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Elders: We stand with those crying out for freedom

Feb. 6, 2011 3:05 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 6, 2011 8:54 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A group of former global leaders on Sunday condemned the use of "repressive tactics" by some authorities to shut down recent protests in North Africa and parts of the Middle East.

The Elders, a delegation founded by Nelson Mandela, praised the "courageous youths and ordinary citizens" who they said were demonstrating their desire to better their societies, in a joint statement.

"As Elders, we stand with all those crying out for freedom and basic rights. The universal yearning of people to be free, to have their voices heard and to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and communities cannot be extinguished."

However, the eminent leaders expressed their dismay at the violent suppression of some protests, and "the tragic loss of life that has occurred in recent days.

"[C]oncern for national stability, however justified or understandable, cannot be used to repress people’s right to pursue democratic legitimacy and equal opportunities for all."

An estimated 300 people have been killed and thousands injured in ongoing anti-government protests in Egypt which began on January 25.

The revolution in Tunisia which led to the toppling of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 sparked a wave of mass protests across North Africa and the Middle East -- including in Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Algeria and Sudan -- many of which have been marked by violent repression and arrests.

The Elders delegation includes former Irish President Mary Robinson, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former US president Jimmy Carter, Indian women's rights campaigner Ela Bhatt, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Algerian foreign minister and UN envoy Lakdhar Brahimi.

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