26 February 2011

The Arab Revolt 2011

The manner in which the many Arab nations are revolting against the tyranny and repression of their various regimes in, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya is as encouraging as it is frightening. I remarked in an earlier post (see Egypt) how I feared for friends in Cairo. Here I am pleased to report that they are all well, but it is their future which worries me.

No Arab nation has hitherto had a democratic form of government. In Iran for example where in 1979 the people overthrew a dictatorial monarch, they ended up with an even worse and more blood thirsty Islamic Revolution. In Algeria, some 20 odd years ago, when the Islamists won a democratic election pledging to abolish democracy, the army stepped in to stop it and plunged Algeria into a bloody conflict which lasted some 10 years.

More recently in Palestine in 2005 when Hamas won a decisive election and took control of Gaza, they got rid of all opposition and have not bothered to hold free elections since. So what form of governments can we expect to replace the current ones in Arabia? In most of these countries there are no effective opposition parties.The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is banned, and yet if they are permitted to take part in an election are likely to win it. A secular liberal government is unlikely to emerge if they do. Already the interim rulers in Egypt have established contact with Iran and allowed the Iranian Navy to transit the Suez Canal for the first time in 30 years!

To my mind only Jordan could emerge with a proper democratic and secular government, but then only if King Abdullah follows the example of King Juan Carlos of Spain, who in 1981 defeated an attempted military coup and gave Spain a true democratic government. King Abdullah will need to oversee and manage the process himself, or else he might find himself being deposed as well. 

The Umayyad Mosque Damascus

There is only one Muslim nation with a more or less secular government and that is Turkey. I would wish that the USA and the EU encourage Turkey to lead here and help these Arab nations in establishing political parties as well as free and fair elections, for they are more likely to listen to advice from another Muslim nation, than they are to the USA or the EU. It is important that these nations do something to help and not just sit on the side lines and watch developments. The Allies after the Second World War supervised the democratization of Germany and Japan. A success story. During the French and Russian Revolutions the world sat and watched both countries disintegrate into a blood bath. The former led also to the rise of Napoleon and War in Europe which lasted years, the latter was even more bloody and led to the formation of the Soviet Union and the Cold War which lasted over 60 years.

That the youth of Arabia through their access to the Internet and Facebook et al, are leading the way does not mean it will end well if we do nothing. Any revolution is a magnet to youth in the beginning, but they are susceptible to being used and abused by unscrupulous people hungry for power for themselves. Turkey and the rest of the world must do all they can to encourage and help good leadership to emerge and to supervise free and fair elections.

Any new birth is painful and what will emerge in these Arab states is unclear, but it is our duty to encourage and help the development of all new nations, just as we do our children.