By Saeed Qureshi
The loud and clear message from Tunisia is that despotic or authoritarian dispensations in the Middle East and beyond are destined to disappear sooner than later. Barring Iraq, all the governments in the Middle East and Sahara are family fiefdoms, sham democracies and hereditary possessions. The countries like Egypt have fake democracies as the same potentate returns again and again, through contrived and controlled elections, with intimidations, tampering of results and bogus votes.
People of Tunisia, Algiers, and Egypt are outraged against the tin pot yet ruthless rulers who have harassed their people for decades. These heads of governments or states are foreign quislings and mercenaries promoting the agenda of imperialist forces in their respective countries. In return they are assured all benedictions and security to their diabolic lordship over their people. These despicable potentates and suzerains inflict maximum possible brutalities and miseries over their own people and themselves live luxurious lives along with the morally and humanly bankrupt family members.
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from Tunisia, Hosni Mubarik from Egypt and Abdelaziz Bouteflik from Algiers have usurped the empowerment of their own people for decades together. They have been ruling their impoverished countries under the garb of sham democracy but they are nothing short of despots or dictators who have suppressed their own people whenever they clamored for equality, democracy, fair and free ballot, accountability and socio- economic justice.
All these three heads of state have had the blessings and patronage of their foreign patrons. Their role has been like puppets dancing at the command of neo colonialists and imperialist who create outpost supervised by their chosen lackeys in order to get their hegemonic agenda implemented and enforced without dissent.
While the Tunisian president has already fled his country, in Cairo tens of thousands of protestors have demanded the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Protests also broke out in most of Egypt including Alexandria, the cities of Mansura and Tanta, Aswan and Assiut. This massive revolt of the Egyptians is hugely incredible and a defiant counterpoise to the iron-clad and intelligence-based governance by Hosni Mubarak.
Hosni Mubarak has been the president of Egypt for thirty years now and even in the latest elections he won with blatant rigging and by adopting most intimidating and coercive methods to silence the detractors and critics. His stay in power has been with the studied and tacit approval of the West whose duplicity and penchant for selective democracy is not a mystery to be unraveled. If it is Iraq, it should be a truly democratic polity: if it is Egypt or Saudi Arabia, they can be authoritarian and despotic to any limit, provided they keep dancing to the tunes of their masters.
The people of these countries as also in other similar states, have been captives in their own lands of both the indigenous rulers and their string pullers from distant lands. These cronies would be ruthless and most oppressive to their own people but would be tamed and docile surrogates for the foreign masters.
These supreme bosses of their own countries do not feign any shame for their anti-people and treacherous role of serving the foreign masters but not their own people. The populaces of these three Muslim countries suffer from sub human living conditions and woeful degradations for decades while their rulers live in safe palaces with lavish lifestyle that characterizes a sharp contrast between the rulers and the ruled. And yet they call themselves Muslims and talk of Islamic virtues of justice, freedom, tolerance, equality and social welfare. There can’t be more sinister swindling and a more brazen dacoity on the rights of their own people.
The protestors are out in the streets against the unemployment, the lack of housing, unbearable food prices, corruption, and freedom of speech, against rampant corruption, for justice and for rule of law. These societies have kept closed and brutalized under most draconian laws and police crackdowns in the past. But that barrier of fear seems to have been lifted once a single man Mohammed Bouazizi’s in Tunisia gave his life through self immolation, an act of immense bravery, courage and self sacrifice.
The days of foreign agents, the local tin pot rulers, the mercenaries, the autocrats, plutocrats and political thugs in the dormant Middle East, slumbering for centuries first under foreign dominations, then by local tyrants, are numbered. The system of exploitation sustained on the supremacy of police and army, of aristocracy, of the elitist mafias, and sheikhdoms is now fighting its last losing battles. The surging spirit of democracy, egalitarianism, the popular representation, the ascendency of general will, rule of law, freedom and humanism is dawning on the horizon of these societies that remained stifled and stagnant for ages.
There has come a new trend in the paradigm and format of protests taken to by the outraged citizens of these Islamic countries. It is giving one’s life by self-immolation pioneered by Mohammed of Tunisia, now spreading like wildfire all over North Africa and spilling over to the mainland Middle East. The brave and unusual act of self immolation in that suppressed part of the world, set off a wave of self-immolations in Algeria. Dozens of Algerians have so far set themselves on fire in front of the government buildings to protest against the wretched and subhuman living conditions.
These uprisings of the masses against a decadent, discredited, ruthless and oligarchies emit a clarion call for a gubernatorial transformation and an amazing revolution knocking at the doors of these societies enslaved and shackled by their tyrannical ruling cliques. The old order is shaking under the seismic vibrations and the loud rumblings of the new order resplendent with progressiveness, modernism, the supremacy of the people, the nationalism based on patriotism and spirit of advancement.
And that would be in accord with the immutable rules of nature and the irresistible and unalterable imperatives of change. If a society like we find in the Middle East is still bedeviled by tribal culture then this abominable system cannot stay any longer. There can’t be islands of obscurantism, despotism, hierarchical dispensations and blood dynasties in a world that is turning into a global village with human conscience, intellect and vision growing as wider as the horizon.
It would be well in time that these imperious, myopic and self serving ruling cliques perceive the irrepressible wind of change and instead of blocking it become catalysts for it. Thus they might get some reprieve. Otherwise they are doomed.
The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on
Pakistan and the United State. In Pakistan, he had worked for several years as a senior correspondent for daily “The Muslim” and “Pakistan Observer.” In 1992 he founded his own English opinion weekly Diplomatic Times and was its Editor and Publisher until 2001 when he moved to the United States.