How Syria and other countries use emergency rule to quash dissent

The concept of emergency rule has been at the forefront of much of the Mideast unrest. Meant to help a country in times of danger, emergency law has sometimes been turned into a political tool.


After more than 40 people were killed in a government crackdown on Yemen’s protesters on March 18, President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a 30-day state of emergency in the country, as well as a curfew.

The state of emergency, approved by a poorly attended parliament vote on March 23, suspends the constitution, heavily restricts public gatherings, bolsters the powers of security forces, and allows for suspending or seizing media operations. The same day, Yemeni authorities shut down the office of Al Jazeera, whose satellite TV coverage in Egypt has been credited as instrumental to overthrowing former President Hosni Mubarak.

Emergency rule, however, has done little to quell the country’s unrest. Protests, as well as crackdowns on protests, have continued. Mr. Saleh’s state of emergency will expire in about two weeks. He’s given no indication whether he plans to allow it to lapse, or whether he will renew it – that is, if it’s up to him. Protests’ calls for his immediate resignation have never been stronger.

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