Islamophobia isn’t anything new and the idea that it started after 9/11 is wrong. It actually has a long history. Continue reading
Florence Nightingale once wrote:
“[The] Arab would be the most thriving man in the world under any government but this. He will be beaten almost to death, as they often are, rather than give up.”
Thursday marked six moths since the beginning of the Syrian uprisings. Despite the systematic brutality of the regime – leading to 2,600 civilians deaths, according to the United Nations – protesters refuse to surrender. The regime has, with great ignorance, exacerbated the problem by murdering and torturing their own people.
Indeed, if there is one thing that the world should have learnt from the Arab spring – especially the dictators residing in the East – it is that Arabs, as Nightingale said, will not “give up.” True, many Arabs are protesting because they have been deprived of basic rights for decades, but what’s keeping them going now is the hatred of the regime that has killed their friends and family members. Perhaps in the case of Syria, the torturing and killing of children.
Nightingale travelled to Egypt in the mid-19th century when the country’s political conditions were despotic and corrupt. The rule of Mehmet Ali had just come to an end and one of his grandsons had just succeeded him (a clear example that nepotism is not a recent phenomena in the Arab world). Neither, in fact, is police brutality, as Nightingale remarked upon seeing a young boy being mistreated in Cairo:
“A police officer, who seized a miserable boy, threw him down, and dragged him away. The boy’s white turban came undone, and streamed upon the wind; the bastinado stick appeared: the Secretary (our friend) tried to interfere, but could do nothing. It made one quite sick, as all the details of government do in this horrid country.”
During Nightingale’s sojourn in the Arab world, her profundity helped her perceive certain truths – serving as a reminder of the stark similarities between the Arab world then and now.
While it might seem that not much has changed over the last 150 years – since the beginning of this year, we have seen: Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi all toppled respectively. But what really has been achieved?
Although Tunisia could well be on its way to a healthy democracy, parliamentary elections and the constitution will not be finalized for a year. Hosni Mubarak has been replaced with his crony – Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi – who seems shy of reform. In Libya, many are dubious over the role the west will play in the country’s affairs. Syria has yet to see a high-profile ranking official defect – neither has there been any sign of discord within the Alawite sect that rules supreme. America has yet to completely denounce the regime in Yemen, as President Abdullah Saleh refuses to loosen his grip on power. And the smaller protests in Bahrain, Iraq, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have not led to drastic changes.
This should not undermine the progress that has taken place, however.
While it is true that the protesters have initiated change in the Arab world, ultimately, it is the callousness of the regimes that have caused their own downfall. As we have seen in Syria and Yemen – where protestors are continually gaining momentum – when human beings are treated inhumanely, protests turn into revolutions.
Nightingale, Florence. Letters From Egypt: A Journey on the Nile: 1849 – 1850. Selected and Introduced by Anthony Sattin.
I was in the gym when I received a text saying ‘The khanzeer has gone’ (khanzeer is an Arabic word meaning pig)- I knew exactly what it meant. Hosni Mubarak had gone. Having followed what was transpiring in Egypt over the past two and a half weeks-somewhat devoutly-I couldn’t help but rejoice, I hadn’t felt so happy for a long time. It was the end of a dictator who had caused misery upon his people for 30 years. But also the start of something amazing.
Among the Arab League’s 22 countries, only three can call themselves democracies, all three, however, are flawed. Iraq, with a democracy enforced by America, is troubled with suicide bombings, extremism as well as sectarianism and is in an utter mess. The Palestinian territories, lacks sovereignty and is under military occupation. And, Lebanon, a country marred with sectarian conflict. The other Arab countries, vary between the most extreme dictatorships-Algeria, Libya & Syria (a country where the government is unlikely to be toppled), to the more kind and caring autocracies like Qatar, and then there’s the more oligarchic ones which are in between- like Morocco- which is run by a monarchy.
What makes the revolution in Egypt so important, is the wider, rippling effect it can cause throughout the Arab world- which is plagued with despotism. It was the Egyptian revolution in 1952 which saw the military become an extremely powerful force which backed the authoritarian Gamal Abdel Nasser, and was, of course, the same military Hosni Mubarak emerged from. This, in turn, inspired similar army backed regimes to ensue, from Algeria, to Iraq to Yemen. Egypt, being arguably one of the most powerful Arab countries, could be a catalyst in the toppling of the other regimes. Algeria’s people have too begun to protest despite the brutality of the police force, and there have been protests in Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Sudan. Reverberations of the toppling of Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak have already begun to be felt as- Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh has promised not to seek re-election, and Jordan’s king Abdullah has sacked his government.
The most intriguing prospect of the whole situation, is that the effects of the potential collapse of despotism into democracy in the Arab world could-or will-affect the rest of the world. If Egypt becomes a democratic country, run by a coalition of party’s including the Muslim Brotherhood, this could change the dynamic of the Middle East. Israel, who have enjoyed the support of Egypt for over 30 years- even from former Egyptian President Anwar Saddat- who signed the peace treaty with them in 1979, would become vulnerable to being attacked by the Arab countries which surround them. This, of course, would be America’s worst nightmare. And this is why America also have it in their interest to help facilitate-not democratic elections-but elections which will, ultimately, end up with a leader similar to Hosni Mubarak. Indeed, with Syria and Iran being ever hostile to Israel, the last thing America would want is Israel’s strongest ally (Egypt) also becoming an enemy-and maybe, even, becoming an ally to Palestine’s resistance party Hamas instead.
However, although the army in Egypt have promised free and democratic elections in the near future, the army generals who now run the country, are part of the same clan which supported Mubarak throughout his dictatorship. If the army were to assume power permanently, there would be no change in Egypt, and maybe, who knows-Mubarak would be still be able to run things from behind the scenes. The future of Egypt, although seemingly bright, is not yet perfect-and wont be until free elections are held.
In the 1970s, the authoritarian regimes in southern Europe collapsed, this was followed later by Latin America where juntas fell rapidly, and it now seems the Arab countries are to follow in a similar manner. You might think I may be getting a bit ahead of myself- but hope is necessary for human society. It was this hope, though, which caused an end of the Pharaoism of Hosni Mubarak.
Today Egyptian TV, controlled by the government, showed Tahrir square (a central point in Cairo) as completely empty. The reality of the situation couldn’t have been more different. 50,000 protesters came to the streets, as they have done for a week now, demanding the end of Hosni Mubarak and his corrupt government. Videos on Al Jazeera show military tanks attempting to run over innocent protestors and police physically assaulting men and women. Egyptian TV, meanwhile, warned it’s people not to watch Al Jazeera-be patriotic they said and watch Egyptian TV, foreign news channels like Al Jazeera are liars they told the people.
The Egyptian people have been repressed for the last 30 years, since Mubarak came to power. They are still scared to come to the streets in case they are fired upon by police. An Aljazeera crew found 23 bodies in the Alexandria mortuary, apparently shot by police-several had mutilated faces. The Egyptian military yesterday tried to scare protestors by flying F-15 fighter jets over Cairo in attempt to make protestors so scared that they would stop marching. It didn’t work. And today a coalition of opposition groups called for 1 million Egyptians to go to the streets tomorrow to demand the removal of their oppressive tyrant. All that is needed is two or three days of protests numbering two or three million to end the reign of Mubarak. The government are scared. So scared in fact that they have cut off all internet services in Egypt.
Probably more important, though, is the military’s stance in the next few days. If a few powerful yet honourable army generals stand up to a few corrupt powerful army generals, this will create the required discord and disunity needed topple Mubarak’s government and the despot himself.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu said today according to the BBC that he is keeping a careful eye on what is transpiring in Egypt. The Israeli PM is scared that a “radical Islamic party could come to power like in Iran.” And rightly so should Israel be scared. Egypt is one of the most powerful Islamic countries in the world, and if they were to withdraw their support of Israel, the Zionist state would become extremely vulnerable in an area surrounded by Islamic countries. If a repeat of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war which saw Egypt, Jordan and Syria fight Israel come about again in the future, Israel would be severely damaged-perhaps irreparably. Israel, however, seem to be ignorant of the fact that the main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are far from radical-in fact, their leader Mohammed El Baradei has won the Nobel peace prize. Egypt was the first Islamic country to sign a peace deal with Israel in 1979, but once Mubarak goes, Israel will lose support from its main Arab ally.
What is interesting is America’s reaction to the protests. The Egyptian army receives $1.3billion annually from Washington, but I presume a large amount of this will be taken away once Mubarak leaves. America made a deal with Mubarak when he first came to power. Be our ally and support Israel and we will keep you in power-America once said. But now that Mubarak is at the end of his leadership, they will, of course, dump him-just like they have done to every other dictator they have supported and served their purpose. Most recently, the likes of Saddam Hussein and Tunisia’s ex President Ben Ali come to mind, but it has happend throughout history. And Mubarak too will be forgotten about by Washington once he is ousted. What Mubarak fears however, isn’t that he will lose the support of the Americans. No. It is the inescapable possibility that he will be brought to justice once he is out of power. This is what the Egyptians want, and what the whole world want too. Mubarak will soon be gone.