that has effectively been monopolized by, Kibbutz Nir David, a communal farm founded by early Zionist pioneers, Ashkenazi Jews from Europe who historically formed the core of the Israeli elite.
Free the Asi campaign, a group fighting for public access to a cherished beauty spot and against perceived privilege. On the other is a kibbutz eager to maintain its hard-earned assets and tranquil lifestyle. The dispute has landed in court, awaiting resolution; in late May, the state of Israel weighed in, backing the public’s right to access the stream through the kibbutz.
But underlying the battle are much greater tensions that extend across Israel.
The Asi dispute pits advantaged scions of the country’s socialist founders against a younger generation from a traditionally marginalized group. And it has resonated across Israel as a distillation of the identity politics and divisions that deepened under the long prime ministership of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s fourth in two years, 93.5 percent of the vote in Beit Shean, with a population of about 18,000, went to right-wing or religious parties mostly aligned with Mr. Netanyahu, then the prime minister. Three miles away in Nir David, a community of about 650 people, over 90 percent of the votes went to centrist or left-wing parties that belong to the new governing coalition that ousted him.
Free the Asi campaign has attracted a variety of supporters, including left-wing social justice advocates and environmentalists. But left-wing political parties have mostly stayed mum to avoid alienating the kibbutz movement, their traditional base of support.
Some on the right have enthusiastically taken up the cause, like Yair Netanyahu, the former prime minister’s elder son, who has called to liberate the Asi on Twitter. It was a lawmaker from Shas, the ultra-Orthodox, Mizrahi party, who brought the court case against the kibbutz.
“It’s worth it for them to fan the ethnic narrative,” said Lavi Meiri, the kibbutz’s chief administrator. “It gets them votes.”
Nir David denies any discrimination, asserting that 40 percent of its population is now Mizrahi.
To end the standoff, Nir David has backed developing a new leisure area outside the kibbutz or extending the Asi’s flow toward Beit Shean. But the Free the Asi leaders said that could set a precedent for the privatization of natural resources.
Perah Hadad, 36, a campaign leader from Beit Shean, said the relationship with Nir David had always been one of “us on the outside and them inside.”
Ms. Hadad, a political science student, argues that part of the kibbutz could be opened to the public with fixed hours and prohibitions on barbecues and loud music.
“After all,” she said, “there are not that many streams like this in Israel.”
The flotilla led by Mr. Vaknin took place on Mimouna, a North African Jewish holiday marking the end of Passover.
Mr. Vaknin, 30, an information systems analyst, had organized a noisy and festive demonstration that began outside the kibbutz gate, complete with a D.J. and piles of mufletot, Mimouna pancakes dripping with honey.
“Open your gates and open your hearts!” Mr. Vaknin shouted, inviting kibbutz residents to join the party.
An eclectic mix of about two dozen people turned up to protest.
While the kibbutz offers the most practical entry into the Asi, it is possible to reach the water where the stream meets the irrigation channel. But that way involves several hazards, including clambering down a steep incline off a busy road and the possibility that sharp rocks in this untamed part of the stream would tear a raft.
Despite those obstacles, the protesters moved from the kibbutz down the road to launch their flotilla from that unblocked spot and later disembarked near the kibbutz cemetery. Children swam and chased ducks as grim-faced security guards looked on, filming on their cellphones.
The wet interlopers then sauntered off into the heart of the kibbutz. Nobody stopped them, and they posed for victory photos on the manicured bank of the Asi.
HONG KONG — A half year after he got out of prison, Daniel Tang has made a habit of going back. He waits in spare, crowded corridors. He greets familiar faces among the fellow visitors and guards. He brings books, postage stamps, writing paper and packets of M&Ms.
Mr. Tang is visiting people like him who were imprisoned for their role in the pro-democracy street protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. He travels three hours, round-trip, for a 15-minute chat through a thick plate of glass, sometimes with a total stranger. He summons a cheery, chatty demeanor, when he feels anything but.
“You owe them your best face,” he said. “If you’re not feeling right, don’t even bother going.”
Mr. Tang and many of those he meets with represent a new breed of convict in Hong Kong: activists who opposed the Chinese Communist Party’s growing power in the city. This group — often including college students or white-collar professionals — rose up two years ago in a historic campaign of public disobedience that led to clashes with police on the streets and focused the world’s attention on the future of the Asian financial capital.
tough new laws imposed by Beijing, mass arrests and the hazards of the coronavirus. Now, with dim job prospects, a fraught political future and the unending threat of another arrest, those protesters are emblematic of the uncertainties facing the city’s stricken democracy movement.
about 7,000 people. Beijing’s imposition last year of a national security law gives prosecutors greater powers to target even more.
Many of the activists are contemplating a future in exile. Others struggle to stay committed to the cause for which they sit behind bars.
“Being sentenced to jail fractures people,” said Alex Chow, a 30-year-old activist who spent a brief time in jail for his role as a leader of protests in 2014, a precursor to the 2019 demonstrations. He now lives in exile in the United States.
as well as veterans. Those sentenced to prison so far include Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, young leaders of the 2014 protests. Wong Ji-yuet, 23, and Owen Chow, 24, activists who participated in a primary election that was organized by the pro-democracy camp, are awaiting trial in solitary confinement after they were charged with endangering national security.
For many young people in jail, the sentences have redrawn their lives.
Jackie Yeung, a 23-year-old university student serving a three-year prison sentence, said she had abandoned the “typical ambitions” she used to harbor — getting a good job and an apartment in a family-friendly district.
statement ahead of her sentencing. “And I have no way of comforting them through the glass in the visitation room in prison.”
She dreams of opening up a small business importing Taiwanese pineapples after she and a Taiwanese cellmate are released. With the profits, she would support other young people by helping to pay their legal fees and living expenses. “To do anything, you need money,” she said.
To make things easier on prisoners, Mr. Tang and some other activists have banded together to provide support. They write letters and gazettes to catch people up with protest news and raise funds to pay for better meals in jail while protesters await trials.
Mr. Tang frequently sees Ms. Yeung. During one visit to her prison near the border with the mainland city of Shenzhen, he brought pens and stamps. He left the stamps, but was unable to give her the pens, as it would have exceeded her monthly allowance of two.
For all of his dedication, Mr. Tang, who spent more than a half-year imprisoned after pleading guilty to arson charges, says it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
“Many Hong Kongers have moved on and moved away and don’t think about how there is a group of people sitting behind bars for the movement we all fought for,” said Mr. Tang, who is in his late 30s. “It seems many have forgotten.”
Far from radicalizing during his time on the inside, Mr. Tang now struggles with cynicism and meaning in a city that suddenly seems unfamiliar. He has been disheartened by the protest movement’s stagnation and by the waves of migration out of the city. The camaraderie of protest has been replaced by dread of ever more targeted arrests. He sees it all as an abandonment of values and believes that escape is a privilege unavailable to many.
Mr. Tang’s protester friends from prison also seem to be moving on. A group chat they kept, called the “Lai Chi Kok Prisoners,” after the facility where they were detained, still lights up occasionally with holiday greetings and vague laments. But few want to talk politics. Sometimes those in prison that do speak out seem to be exaggerating their place in the movement. He rolls his eyes at one prisoner, who has taken to calling himself Mandela 2.0.
“All that we have left is our relationships with one another,” he said. “Some seem ready to let that go.”
Yet, for Mr. Tang, there is no road back — not that he’d take it. His former employer was understanding, but let him go when his absence stretched on. He has been unable to access his life savings, he said, after his bank account was frozen over automated donations he made in 2019 to a protester bail fund that police placed under investigation.
He has applied to managerial jobs like those he had worked in the past, only to be turned away because of his criminal record. Now, he’s mulling applying for a taxi license or working in construction.
He still faces four charges related to the protests that were filed just days before his release from prison. The thought of officers at his door has kept him away from the apartment he shares with his mother. He tells her he now works a night shift, and she doesn’t press him.
“I’m really tired,” Mr. Tang said. “The government has left us no room to resist and nowhere to go.”
BAGHDAD — ‘Who killed me?’ the signs asked, alongside images of dead men and women, among the roughly 80 Iraqi activists murdered since late 2019. Young demonstrators held aloft the posters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, illustrating both the enduring spark and diminished strength of Iraq’s anti-government protest movement.
The demonstrators (publicly) and Iraqi officials (privately) say they know who killed many of the activists: Iran-backed militias that have essentially crushed a grass-roots anti-corruption movement that blames Iranian influence, and the militias, for many of Iraq’s ills. In a country where militias — nominally a part of the security apparatus — operate with impunity, the killers have gone unpunished.
The several thousand young men gathered in Baghdad’s central square Tuesday comprised the biggest protest in the Iraqi capital since the anniversary last October of demonstrations in 2019 that swept Baghdad and southern citiesand brought down a government. The movement is driven by anger at the government’s failure to make promised reforms, including curbs on Iranian-backed militias.
But in the shadow of assassinations, kidnappings and intimidation of people who criticize the Iraqi government and Iranian interference, turnout on Tuesday was far smaller than organizers had hoped.
Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are clustered. A few of the protesters responded by throwing rocks as police chased demonstrators down alleys. Security forces said the demonstrators later set fire to security vehicles.
“We expected more people to come but some people are afraid — afraid for their jobs and afraid for themselves,” said one of the longtime activists, Dr. Mohammad Fadhil, a physician from Diyala province, speaking before the clashes erupted.
Another protester, Hani Mohammad, said he had been threatened by a group of fighters three days before.
“They came to my house,” said Mr. Mohammad, naming one of the biggest Iran-backed militias, which he did not want to name publicly for fear of retaliation. He said he had already fled.
A year after taking power, prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has largely failed to deliver reforms he promised in response to the 2019 protests, including reining in Iran-backed militias, which are also blamed for attacks on the U.S. embassy and military installations.
Activists who have been killed include protest leaders in the holy city of Karbala, a female doctor in Basra, and a prominent Baghdad security analyst, Hisham al Hashimi, who advised the prime minister. Many of them were shot dead in the streets in view of security cameras or the police, some in the middle of the day.
Though at least one commander has been relieved of duty, no one is known to have been prosecuted.
“What’s the main purpose of these killings? It’s to deter the formation of leadership among the protest movement,” said Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. “So you target key leaders that have the potential of rallying the masses, you eliminate them and then you create fear within the rest.”
She said there was little prospect that Iraqi political leaders would reform the system that elevated them to power, or push back against the pervasive influence of Iran, and that intimidation and lack of support had left the protest movement too weak to create change.
“You need leadership, you need organization, you need political machinery, you need funding for that,” said Ms. Slim, listing elements that the diverse movement lacks.
Ali al Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, said, “The security establishment is not serious in its efforts, beginning from the investigations within security institutions to bringing the case to the court.”
The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, told the U.N. Security Council this month that many of the protest leaders were being hunted down with ‘rampant impunity’ ahead of the early elections they had demanded.
In addition to those assassinated, more than 560 protesters, the vast majority of them unarmed, have been killed by security forces and gunmen during the protests themselves since 2019. Most were shot with live bullets or killed by tear gas canisters that became lethal projectiles after being fired directly into the crowd.
Ahead of Tuesday’s protest, one of the main Iran-backed militias, the Hezbollah Brigades, issued what many perceived as a veiled threat to the demonstrators, saying that it and other paramilitary forces “must protect these young men who are deceived,” so they cannot be used by enemies, including the United States. It accused the protesters of aiming to delay the elections planned for Oct. 10.
The assassinations have had a chilling effect on the political campaign. The grass-roots movement that began in 2019 aimed to end the corruption-ridden system of government in place since 2003, where government ministries have been carved up between powerful political blocs and militias.
Activists originally saw the upcoming elections as a chance for a fresh start with new faces, but now they appear likely to return the same factions to power.
“There are no parties with integrity that I can vote for,” said Hadeel, a 19-year-old university student protesting Tuesday in Baghdad’s Nasour square. She did not want to give her last name.
“After the election we will not be able to even protest because the government is going to be stronger than before and the militias will have even more power.”
Despite the danger, the protests Thursday could be a harbinger of a painful summer in Iraq.
The protests in 2019 spread from the southern coastal city of Basra, where citizens took to the streets to demand public services. Iraq last year recorded life-threatening record high temperatures of over 125 degrees, leaving many to swelter without electricity or even clean water.
This summer, a lack of winter rain, water mismanagement and water conflicts with neighboring Turkey and Iran are expected to result in even worse shortages for millions of Iraqis, misery that could fuel renewed mass protests.
Among the protesters Tuesday, there was little fear of the coronavirus ravaging Iraq, where only about 1 percent of the population has been vaccinated. No one in the demonstrations was seen wearing masks, and social distancing in the crowded squares was impossible.
“We know virus exists,” said one of the protesters, Hamza Khadham. “But the violence, injustice and oppression by the government against the people is more dangerous than the coronavirus.”
Falih Hassan, Awadh al-Taiee and Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting.
JERUSALEM — More than 1,550 people have been arrested over the past two weeks, the Israeli police said on Monday, on suspicion of involvement in the recent outbreak of mob violence between Arabs and Jews that convulsed cities across Israel.
Announcing the start of an even more concerted arrest campaign, the police said in a statement that thousands of police and border police officers had spread out across the country “to bring the rioters, criminals and all those involved in the disturbances to justice.”
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the police, said that 70 percent of those arrested were Arab citizens of Israel while 30 percent were Jewish. About 150 suspects have already been charged, the police said.
“The majority of incidents that took place were carried out by Arab Israelis who took to the streets and attacked Jewish civilians and police officers,” he said.
the worst intercommunal violence Israel has seen in decades, the outburst of assaults, arson and vandalism spread to other mixed cities in northern Israel and the Arab towns of the Galilee, while Bedouin Arabs torched and ambushed Jews’ cars with stones on the roads in the southern Negev desert.
Over several nights, Arab and Jewish gangs sought out targets. Several victims on both sides were beaten unconscious; one Jewish man was badly burned; and at times the unrest turned lethal.
looming eviction of six Palestinian families from homes claimed by Jewish landlords has contributed to the unrest, and where the police continue to disperse sporadic protests.
The police have come in for harsh criticism from both Jewish and Arab witnesses and victims of the mob violence. Many said they had tried to call the police as their properties came under attack during the disturbances but got no response.
Mr. Rosenfeld said that at that time too many incidents were occurring simultaneously and that it was impossible to place an officer by every door.
The government called in hundreds of border police officers from the occupied West Bank to restore order in Lod.
When crime involved only Arab citizens, as both perpetrators and victims, the police showed little interest, said Ms. Touma-Sliman, the lawmaker, adding, “we’ve been pleading for years for them to take action.”
Only now, she said, when the violence affected the Jewish population, were the police talking about gathering video footage from security cameras and using other technological means to locate and identify suspects.
“I have lost confidence in the police,” she said. “They will have to earn it.”
On Monday alone, the police said, they had arrested 74 suspects, including dozens who had thrown stones, fireworks and firebombs and assaulted officers in Jerusalem and Arab-populated areas of central Israel. They said they had also seized illegal weapons, including an M16 assault rifle, and ammunition.
Three Israeli Jews, including a minor, 16, were charged on Monday for what the prosecution called the “attempted terrorist murder” of an Arab Israeli driver in Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb. He was dragged from his car and beaten almost to death at the height of the intercommunal violence.
LOD, Israel — Years before the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod erupted in mob violence, a demographic shift had begun to take root: Hundreds of young Jews who support a religious, nationalist movement started to move into a mostly Arab neighborhood with the express aim of strengthening the Israeli city’s Jewish identity.
A similar change was playing out in other mixed Arab-Jewish cities inside Israel, such as nearby Ramla and Acre in the north — part of a loosely organized nationwide project known as Torah Nucleus. They say that their intention is to uplift poor and neglected areas on the margins of society, particularly in mixed cities, and to enrich Jewish life there. Its supporters have moved into dozens of Israeli cities and towns.
“Perhaps ours is a complex message,” said Avi Rokach, 43, chairman of the Torah Nucleus association in Lod. “Lod is a Jewish city. It is our agenda and our religious duty to look out for whoever lives here, be they Jewish, Muslim or Hindu.”
In Lod, hundreds of the city’s Arab citizens took to the streets, throwing stones, burning cars and setting fire to properties, venting their rage against one primary target: The mostly young, Orthodox Jewish families who had arrived in recent years, saying they wanted to lift up the working-class city and make it more Jewish.
organized on social networks and sought out Arab victims in Lod and other cities, beating an Arab man almost to death in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.
Lod, which traces its history to the days of Canaan and is known as Lydda in Arabic, has a particularly fraught history centered around the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Most of the original Palestinian residents of the city were expelled and never allowed to return.
Bedouins — the seminomadic Arabs from Israel’s Negev desert — arrived in the following decades as did families of Palestinians from the West Bank who had collaborated with Israel, seeking refuge.
to tone down the volume on the Muslim call to prayer from minarets in the city and his right-hand man is a founder of Lod’s Torah Nucleus.
Arab resentment is compounded by a lingering fear of displacement, house by house.
About eight years ago, Torah Nucleus built a pre-army academy and a religious boys’ elementary school next to the long-established school for Arab pupils on Exodus Street in the heart of Ramat Eshkol.
These Jewish institutions were the first to be set on fire on May 10. The trouble started after evening prayers, witnesses said. Arab youths raised a Palestinian flag in the square and demonstrated in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza. The police dispersed them with tear gas and stun grenades.
Angry Arab mobs then went on a rampage, burning synagogues, Jewish apartments and cars in Ramat Eshkol. One group approached another Torah Nucleus neighborhood, where a Jewish crowd had gathered.
There, the four Jewish suspects in the shooting claimed, they fired in the air in self-defense as Arab rioters began to rush at them, throwing stones and firebombs, according to court documents.
The funeral for the victim, Mr. Hassouna, the next day devolved into new clashes as the mourners, the building contractor Mr. Salama among them, insisted on passing through Exodus Street with the body in defiance of police instructions.
That night, gangs of Jewish extremists, some of them armed, came from out of town to attack Arabs and their property, according to witnesses. Mr. Salama said he was hit by a stone while sitting in his garden. Gunshots were heard on both sides.
One Jewish apartment in Ramat Eshkol was burned to cinders after Arab intruders broke open a hole in the wall. The family had already left. A neighbor, Nadav Klinger, said the charred flat would be preserved as a museum.
Elsewhere in Lod, some veteran Jewish and Arab neighbors said their good relations remained intact and agreed that the influx of religious Jewish professionals had lifted the city up.
Ayelet-Chen Wadler, 44, a physicist who grew up in a West Bank settlement, came to Lod with her family 15 years ago to join the Torah Nucleus community.
“I was raised to try to make an impact,” she said. “Just by living here, you make a difference.”
A week after the peak in the violence, about 30 of the 40 Jewish families who had evacuated their homes in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood had returned.
“I believe we can get back to where we were before, but it might take some time,” said Mr. Rokach, the chairman of the Torah nucleus in Lod, condemning the revenge attacks by Jews from outside.
“Nobody’s leaving. Quite the opposite. As we speak, I just got a WhatsApp message from a family looking for a home here. Nor are the Arabs leaving.”
PARIS — Declaring that their work has become increasingly dangerous because of the government’s failure to address France’s underlying social problems, thousands of police officers protested in Paris on Wednesday in a show of force that left politicians scrambling.
Police union leaders demanded tougher laws for violence against officers and stiffer sentences against convicted criminals as thousands massed in the rain in front of the National Assembly, issuing warnings to political leaders who were present but were not invited to speak.
“Your presence is an important sign,’’ Fabien Vanhemelryck, the secretary general of Alliance Police, a right-leaning union whose members appeared to dominate the protest, said from a stage next to a giant screen. “It must not be a sign of future elections, but a wake-up call, a sense of responsibility, of change and a return to safety.’’
The protest, organized by 14 police unions, came after the recent killings of an officer and a police employee, even as pressure has been mounting to reform a force often criticized for its brutal tactics and racist behavior.
theme of crime already dominating the political debate a year before the presidential election, the protest drew leaders from nearly all of France’s political parties. The criticism of official policy put the government of President Emmanuel Macron in an awkward situation and threatened to overshadow a rare nugget of good news on Wednesday, as restaurants and cafes partially reopened nationwide after months of pandemic restrictions.
Gérald Darmanin — the powerful interior minister and head of the national police — joined the demonstration as officers called out to him, “We need your help.’’
In a rare instance of a minister joining a demonstration critical of his own government, Mr. Darmanin said he was simply expressing his solidarity while political rivals said he was effectively protesting against himself. Mr. Darmanin has spearheaded the government’s efforts to fend off a challenge from Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader and Mr. Macron’s main challenger.
issue of crime has directly affected the fortunes of French politicians and parties in the past two decades, and is expected to do so again in the coming months, as France tries to pull itself out of the ravages caused by the pandemic. On Wednesday, some political figures on the left joined the protest and talked tough on crime, even though the government’s statistics do not show the kind of criminality conjured by politicians.
Fabien Jobard, a political scientist specializing on the police.
Protesters began by paying hommage to Eric Masson, an officer killed in the southern city of Avignon during an antidrug operation, and Stéphanie Monfermé, a police employee killed in a terrorist attack at a police station in the city of Rambouillet, near Paris.
The number of police officers injured while on duty has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, jumping from 3,842 in 2004 to 6,760 in 2019, during a year marked by violent Yellow Vest protests, according to figures from the interior ministry.
Mr. Macron has recently stepped up efforts to respond to police concerns. He pledged to recruit 10,000 additional police officers by the end of his current five-year term and went on a ride-along with officers in a drug-dealing area of the city of Montpellier.
pushing back on proposals to reform their methods, such as banning chokeholds, and to open themselves up to greater scrutiny for racism. Police unions also recently broke off monthslong talks with the government on potential reforms.
Controversies over deadly and brutal police interventions sparked widespread protests against the police last year. A contentious security law empowering the police drew thousands of protesters to the street as video footage revealed the brutal beating of a Black music producer, Michel Zecler, inside his own Paris studio by officers.
recent poll showed that 27 percent of respondents said they regarded the police with “anxiety’’ or “hostility.’’
“The police play a very strong role in protecting the political regime in France,” Mr. Jobard, the police expert said, adding that they often “feel that politicians are using them as a firewall, as a shield.”
Despite the intensifying debate on insecurity, crime in France rose in the 1970s through the mid-1980s before declining and stabilizing. Government data show that nearly all major crimes are now lower than they were a decade or three years ago.
France’s per capita homicide rate — 1.16 per 100,000 people in 2018 — was about the same as most parts of Britain, according to data from the European Commission, while Germany’s rate was 0.76. France’s rate was far lower than that of the United States, which was five per 100,000 people in 2018, according to F.B.I. data.
Rocks thrown at doors of a synagogue in Bonn, Germany. Israeli flags burned outside a synagogue in Münster. A convoy of cars in North London from which a man chanted anti-Jewish slurs.
As the conflict in Israel and Gaza extended into a 10th day on Wednesday, recent episodes like these are fanning concerns among Jewish groups and European leaders that the latest strife in the Middle East is spilling over into anti-Semitic words and actions in Europe.
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered on the streets of Paris, Berlin, Vienna and other European cities in mostly peaceful protests over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children.
Pro-Palestinian activists and organizers say that solidarity with Palestinians should not be confused with anti-Semitism, and they denounce what they say are attempts to use accusations of anti-Semitism to try to shield Israel from criticism. They say they aim to hold Israel accountable for what they characterize as atrocities against Palestinians.
tweeted a video last Thursday showing protesters in Gelsenkirchen, in western Germany, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and shouting anti-Jewish slurs. “The times in which Jews were cursed in the middle of the street should have long been over,” the group wrote. “This is pure anti-Semitism, nothing else!”
The United States on Tuesday criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who said at a news conference this week that Jews were “murderers, to the point that they kill children who are 5 or 6 years old.” He also said they were “only are satisfied by sucking blood.”
said in a statement that four men had been arrested.
Owen Jones, a prominent British columnist who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, warned against conflating Israel’s actions with Jews as a whole.
“If you’re holding British Jews responsible for the crimes committed by the Israeli state, and trying to terrorize Jews because of what is happening in Palestine,” he wrote on Twitter, “you’re not a Palestinian solidarity activist, you’re a nauseating anti-Semite who needs to be comprehensively defeated.”