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Democracy protesters sexually assaulted, beaten in Iraq

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But while popular uprisings toppled Egypt's Hosni Mubarak in February and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the news from Iraq is just the latest reminder that authoritarian methods remain surprisingly effective. While Muammar Qaddafi's grip on Libya is looking shaky (thanks to a massive NATO bombing campaign), Bashar al-Assad's brutal tactics in Syria appear to be helping him hold on (and he doesn't have to fear NATO).

In Bahrain, where Saudi Arabia helped a fellow Sunni monarchy put down a democracy movement led by Shiites, Saudi troops are going home. The Bahraini demonstrators' moment seems to have passed, with torture, long jail sentences, and other forms of intimidation taking a heavy toll. Today, police using truncheons and tear gas broke up a demonstration in Manama, the Associated Press reports. (Though as we reported from Cairo yesterday, those methods remain popular in post-Mubarak Egypt, too.)

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