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Africa

Protests continue across the Arab world

media A protester holds a hair dryer mocking ousted First Lady Leila Trabilsi's … Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

Authorities in Tunisia shortened a curfew on Wednesday after saying that the security situation had improved, while some 2,000 protesters chanted at a peaceful protest against the Ben Ali regime in the centre of Tunis on Wednesday.

A state of emergency remains banning public assemblies, however. Police are also still under instructions to shoot anyone who is running away from them.

These demonstrations have been going on across the region for years, according to John Entelis, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of North African Studies. "I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate specific socio or economic grievances from the larger political ones that have dominated these countries for so long," he told RFI.

Other leaders in the region, such as Amr Moussa, the head of the Cairo-based Arab League, spoke at a conference on Wednesday, saying that "[...] The political problems, the majority of which have not been fixed [...] have driven the Arab citizen to a state of unprecedented anger and frustration."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit distanced Egypt from the idea of a 'failed state', citing cell phone usage in Egypt.

"We can't say a society is failed and incapable and there are 60 million cell phone users," said Gheit after the Arab League conference.

Protests have been sparked across the Arab world, including Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan.

Many characterise the start of the Tunisian rebellion to an event last month where Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university-educated fruit seller set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid after police confiscated his produce. He later died of his wounds.

His death started a number of attempted suicides via immolation across the Arab world. The eighth Algerian set himself on fire on Wednesday in an attempt to commit suicide, yet some analysts do not believe these actions will change the government there.

"I don't see any one or multiple events of self-immolation that will catalyse the kind of uprising that we've seen in Tunisia," said John Entelis, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of North African Studies.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said that her office has recieved reports of more than 100 deaths. She said she is sending an assessment mission to the region.

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