Hungary (Security threat level - 2): Thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest on 27 January 2011 in another protest against a controversial media law adopted in mid-December 2010. Demonstrators gathered in front of the Parliament building, holding banners and calling for the repeal of the law, which has drawn nationwide and international criticism. There were no reports of violence during this incident.The new media law restricts media content and allows authorities to oversee and fine providers for content judged to be unbalanced, offensive or immoral. The most recent protest is the second substantial demonstration in the capital in recent weeks in response to the media law.
Italy (Security threat level - 2): As previously announced, demonstrations occurred in Italy on 28 January 2011 as part of an eight-hour strike called by the metalworkers' union FIOM to protest against productivity deals that other unions have reached with automaker Fiat. Students and temporary workers also marched in support of the striking workers. According to media reports, several thousand people rallied in Turin and Milan. Rallies were scheduled to take place in more than 20 cities nationwide, but no information is available about the gatherings in other locations. The demonstrations were largely peaceful; however, a confrontation occurred in Milan near the intersection of via Pantano and via Larga between police officers and a few hundred students. The students threw rocks, smoke bombs and other objects at police officers. There were no reports of injuries. Traffic disruptions also occurred due to the protests. The union claimed that 80 percent of workers observed the strike, while Fiat management sources put the number at 25 percent.
Spain (Security threat level - 2): Approximately 2,000 people gathered in Madrid on 27 January 2011 to protest the government's proposed pension reforms. Clashes broke out between police officers and protesters after activists set fire to trash containers in the Puerto del Sol area; eight police officers sustained injuries in the violence. Thousands of people also gathered in Barcelona as part of a general strike called by the CGT union in the autonomous community of Catalonia, but there were no reports of significant violence or arrests. However, traffic disruptions accompanied the demonstration, as protesters staged a march that blocked roads; public transportation in the city also experienced minor disruptions, because some bus and subway drivers observed a general strike. Delays occurred on the suburban R2 commuter rail line during the morning hours after activists set fire to tires on a railway.
Turkey (Security threat level - 3): Students gathered in Ankara and Istanbul on 27 January 2011 to protest the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party. Anti-riot police officers used tear gas and water cannons in Ankara to disperse the protesting students, who hurled rocks at the officers. Clashes also broke out in Istanbul, where police officers used batons to disperse demonstrators.
Analyst Comment: The protests were the latest in a series of demonstrations in recent months that have elevated tensions between students and the ruling party, the source of which may be traced to a protest in Istanbul in December 2010 that degenerated into violence. While initial protests centered on educational issues, more recent demonstrations have focused on allegations of police brutality and what is perceived as an increasingly anti-democratic stance of the ruling party that aims to stifle the opposition and limit criticism against itself. This discontent will likely prompt additional protests that could escalate in the wake of a harsh government crackdown.
United Kingdom (Security threat level - 2): Students groups are planning to stage street demonstrations in London and Manchester on 29 January 2011 to protest educational spending cuts. Organizers are calling on supporters to assemble on Malet Street near the University College of London at 1200 local time, from where activists will march to the Parliament building. In Manchester, protesters are planning to assemble at the University of Manchester beginning at 1030 local time and then march to Platt Fields Park for a rally scheduled to begin at 1330 local time. A heavy police presence is expected to accompany the demonstrations in light of violence that broke out during student protests in late 2010. Travelers should anticipate the possibility of traffic disruptions in Manchester and London on 29 January due to road closures implemented for the marches. Protests should be avoided to the extent possible due to the potential that they could turn violent.
In a separate development, an activist group known as UK Uncut is calling on activists to stage protests at businesses in London and other cities on 30 January to protest companies that the group accuses of dodging corporate taxes. In past actions the group has used social networking and text messaging to organize flash mobs to target retail establishments. The participants do not seek to cause damage but instead attempt to prevent the targeted business from operating. Targets specifically mentioned on an activist website include Boots, Tesco and Vodaphone.
Egypt (Security threat level - 3): Numerous anti-government protests materialized as planned on 28 January 2011 and are currently ongoing in various locations throughout Egypt. Opposition movements and activists had over the past several days called for demonstrations following Friday afternoon prayer services to demand political and economic changes via a government change. The Egyptian government, which has maintained a heavy security presence in Cairo and many other cities since large-scale protests occurred on 25 January, reinforced the security presence, deploying tens of thousands of police officers to the streets of numerous cities and towns. Additionally, an elite counter-terrorism unit was also deployed ahead of planned protests, though its specific objectives were not made clear.
Disruptions to several forms of communication are currently being imposed in much of Egypt, which is impeding the ability to accurately gauge the situation on the ground in the country. Internet access was reported as being completely unavailable beginning around midnight local time on 27 January, and SMS text messaging capabilities as well as phone service to both cell phones and landlines are experiencing disruptions. This is undoubtedly in an effort to prevent protesters from communicating and organizing, though the government has denied responsibility for the disruptions.
Available reports indicate that various rallies are underway in Alexandria, Cairo, Suez, el-Arish, Assiyut and Minya in defiance of a government ban. It is difficult to ascertain accurate numbers regarding protest participation, but it appears that gatherings are attracting hundreds to several thousand people. Actual turnout may be higher. Police officers remain heavily deployed at and around public squares and places of worship (mosques in particular) and there have been reports of clashes with protesters in at least Cairo and Suez. In Cairo, for instance, police officers were reported to be lining main streets in the central part of the city and using water cannons to disperse gatherings. Tear gas and rubber bullets have also been used on protesters. Significant disruptions to ground transportation are occurring in some areas, particularly in central Cairo; some reports indicate that protesters were marching on and blocking traffic along Qasr al-Nil Bridge linking Giza to Tahrir Square in Cairo. Additionally, security forces used tear gas in attempts to prevent protesters from marching over October Bridge and reaching Tahrir Square (which is one of Cairo’s busiest areas). Protests are also occurring elsewhere in the city. At least one fatality has been reported during the protests in Cairo, and figures are likely to change as more information emerges throughout the day. Many others have been arrested; reports indicate that more than 2,000 people have been arrested over the past several days.
The protests referenced above are not an exhaustive list of all incidents occurring in the country, and given levels of disruption to communications it is highly likely that anti-government protests are occurring in other locations. These events were announced in advance, and it was anticipated that some degree of violence and transportation disruptions would occur, particularly given the government’s stance of forcefully dispersing and confronting demonstrators. It is not yet known if the actual numbers of participants in demonstrations is as high as opposition groups and activists planned, and it is possible that some numbers are not being accurately reported.
Continued protest actions and associated violence are expected through the remainder of 28 January, and it is probable that incidents will continue through the overnight hours and into 29 January. However, given impediments to communications in Egypt at present, it remains difficult to gauge the seriousness of the situation and whether the government will be able to impose order and quell unrest. The situation remains unpredictable and volatile and should continue to be closely monitored. Travelers should carefully review any upcoming travel plans to the country and should consider deferring non-essential travel for the next 72 hours to allow the situation further time to clarify. Those currently in Egypt should review their personal situation and should consider sheltering in place at this time.
Jordan (Security threat level - 3): Several thousand people participated in anti-government protests throughout Jordan for the third consecutive Friday on 28 January 2011. Reports indicate that 3,500 opposition activists and trade union members gathered in Amman, the capital, to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Samir Rifai and to protest rising prices, inflation and unemployment. Meanwhile, an additional 2,500 people took part in similar protests in several other Jordanian cities, including Maan, Irbid, Ajloun and Karak. So far there have been no reports of violence, but given the size of the demonstrations, transportation was likely disrupted in the affected areas. The Jordanian government has instituted some reforms -- including reducing prices for certain commodities and increasing salaries for civil servants, military personnel and pensioners -- but the protesters believe that the measures are inadequate.
Afghanistan (Security threat level - 5): A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the Finest Supermarket in Kabul at approximately 1430 local time (1000 UTC) on 28 January 2011, destroying the store's first floor. The market is located in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of the city, which houses a number of foreign embassies, and is frequented by foreigners. At least eight people were killed, including three foreigners, and more than 10 were injured. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said they were specifically targeting foreign private security contractors.
Significant: 30 January
Switzerland (Davos): Annual World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos from 26-30 January. Protests in other Swiss cities, including Geneva and Zurich, may occur. India: Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination United Kingdom (Northern Ireland): Bloody Sunday Anniversary (1972)