By Mohamed El Khallouki
By Mohamed El Khallouki
Morocco World News
Rabat, April 16, 2012
The beginning of 2011, in the Arab World, witnessed the unfolding of key historical events that moved the Arab World from the margins of history to making history. Political unrest broke out in a number of Arab countries starting from Tunisia and its Jasmine Revolution on January 14th, 2011. The unrest then spread to the neighboring countries of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.
Other Arab countries in the region had their share of the unrest as well, but to a lesser degree. The causes of the Revolution in Tunisia existed in all of the Arab world which in fact explains the fast expansion of Reform demands once the barrier of fear was overcome, the fear that occupied the imagination of the Arab citizen for a long time.
Tunisia, which had been ruled by an iron fist, sparked the Arab Spring. The rule of Benali lasted for 23 years. During these years, the Tunisian people suffered all of forms of oppression under the grip of a police state. On the one hand, the economic and social indicators of prosperity were on the rise in Tunisia, but on the other hand, individual freedoms and freedom of the press were repressed.
The unemployment rate reached %12 while the growth of the economy was %6.5 per year, which is a significant rate if we take into account the limited natural resources that Tunisia has. In addition, the poverty rate was %2.8 and the income per capita increased from TND 2787.6 (USD 1,864.49) in 2000 to TND 5319 (USD 3,557.62) in 2009. As the economic conditions in Tunisia improved, political reforms did not progress. Tunisia remained in the lower ranks of freedom of the press (rank number 176 out of 195 countries) and democracy (rank number 161 out of 167 countries).
Just like the other Arab regimes, the Tunisian regime displayed to the outside world a false image of the real conditions in the country. The regime was keen on making secular Tunisia appear open while hiding Tunisia’s realities of poverty, marginalization and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small group of people affiliated with the ruling class.
What the Arab regimes chose to ignore is the fact that democracy is meant to serve the people within their countries and it is not for showing off at the international level. Power comes from the people who must be democratically and transparently involved in economic development and in governance.
The Tunisian Revolution inspired the political movement for change that was already taking place in Egypt. It represented a form of motivation for the Facebook youth who have established themselves on the website and used it to mobilize protesters against the Egyptian regime. The Egyptian regime failed to deal with the popular demands of the youth, and kept saying that “Egypt was not Tunisia”. This statement was said repeatedly by every Arab leader whenever protests broke out in a neighboring country. But the truth was: all Arab people were equally oppressed and humiliated by their regimes.
In 2007, Egypt’s rank in corruption according to Transparency International was 108 (out of 180 countries). In 2009, Egypt went down to rank number 115(1). In 2008, the city of El Mahalla witnessed large scale worker strikes which indicated that the situation in Egypt was fragile. Back then, the demands were social ones, the main demand was justice for the working class. However, the regime ignored the people’s demands which accelerated its downfall. This downfall can also be attributed to the initiatives of the youth which were transformed into a people’s revolt that ended the rule of a man who was the greatest Arab ally of the United States. However, uncertainties still surround the ability of the revolution to get rid of the other symbols of corruption and bring down the remaining pillars of the former regime (2).
The degree of oppression that the protesters faced in Libya, Yemen and Syria proved how determined these regimes to cling to power. It also proved that objective of having power is to remain in power and not to serve the people who are the source of power in democratic societies.
The international community and the Arab League, in particular, proposed initiatives to resolve the conflicts between the protesters and their governments. However, some Arab regimes chose to use force to end the uprisings. If the Syrian regime dedicated its efforts and bravery to freeing the Golan Heights that might have attracted the support of Arabs, instead the Syrian regime is investing its efforts in persecuting the Syrian people.
The best way out of the Arab world’s political crises is to stop following a patriarchal system of rule. This type of rule does not recognize the rights of citizens, but it regards them as subjects who have no right in making political decisions (3).
It is evident that not all of the Arab Spring’s uprisings and revolts struggled for regime change as the social and political demands differed from a country to another. However, what is in common between these uprisings and revolutions is the Arab citizens’ feelings that their rights and dignity are violated, and their realization that they are just used by the rulers to remain in power for the longest possible period instead of being involved in development and decision making through free and fair elections and elected institutions.
(1) Transparency International Report 2007/2009
(2) Al Aswani, Ala. 2011. “Who killed the Major General El Matran?” Akhbar El Youm newspaper, issue number 447, page 16. May, 2011
(3) Salem, Salah. “Arab Political Thinking” (2006). Page 49.
Mr. Mohamed El Khallouki is a Moroccan PhD candidate. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Law, Mohamed V University. He also received a Masters degree from the same university. His Masters thesis was on Moroccan Diplomacy. Currently, Mr. El Khallouki is researching the topic Peace, Security & “The War on Terror” (the title of his PhD thesis). He can be reached at [email protected]
Translated by Anouar Mzoudi