Moved by Libyans' suffering, Tunisians rush to help

On Friday, Khadiga Mhiri, a 32-year-old pharmacist, was watching scenes of desperate people fleeing over the border from Libya on the television screen of her home in the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

Hours later, she hopped on a bus to make the eight-hour trek south, joining what has become an extraordinary outpouring of solidarity in this country, where the uprisings sweeping the Arab world began.

The mounting crisis in Libya has so deeply touched this nation — which threw off the yoke of its authoritarian ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, on Jan. 14 — that Tunisians from all walks of life, of all social classes, are banding together to aid Libyans and others fleeing that neighboring country.

In caravans of cars, buses and vans from all parts of Tunisia, hundreds of people — from Muslim fundamentalists to Tunisian Boy Scouts — are streaming toward the border, forming an impromptu army of volunteers who see events in Libya as the fruit of a democratic seed planted in North Africa by them.

"You must understand what this means for us, we who have just won our own freedom," Mhiri said. "I am here to transmit that freedom to my brothers across the border, to help in anyway I can."

Egypt

An Egyptian panel tasked with amending the country's constitution recommended Saturday easing restrictions on who can run for president and imposing presidential term limits — two key demands of the popular uprising that pushed longtime President Hosni Mubarak from power. The eight-member panel also suggested limits on the use of emergency laws — in place in Egypt for 30 years— to a six-month period with the approval of an elected parliament. Extending the emergency laws beyond that period should be put to a public referendum, the panel said. The proposed changes must still be put to a popular referendum to take effect.

Bahrain

Bahrain's king ousted four cabinet members Saturday as prominent opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, a senior Shiite figure, returned from exile and urged the country's rulers to back up reform promises with action. Thousands of demonstrators, meanwhile, pressed their demands for change by marching on government buildings in the capital. Two members of the royal family were among the ousted officials. Prime Minister Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, uncle of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, remained in his post.

Yemen

Yemen's embattled president suffered back-to-back blows Saturday: Hundreds of thousands called for his ouster in the largest antigovernment rallies yet and two powerful chiefs from his own tribe abandoned him. The huge turnout reported in towns and cities across Yemen and the defection of the tribal chiefs were the latest signs that President Ali Abdullah Saleh may be losing his grip on the impoverished, conflict-ridden country. Yemeni TV on Saturday quoted Saleh as telling army commanders that the armed forces will not hesitate to "defend the security of the nation as well as the unity, freedom and democracy."

The Associated Press and the Washington Post contributed to this report.

Moved by Libyans' suffering, Tunisians rush to help 02/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 26, 2011 10:38pm]

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