NEW YORK, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Leaders across the Middle East are "terrified" of the political unrest spilling across the Arab world, Human Rights Watch claims.
The revolution that brought down the Tunisian government in January sparked demonstrations across Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and much of the Middle East. Anti-government protesters are complaining about economic issues and the repressive rule of some of the region's longest-serving leaders.
Human Rights Watch said national security forces are often responding with aggression to public demands despite regional governments signing international agreements protecting human rights.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, spelled out a laundry list of repressive tactics sponsored by governments across much of the Middle East.
"Images of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have mesmerized the Arab public but have terrified their rulers," she said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch called on Arab leaders to make sure rights of citizens to gather freely and openly are protected during a period of historic political unrest.
"Rather than learn the lessons of Cairo and Tunis, Arab leaders are keeping their heads in the sand, insisting on stifling even the smallest public gatherings," she said.