It’s difficult, almost impossible to focus on what’s happening in only one country in the Arab world. The internal prospects intertwine with regional and international ones. In this disorganized influx of facts, it is fundamental to take into account every detail, the predictions of different people, the interpretations and, above all, the feelings of those who are living the Arab revolts. The demonstrations demanding basic rights, denouncing the corruption of the authorities or questioning the leaders, have taken over the Arab streets.
Now they have the courage to say what they think and, depending on the place where liberty and dignity is demanded, are prepared to sacrifice everything, including their lives, so that the change can be complete. Once the simplistic “domino effect” which the West insists on in order to describe what is happening in the Arab world has been forgotten, after having confirmed the determination of those who reject that anybody continues dictating their present, the Arabs are trying to establish a new way of life and learning to make the most of their new strength. Aside from the not always rational interest of the developed countries in the historic period that the Arabs started in December 2010, in AISH we are going to make an effort to establish a real monitor, where we can highlight circumstances which are perhaps crucial to help us to understand. Or, it is possible that, eventually, the focus will remain on the details of a fascinating phase in the countries in this part of the world.
The situation in North Africa and the Middle East requires patience – holding one’s breath – and action at the same time. The Libyan civil war, the last words of Muammar Gaddafi, bewilderedly begging his “sons”, to explain what was happening, reminding them that he was the leader of the Jamahiriya, of its unity; have been some of the high points of the Arab revolts. Similarly, the unprecedented final speech of Hosni Mubarak, the day before leaving power, or the words of the presidents of Syria and Yemen, convinced that they are applying reforms demanded by the people, that they are listening to those who have been questioning them for months in the streets.
The birth of the New Libya requires a questioning of the usefulness of the international intervention, the interests of those jumping the queue to sign oil extraction agreements. Three countries on, towards the east, the Syrians, with an average of twenty deaths a day, a figure reaching one hundred on Fridays, ask why NATO hasn’t come to their rescue as well, why a no-fly zone hasn’t been established to prevent the army’s attacks on the demonstrations. Or why Turkey, a NATO member, hasn’t proposed the creation of a buffer zone in which the families of deserting soldiers can seek refuge thus producing a big split which will bring down Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Among the comparisons, attention must also be paid to the first free legislative elections held by the Tunisians on 23 October. With a participation of almost 70%, the citizens showed that they are not going to allow a repetition of manipulating and deciding for them. The results, which were as expected, although perhaps not in such conclusive proportions, could be a test-run for what will happen in Egypt at the end of November.
The West will have to study the path and influences of political Islam, learn to talk and negotiate with an ideological tendency that it has demonized for decades. The Tunisians and Egyptians seek stability in the parties considered better organized, while an important percentage of these societies works and prepares so that in subsequent voting, the decision will respond to ideological rather than practical reasons.
The anxiety for change, to get results, to leave behind the serious economic problems, to overcome the fears of sectarianism and division, may appear negative. But the results, not yet definitive, obtained by the Arabs, are clear. The Arab world is establishing its own norms, it won’t accept a treatment which is not based on complete equality again, nor that will it aspect respect being restricted to the elites.
Continuing with the couples. Who will be the next dictator/Arab leader to fall? Because there’s no doubt now that the process of change cannot be stopped. The situation is unsustainable in both Syria and Yemen. The return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the assassination attempt on him on 3 June (he was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia for three months) has created new clashes between the government troops and those who deserted in March, under the command of General Ali Mohsen. But this is a conflict on the margin of the political opposition’s protest which, for over 10 months, has been asking peacefully for the end of the regime. The complex internal situation in Yemen has put the protest movement into the background, waiting for the cessation of violence to push Saleh to sign the agreement of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
“There’s no turning back”, assure the activists on the ground as well as those fleeing Syria to avoid being detained and tortured. The impunity with which the Bashar al- Assad regime is massacring its people once again obliges us to consider the role of the international community, the usefulness of NATO, an organization created to avoid new wars, tortures, disappearances…which is what is happening on a daily basis in the lives of thousands of Syrians who will continue shouting, marching and organizing until the end. The League of Arab States, through the opportunistic mediation led by Qatar, has approached the regime to propose the same roadmap that no one thinks is possible to apply anymore in Syria (real reforms, liberation of prisoners, an end to the violence). The United States, after having made it clear through its ambassador Robert Ford that it wants a regime change in the Arab country, supports the internal protest while studying new ways of pressurizing a regime accustomed to battling with isolation and economic sanctions.
The last couple. The monarchies of Jordan and Morocco have reformed their constitutions, they appear prepared for dialogue, but continue making mistakes that the street is not prepared to accept. Time is not on the side of the comfortable leaders whose hereditary power has never been questioned with a force as pure as the present one. King Abdullah II has appointed a new Prime Minister and has expressed again in Parliament his wish that the reforms be implemented. However, his speech didn’t even generate confidence in the opposition who have already announced that they will not be involved unless the change is real. While the king remains the person who appoints who forms a new government and the citizens continue not being listened to, while the power of veto and the final decision reverts back to be the king, the protest movement will not be satisfied. In Morocco, the citizens want to check up to what point the reduction of Mohamed VI’s powers is real, whether the transfer of executive power to the leader of the government is not subject to any type of conditions or final revisions which force them to obtain the king’s approval once again.
The management of the chaos which the Arab street tries to provoke, is allowing for the production of interesting movements. The Palestinian leaders have taken the initiative, leaving behind the Western godfathers, the European nation friends who have known or done so little for the Palestinian cause, and the false sympathizers. They have taken to the streets to ask for the recognition of their state, conscious they have nothing to lose. Their determination is the same as that which is provoking change in many Arab countries. The difference is that those leading this rumpus are the Palestinian authorities, prepared to threaten the very pillars of the comfortable headquarters of the United Nations. Mohamed Abbas’ speech before the General Assembly on 23 September started gathering the fruits of audacity (also initially provoked itself by the Palestinians on the street) with the acceptance of Palestine as the 195th State of UNESCO. It’s only a beginning, just like all the processes ongoing in the region.