Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Arab Spring Update - (Last week's column updated)

Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah will be spending more time in jail. Many others like Alaa who fought hard for years to bring freedom to Egypt are thrown in jail awaiting military trials. Why would Alaa be treated this way after he and his revolutionary comrades already paid a high price to live in a free country? Why is SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) in charge, and for how long? When will elections be held to usher in true reform? Why is SCAF punishing the heroes of the revolution instead of honoring them and ensuring they play an effective role in building their free nation? I don’t think the Mubarak regime really fell. It is still alive through such dictatorial practices!

Tunisia is a different story and yet leaves much room for concern. The first democratic elections brought the Islamists to power. This is not what the young revolutionaries had in mind, but many Tunisians are expressing with confidence that “Islamist” does not mean “extremist” or “exclusive.” If the Islamists do not immediately prove their inclusive plans by sharing the power and making sure the youthful voices of the revolution are clearly heard and represented in the new political landscape, the Tunisian revolution as we witnessed it would be a total failure.

Libya is trying to figure out its future after Gaddafi. It is not a secret that Libyans - for the most part - owe their freedom to NATO, the U.S. and Arab countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The challenge now is for the free Libyans to stand on their feet without turning their country into another Iraq caught in a web of division, outside influences and violence.

Bahrain is in turmoil despite efforts by the government to suggest otherwise. The elements of that revolution are deeply rooted and well pronounced. The fire is still burning under the ashes and ready to ignite at the first opportunity it finds.

Yemen is in chaos with President Ali Abdallah Saleh back in country and back to his murky stance on whether he will relinquish power or not. Saleh has shown resilience to carry on despite all opposition. Although his word has become synonymous of confusion, distraction and remorseless bluff, he remains the president until further notice.

The Arab League finally gave Syria a slap on the face but the Assad regime still blames all its woes on external and internal “conspiracies.” The Assad regime first pretended they have no problems to be concerned about. Then they tried to squash the uprising militarily producing more than 3,800 deaths since March. The relentless aggression against civilians and the rising death toll, were finally met by a suspension from the Arab League and threats of sanctions. The option of an Arab or even NATO intervention might go on the table next.

In the absence of real reform, Assad must either come up with a creative way out of this crisis or step down. He might choose confrontation instead; the result of which is anybody’s guess. Judging by the experience of his Arab “brethren” who were there before him, his future does not look too bright; but, at what price to the people and the country?


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