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Democratic Churning In The Arab World

By Asad Bin Saif

23 February, 2011

The democratic development and political revolution in the Arab world mainly in Tunisia and Egypt was long overdue which deserves to be acclaimed as a positive one. In fact the entire area is reeling under the fervour of liberty and freedom and showed to the rest of the world particularly to the western one that they are equally hankering for democracy and just order. It is the western world particularly USA which has supported materially and morally to the dictatorial regimes of the areas to maintain status quo and more so to maintain strategic advantage. Apart from that they also intend to insulate the unjust colonial regime of Israel and remain unperturbed on the face of atrocities unleashed on the indigenous people of Palestine . Above all it is for change as the whole world is changing which is inevitable and no one can resist change for long. But change has been denied till recently in the region to deprive the people in the realization of their democratic aspirations whereby they could lead their lives with dignity and self respect.

The downfall of Tunisian regime and then fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak has had ripple effect which marks the history shaping moment for the Arab World particularly Egypt as it is regarded as the cultural and political crucible and bellwether of the region. It is a harbinger for change for the betterment of the society and for the people at large. And there is lurking fear among the western world that it would lead towards dominance of religious based polity as what happened 32 years back in Iran . Such specter was raised by none other than incumbent Prime Minster of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset as in 1979 Iranian’s revolution brought Ayotullah Khomeni into power to transform an staunch ally of Israel into one of its implacable enemies. Mubarak was also treated by Israel as the last line of defense against radicalism. In fact people want to get liberation from obsolete and repressive regimes and shape their destiny in accordance to the modern values and dignified dwellings. The people want open and fair society and values of justice and fair-play free from nagging suffering. It is also true the way western powers behaved and perpetuated dictatorial regimes with the supposed aim of keeping fundamentalist forces away from the affairs of the state but in the process created conditions for uprisings and insurrection. They had sold the idea that only options left in the Arab World is between Jihadist and Authoritarianism. There was no mid-path.

It is the pernicious mindset on the part of Western Power led by the Neo-Conservatives to break the stalemate of the post cold war era and they upset the desire of the world community to see the dominance of ‘just world order’ and ‘brave new world’ based on accountability and justice. In the post cold war era the pogrom perpetrated in Rwanda and Balkans put a stigma on our civilized face. It is the Neo-Conservatives who cooked up in the post cold war era that now the world would be facing real danger from the rise of ‘Muslim Fundamentalism’ and the media lapped it up and coined that scarecrow as ‘white fury’. For the last sixty years USA supported the despots even after the disappearance of cold war USA supported such autocrats and its unflinching and unequivocal support to the Israel ’s unjust acts against Palestine were deeply disapproved by the Arabs.

It is inherent truth that democracy is the necessary panacea for abiding stability and enduring peace. Here it is appropriate to remember that whenever democratic mandate of the people was not respected it created salubrious atmosphere for upheaval. Long back in Algeria the people’s mandate was not respected rather snubbed which had led to violence and thousands lost their precious lives. In Turkey real Democracy was not allowed to get its root and there had been continuous Kurdish problem and other problems and that was very much accommodated by the win of Justice and Development Party (acronym- AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan religious-tinged Democratic Party. It was thwarted in 2006 when Hamas got the mandate and won 76 seats out of 132 parliamentary seats in the ensuing election of their people but Israel regime well supported by the western power including USA had not allowed them to hold the reign of power. Rather the whole population of Gaza Strip was punished for their democratic decision since then and till now no relief was forthcoming in that beleaguered area. It is apt to reminisce here that none other than former President of USA Jimmy Carter whose group observes conduction of election world over stated that it was absolutely wrong that a democratically mandated party was not allowed to take over the helm of the affairs. We all know it has its own dimension and repercussion because it is directly related to disillusionment and disenchantment which is prelude to chaos and anarchy. It is an irrefutable fact that most of the upheaval is rooted world over in the deprivation of democratic aspirations. The present churning in the Arab World has refuted the claim of the western world that Arab society is not fit for democracy which also helped in raising the racist bogey of Islamo-phobia and perpetuation of unjust dictators. It also negates the fact that Democracy is merely a western construct but has universal value. The western powers keeping their interests intact did just contrary to that and made ‘Faustian Bargain’ with the region’s autocrats by shoring up their regimes. It is corroborated with the statement made by the Vice-President of USA Joseph Biden stated in the month of January that Mubarak had been very responsible relative to America geopolitical interests. It is as if there is a symbiotic relationship between them ignoring the pathetic ordeal of the people weighed down under such emerging insalubrious situation. As US state Department Cable of March 2009 released by WikiLeaks that $1.3 Billion in annual military finance as ‘Untouchable Compensation’ for making & maintaining peace with Israel apart from tangible benefits of military cooperation are clear. Egypt remains at peace with Israel and the US . Military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian Air Space. Israel has been facing the crisis of its legitimacy even after its formation for 60 long years which is a source of consternation for all its proponents.

They paid lip service to the democratic rights and undermined whatever dissenting voices were there and scuttled those voices. It is caveat for the western powers that they must not impose their cynical and shopworn politics of 20th Century on the destiny of the people of Arab World as USA has been doling out $ 1.3 Billion annually to perpetuate dictatorial regime in Egypt since 1979. For them it is forceful reminder how powerful is the passion for freedom, how strong the loathing for regimes and rulers who tyrannize their own people and how bitter the feelings towards the powers that prefer to prop up friendly dictators.

Fortunately the realism dawned upon the US President Barrack Obama who stressed for the urgent need of the democratic rehabilitation of the Egyptian people which leads towards progress and amelioration of their conditions. It would lead towards filling up the vacuum by the moderate groups and would help in sidelining fundamentalist conservative forces which is equally dangerous and intending to push people on another deleterious line. It is to understand here that his predecessor George Bush inebriated with sole–spokesman-syndrome in the emerging post cold war order, unleashed Neo-Conservative hatched unnecessary war on Iraq which was not mandated by the UN did it in order to get strategic advantage and perpetuate the hold of Zionist Colonial regime of Israel . They attacked Iraq first proclaimed that they wanted to ferret out Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and when they did not find those then they declared that they came to bring in democracy. And we all know the whole society was decimated and not less than 0.5 million people perished and thousands were maimed for life and ethnic strife was aggravated till now and the end result regime emerged is not certainly a liberal one but fully smeared with conservatism.

It is wrong to say that conservative elements would take over the rein of the country like Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but it is a fact that even Muslim Brotherhood had not claimed they could be given paramount positions. Although Ayatullah Ali Khamenei the supreme leader of Iran who proclaimed that it was a religious awakening, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) retorted back that it was the Egpytian People’s Revolution where both Muslims and Coptic Christian fought hand in hand. Abdel Moneim, a prominent member of MB who wrote in Washington Post stated they support democratic form of government which could achieve freedom from tyranny and foreign intervention. He states ‘it is wrong to posit as some alarmists are suggesting that Egypt ’s choices are either the status quo of the Mubarak Regime or a takeover by Islamic extremism’. He proclaimed that we have embraced diversity and democratic values and keeping in mind Egypt ’s pluralistic society we have to demonstrate moderation in our agenda. That was buttressed by the MB former Member of Parliament, Ibrahim Zakaria ‘we believe in the principle that people are the origin and source of sovereignty and that the people choose their leaders in free and secret ballots’ speaking to ‘Time’ Magazine, 21st Feb. 2011

It is a fact that the revolution was led by the youths who are equipped with modern technology which is a powerful instrument for the democratization of the society which came in handy for them who they used to their advantage and communicated to their folk through facebook and twitter about socio-economic deprivation and about their helplessness not to participate for their well being and restoration of their dignity. The role of Al-Jajeera should also not be underestimated in this regard. Here critical mass of protestors emerged and caused for the uprooting of the well entrenched tyrant of 30 years of Hosni Mubarak and 23 years of Zianul Abidin. In fact there is a strong fresh wind blowing, powered by those information technologies. ‘It will be increasingly difficult for dictators to impose their will through sheer brutality’ Senator of USA Kerry Johnny (‘Time Magazine’, 21st Feb, 2011). The wael Ghonim the Passionate Google Executive who tweeted ‘Freedom is bless that deserves fighting for it’ and people responded overwhelming and since then he became a poster boy of revolution. It provided us the clue that education is empowerment and for that matter knowledge is empowerment which helps in instilling necessary courage to caste off the ignominy of tyranny and enslavement. The Palestinian people who have been fighting one of the mightiest forces on earth with mere stones against the most sophisticated weapons of Israel supplied by the supposed land of freedom i.e. USA but they were yet to be cowed down. Because they have the quest for education and they could be the force to reckon with for emancipation in the entire region and would cause the death knell of the obsolete and oppressive regimes of the area. According to Chandra Muzzafar the well -known scholar from Malaysia that proportionally Palestine is leading in the entire world as far as Ph.D holder is concerned. That is why Palestine democratic aspirations have been perpetually crushed by the western world by imposing Israelis which had been actively colluded by the Arab regimes.

The new development certainly infuriates the US administration to ponder over and recalibrate its foreign policy from Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf. The reverberation of change is bound to be felt on the western world. But the big political development will lead towards better human right scenario and freedom. " Egypt is going to have a big, big impact around the region," said Salman Sheik, director of The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar . All hues of dictatorial regimes alike started facing people’s ire and they already initiated giving concessions to the people to soothe their ruffled liberation feathers. It is wrong to assert that people's revolution is at risk of collapsing into chaos and destabilize the whole region. The exponent of status quo brought such propaganda in the discourse to perpetuate their hold in the area and in their resources. They are the people who in the name of achieving fabled stability in the region, perpetuated despotic and anti democratic regime. "Dude, Egyptians invented writing on the wall," it said. "You really should learn to read it”, the people has given right and just reply to such obnoxious thinking which helps in the fleecing the resources of the country and allowed to play on the aspirations of the people.

The immediate trigger was to get rid of economic distress and widespread corruption and strived for the restoration of their dignities. The dictatorial regime fleeced the national resources as Mubarak is said to have assets worth $ 70 billion (Worlds richest business magnate of Carlos Slim of Maxico is worth of $ 54 Billion whereas Bill Gate has net worth of $53 Billion) and indulged into self aggrandizement at the cost of palpable deprivation and endemic poverty. For that matter the Zianul Abidin and his wife families owned 50% of the wealth of Tunisia .

The chronic lack of jobs and upward mobility was perhaps the biggest factor driving millions of enraged Egyptian Youths into the streets demanding change. The western world must not fear about the evolution of democratic polity in the region as Democracy always creates a just order where inherent stability could be achieved and people’s aspirations are given necessary space for outlet which is the most stabilizing factor. We accept the statement made by the Barrack Obama regime that peaceful transition towards democratic polity is absolutely critical for the long term well being of Egypt . Now they could speak loudly not just in whispers for the realization of the democratic aspirations, protection of their rights and the society could be free from the repression and poverty which has the potential to corrode values and destroys dignity.

Democracy justly paraphrased by Woodrow Wilson makes the world a safe place has every reason to rejoice on the development in the Arab World. It is subscribed by the Atlanta Charter of 1941: a yearning for freedom, opportunity and rule of law. It is led by the youth as they want change break free from the tyrannical system as William Wordsworth prelude written in the aftermath of the French Revolution:-

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven

‘This is the greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated after decades of repression’’ Md. Al Baradei, the Nobel Laureate and leader of the Movement commented in the post Mubarak downfall scenario. The Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia (after National Flower of Tunisia) emanated its fragrance which wafted through the entire Arab World to erase the stink of accumulated grime of dictatorship reflected in tyranny and oppression and usurpation of the liberal space. Truth is bound to spread and inflict on unjust system. It is aptly pointed out by Abdul Bari Atwan editor of the Palestinian Daily, Al Quds Al Arabi ‘The Arab nation is patient, but its patience is similar to that of camel. When it is furious, a camel does not stop until it wreaks revenge on its persecutors. It seems that such a camel has now broken from its ties’. The call for the end of the dictatorial regimes has gathered momentum heralding for the building of the political evolution in the region and elsewhere. Here they are able to capture the moral imagination of the international community as long back what Nelson Mandela had achieved against the apartheid regime of South Africa . It is indeed a source of rejuvenation for all the democracy loving people of the world. This is the dawn (democracy) what the Arab People anxiously waited for!

Asad Bin Saif is working with the well-known Mumbai-based social organisation BUILD as coordinator of Campaign, Communication and Advocacy.




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