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Dignity

Beyond terrorism: Sousse attack, economic development, fair trade, and dignity

Beyond terrorism: Sousse attack, economic development, fair trade, and dignity

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The intent of those who planned and carried out the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia and the reactions to it, both underscore the idiosyncratic connections between economic development and terrorism. Importantly, the attack ought to remind us of the global nature and imperatives, not only of ISIL’s brand of terrorism, but also of economic development. Both problems, terrorism and lack of economic development in the Global South, must be confronted cooperatively, because European countries were indeed involved, directly and indirectly, in creating the kind of conditions that weaken their southern neighbors’ economies, which in turn have created the kind of environment most suitable for terrorism.

Zakaria Hamad

When 30 British citizens vacationing in the city of Sousse, Tunisia, were killed along with three Irish, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese, and one Russian, the Foreign Office ordered all but essential travelers to leave that country immediately. Habib Essid, Tunisia’s Prime Minister, said that his government would help to evacuate approximately 3,000 Britons, but told Tunisia’s parliament that he was “dismayed by the advice from the Foreign Office.” The Tunisian government said the UK “was damaging the country’s economy,” which is heavily reliant on tourism, and may end up inadvertently fueling poverty and therefore terrorism. Oliver Miles, a former UK ambassador to Libya and Greece “found the [UK]’s response puzzling.” Other commentators and international affairs analysts contended that Britain was “wrong to bring tourists home” because it would weaken the only true emerging democracy in that part of the world.

Having just returned from Tunisia, I have had a chance to observe up-close life, the hopeful and fearful aspects of it, in that beautiful country. I have witnessed how ordinary citizens, bureaucrats and government officials, and business leaders are coping with the new reality of citizens’ mandated governance. It is clear that Tunisia deserves support from the global community for moral reasons, and deserves support from NATO countries for legal, political, and economic reasons.

The world community ought to support Tunisia because it is the only country in the region thus far that has managed to transition to representative rule without military coups, civil wars, and violent takeovers. Support for Tunisia means support for peaceful transfer of power, and serves the global community’s stake in political and economic stability.

More specifically, NATO countries have the legal obligation to stand by Tunisia because NATO, and its Gulf allies like Qatar, undermined Tunisian security when they launched the ill-planned bombing campaign against Libya. The two persons who carried out the Bardo and Sousse attacks were trained in Libya. Libyan weapons that were not secured after the fall of the Libyan government are now being used to destabilize Tunisia and other neighboring countries. In other words, NATO broke it, so NATO bought it.

Furthermore, NATO and European countries have a long history of supporting authoritarian regimes in North Africa, including the Tunisian and Libyan dictators. France sent its diplomats to show support for Ben Ali even as he was killing protesters in December 2010. Italy and other European countries paid off Gaddafi so that he could prevent African immigrants from reaching the European continent while continuing to deny his people basic political and economic rights. European countries must atone for their political and economic dealings with oppressive regimes.

European countries must also atone for decades of exploitation and unfair economic practices. Italy, for instance, used to buy Tunisian olive oil in bulk, process it in Italy, and ship it to the global markets as an Italian product. Agricultural, mineral, and other natural Tunisian resources were shipped to Europe for processing adding thousands of job opportunities to Europeans, denying them to Tunisian workers. 

Having considered these facts, let’s consider what Tunisians really want from their northern neighbors. Young Tunisian entrepreneurs and government officials want to be treated fairly and with dignity. They do not want handouts. They do not want loans. They do not want to be dependent on tourism or for European leaders to risk the lives of their citizens to shore up tourism in Tunisia. What they want is for the European leaders to encourage their powerful businesses and rich citizens who made some of their wealth through exploitation of African communities to invest in Tunisia and the Tunisian economy.

For example, in a conversation I had with Zakaria Hamad, Tunisia’s current Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, it became clear that Tunisian leaders want the added value from their country’s products, of which it has been deprived in the past. For instance, instead of shipping raw materials to Europe for processing and sale, the new Tunisian leaders would prefer that Westerners invest in Tunisia by building factories and processing plants, creating thousands of jobs for Tunisians at home and producing quality goods for the global markets at fair prices.

If Europeans genuinely invested in the Tunisian economy, they would limit the flow of migrant workers, help stabilize their neighboring communities, undo years of past exploitative and unfair practices, and receive a healthy return on their investment. In the long run, this change in attitude and practices are the best way forward for Western countries and their southern neighbors. Military interventions, bombing campaigns, and reliance on dictatorial regimes are shortsighted, costly, callous, and destructive. Such acts are moral and legal burden on Western societies and powerful propaganda tools for genocidal terrorists.

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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

The paradoxical nature of religious and ethnic states and the genocidal impulses

The paradoxical nature of religious and ethnic states and the genocidal impulses


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 

The Arab Spring that freed some of the peoples of the Middle East from state imposed fear produced an existential challenge for increasingly heterogeneous communities, forcing people to define the nature of the state and the character of the country where they live. It is true that self-rule and self-determination require a sense of self. However, building stable countries in the new Middle East is tied to the peoples’ level of awareness of the genocidal impulse espoused by certain social groups amongst them. 

The old Middle East was built on an artificial foundation imposed by Western colonial and protective powers in the form of superficial liberal thought, imported Marxist ideas, petty ethnic identities, niggling tribal structures, and a variety of downwardly managed and imposed ideas. The regimes and political forces of the pre- and post-colonial periods exerted virtual monopoly on governing institutions in most Arab countries. During the second half of the twentieth century, Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, began to challenge nationalist, monarchical, and clannish regimes arguing that Islamism provides a more inclusive political ideology for the peoples of the Middle East than alien ideas or narrow Arabism.

Consequently, Islamists clashed with secularists (consisting of Arab nationalists, liberals, Marxists, leftists, etc.) and monarchs and sheikhs. Secularists opposed Islamists on the basis that only a “neutral” secular state could guarantee equality among all citizens. Monarchs, on the other hand, either created their own versions of Islamism or co-opted existing ones to offset the rising popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab Spring amplified the tension between these competing trends. The future of the Middle East in particular and Islamic societies in general will depend on the outcome of these contestations. Specifically, political actors must address the place of religion and ethnicity, as defining identity markers, in the post-Arab Spring countries.

In Tunisia, for instance, all political debates were reduced to two competing propositions: the civil state versus the shari`ah-compliant state. It would seem that the consensus, as expressed in the new constitution, was in favor of a civil state where respect for religion, not any particular interpretation of Islam, is honored by all and imposed on none.

In Egypt, however, and immediately after the fall of Mubarak’s regime, the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafi allies used their dominant organizational advantage to privilege a particular interpretation of Islam over all other interpretations and religions. That project failed and Egypt reverted to a Mubarak-like regime, for now. Importantly, the opportunity given to all Islamists to participate in representative governance and the subsequent failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to foster pluralism relativized the religious political discourse to the extent that even Salafis embraced realpolitik and sided with the military against the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Syria, all armed groups were united in their goal to overthrow the Ba`ath regime but they did not have a unifying vision for the future. Indeed, the Ba`ath government, as a post-colonial regime, is outdated. However, based on their own statements, the ideology of the most powerful opposition groups, the Islamic State (formerly, ISIL), al-Nusra Front, the Islamic Front, and many Islamist groups is beyond outdated. Their ideology is genocidal. These groups call for an Islamic state that is deviants-free, where non-Muslim citizens are reduced to a subordinate class, where non-Arabs are perpetually treated as inferior, and where secular Muslims are designated blasphemous enemies of God. A state built on these ideas is irresoluble, impracticable, and paradoxical for it violates the very basic understanding of the universal prohibition on genocide let alone the universal commitment to honor human dignity everywhere and under all circumstances.

The implicit support and tolerance of groups like the Islamic State are utterly disturbing. The lack of outrage towards ISIL’s actions against vulnerable sectarian and ethnic minorities is shocking. Not only did ISIL express its intend to kill all those who do not submit to its will, but it broke new grounds by committing retroactive genocide when it destroyed mosques, graveyards, churches, and iconic religious and cultural structures that echo the presence of diverse communities from thousands of years past. In a sense, ISIL and its supporters are committing two-way genocide when they kill or displace minorities and destroy their ancient historical sites. Considering the atrocities ISIL and al-Nusra inflict even on each other when they disagree, it becomes clear that these groups embody unmatched brutality and stunning lack of respect to human dignity enshrined in universal declarations and treaties prohibiting cruelty and genocide.

The commonly agreed upon definition of genocide is clear. It is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” International law provides specific examples of acts that are genocidal like killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Moreover, international law punishes those who commit genocide, conspire to commit genocide, directly and publicly incite committing genocide, attempt to commit genocide, and being complicit in genocide.

With these definitions and examples in mind, the perpetrators of genocide in places like Iraq, Syria, and Libya become numerous. Responsibility falls on the shoulders of the actual actors who commit these crimes as well as on the shoulders of those who are complicit—those who are supporting ideologies that promote and sustain genocidal thought and inspire genocidal acts.

Post-Arab Spring countries could overcome the genocidal impulse and combat state imposed fear at the same time when they reject ideological purity in favor of absolute respect to human dignity. The Arab Spring, after all, may have signaled the beginning of the end of the precursors to ideological purity namely exclusionary models of nationalism such as Arabism, Turkism, Kurdism, Zionism, Berberism, Persianism, Islamism, and all other forms of ethnicity- and religion-inspired isms. A stable and peaceful future can be achieved through national identities that are more inclusive and more egalitarian in terms of respect to rights and dignity.

It is difficult to predict the specific future of the new Middle East. But it is not difficult to predict that the new Middle East will be better than the old one. Too much blood and agony have been spent to revert to the old Middle East or build a mediocre one. In this interconnected global community, no country can exist in isolation from its neighbors. With that being the case, the religious and ethnic state models become ethically, legally, and politically unsustainable. The peoples of the Middle East, therefore, must reject the proposition that only an Arab state can protect Arabs, only a Kurdish state can protect Kurds, only a Persian state can protect Persians, only a Shi`ite state can protect Shi`as, only a Sunni state can protect Sunnis, only a Christian state can protect Christians, only a Jewish state can protect Jews, and so-on. Because these ideas eventually lead to genocidal attitudes and acts. Peoples in that region must learn to confront their fear of each other and work together to build alliances on the basis of mutual respect and mutual commitment to dignity. They must commit to the principle that surviving or fearing a genocide does not give any community a legal or moral license to preemptively commit one.

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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

The message was clear: the Syrian National Council did not have any significant sway over the armed groups inside Syria. That message reached the Western backers of the SNC. Bringing armed groups under control became more urgent for the West after human rights organizations released damning reports accusing opposition forces of committing war crimes. The U.S. administration announced that the SNC must expand its base and bring armed groups under control. Two weeks after Secretary Clinton made that comment, the NSC was absorbed into a newly established body, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SNCORF, or Syrian National Coalition). Leaders of the new coalition have claimed that they now represent 90% of the Syrian people.

Within days after the establishment of the Coalition, France recognized it as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” Several other countries, including the UK, did the same. Some other countries, including the United States, simply recognized it as alegitimate representative of the Syrian people. The rest of the countries of the world remained neutral.

In reality, many opposition groups, dissidents, and political parties did not take part in the Doha meeting and therefore are not represented in the Coalition. Moreover, the peculiar enthusiasm of former colonizers of the Arab world, like France, for recognizing Syria’s representatives without waiting for the Syrian people to decide through ballots (not bullets), was delegitimizing the Coalition in the eyes of many Syrians. That fact was apparently on the mind of some groups affiliated with the FSA, too, who immediately issued a terse but emphatic rejection of the Syrian National Coalition.

Last week, more than 170 religious and political leaders (including some opposition and government representatives) met in Tehran to discussion non-violent transition to democracy. Other opposition coalitions, like the National Coordinating Committees, boycotted the Tehran and Qatar meetings.
Most recently, a prominent Kurdish leader representing the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Saleh Muslim, insisted that Coalition does not represent the Syrians. “They’re making the same mistakes as the Syrian National Council. They’re one color, a cleric is the ruler. More than 60 percent of the SNC were from the Muslim Brotherhood and the religious groups, and they’ve made the same mistake with this coalition,” he told Reuters in London, November 20. He contended that the Coalition “has emerged from obedience to Turkey and Qatar,” and that the Kurds included in the group were not representative of Syria’s Kurds and were handpicked by Turkey to follow its agenda.

So here we are again, asking the same questions: who are the Syrian opposition groups?
Apparently, with time, the Syrian regime rid itself of unreliable elements by allowing military officers to defect. The regime seems to find its balance by relying on a military that has been purged of suspect elements. The regime’s regional and international backers, few though they may be, are determined to support it no matter the political cost. The strength of the military institution, the loyalty of religious and ethnic minorities who are threatened by Islamists’ takeover, and the loyalty of the regime’s international allies are allowing it to stay in power.

The opposition on the other hand, is becoming more and more fragmented because of division in the ranks of its regional and international backers. For instance, the new Syrian National Coalition came to existence thanks to the handy work of Qatar and Turkey. These two countries are major supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia has been always suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood and has supported Salafi radicals. The statement by the elements of the FSA who rejected the Syrian National Coalition is a signal that the Saudis are dissatisfied with the growing alliance between Qatar, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood. That means that the Saudis will continue to back Salafi and radical Sunni armed groups. This split may also mean that the FSA will be forced to start purging its own ranks if it wants to continue to receive Western support. Alternatively, the FSA might be forced to split along different international camps. They might form competing armed coalitions reflecting the ideological, religious, and political agendas of their regional and international backers.

All these developments suggest that the crisis in Syria could become more complicated and long-drawn-out, and that the Syrian National Coalition has a major challenge ahead of it. If leaders of the world community want to stop the bloodshed in Syria, they must support the UN envoy. If they want the UN envoy to succeed in his mission, they must help him find reliable partners among the opposition forces who can control the armed groups—not necessarily all of them, just most of them. Therefore, the Coalition will be called upon to prove that it represents not 90% of the Syrian people (which can only be ascertained by participating in a fair election), but 90% of the FSA armed groups. That was the test that the SNC failed. Ambassador Brahimi will certainly ask the Syrian National Coalition to pass this test, too, if its leaders want to remain relevant.

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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Are Arab World Revolutions different?

Are Arab World Revolutions different?

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Family members mourn during a funeral for slain anti-government protester Ali Ahmed al Muameen on February 18, 2011 in Sitra, Bahrain. Credit: Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
When the first demonstration took place in Sidi Bouzid after Tarek (Mohamed) Elbouazizi ignited the Arab revolutions by setting himself on fire in protest, the Tunisian government played down the event claiming that it was a local matter. Two weeks later, the protests became an uprising and spread to most Tunisian provinces forcing the head of the authoritarian regime, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Before the dust had settled in Tunis, another uprising was launched in Egypt. The Egyptian regime argued that Tunisia is not like Egypt and Mubarak is not like Ben Ali. Less than eighteen days later, Mubarak was forced to hand over power to a military council and two months later he, some of his family members, and key members of his regime were arrested and jailed while charges of corruption and murder of protesters were being investigated.
Even before the fall of the Egyptian regime, massive protests in three other Arab countries were underway.
In Yemen, millions of people crowded public squares chanting, “al-shaab urid isqat al-nizam” [the people want to bring down the regime]. Despite the similarities, the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, declared that he was going to finish his term in office insisting that Yemen is not like Tunisia or Egypt. After weeks of protests, many military, police, and political officials abandoned Saleh and announced their support for the “youth’s revolution.” As this piece is being written (April 23, 2011), Saleh has accepted a compromise plan developed by the Gulf states that offers him immunity in exchange for transferring power to his deputy in thirty days. The protesters are likely to reject the idea of immunity for Saleh and his henchmen, especially after contemplating the rise of civilian casualties killed by Saleh’s security forces.
In Bahrain, protests that paralyzed the small kingdom were brutally put down by a Saudi and Emarati military forces that began its intervention by destroying the monument near which the protesters had set camp. The Bahraini King’s government followed that by declaring a state of emergency. Human rights groups have released numerous reports detailing the brutality of the Bahraini regime during and after the first wave of protests. Nonetheless, Bahrain rulers, too, insisted that the demonstrations in their country are different from those in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. They contended that it was sectarian tension stoked by Shi`i Iran.
After the fall of Mubarak, it would seem that nervous Arab authoritarians are inclined to do whatever is necessary to stop or at least slow down the revolutions. Therefore, the Gulf rulers decided to draw a line in the sand of Bahrain: they decided to take the side of the King instead of siding with the people.
The Libyan leader, Muammar Qadhafi, was hoping that the Arab leaders would stand by him as well. It must be recalled, however, that the Libyan self-styled leader faulted the Tunisian people for ousting Ben Ali. He argued that Ben Ali was a good leader and he should have been allowed to serve his full term. Naturally, then, when demonstrations broke in his country, Qadhafi was determined to crush any uprising arguing the same thing: Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt and that he is not a president like Ben Ali and Mubarak. He launched a brutal military operation against peaceful protesters who reacted by arming themselves and appealing to the military and police forces who sided with them to fight back. Qadhafi escalated by deploying his air and naval forces to attack the liberated towns and cities. The United Nations Security Council then imposed a no-fly zone and authorized the world community to do all that is necessary to protect civilians.
Meanwhile, other, less massive demonstrations took place in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Morocco, Iraq, and Algeria. They were all—to varying degrees of success—put under control by their respective regimes who, too, thought that their countries were different from Tunisia and Egypt. The most significant developments were the demonstrations and evolving demands by the Syrian protesters. Bashar Asad, again, reacted by claiming that his country is different from Tunisia and Egypt.
Given the various facts and claims, then, is it true that each Arab country is fundamentally unique to the extent that that will make it impervious to the Tunisian and Egyptian phenomenon? I would argue, that the majority of the differences distinguishing one Arab country form another are absolutely irrelevant when it comes to the driving force behind these revolutions: respect for citizens’ dignity.
It is true that Libya and Yemen are more tribal then Egypt and Tunisia. It is also true that Morocco and Jordan, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, are traditional monarchies who derive their legitimacy from their affinity to the Prophet Muhammad. Similarly, it is true that Saudi Arabia and Oman, not like Tunisia and Egypt, are ruled by kings and sultans who use their vast petro-wealth to buy the loyalty of a large middle class shielding them from the marginalized. Likewise, it is true that Bahrain has more Shi`is than Tunisia and Egypt—about 70% of the population. Lastly, it is true that the Syrian regime has antagonized the West and its Arab allies when it came to the most popular regional issues in contrast to Tunisia and Egypt and aligned itself with the masses.
However, all these regimes have one common denominator: they all retain power for life and they do not respect the dignity of their peoples. All Arab countries where protests took place are run by corrupt, authoritarian, and despotic regimes that do not allow dissent, torture their citizens, and imprison political dissidents. The rulers and/or their parties control the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities and they do not tolerate true civil society institutions.
Most Arab peoples, especially the young and educated generation which makes more than 60% of the populations in most Arab countries, think that stripping them of their dignity occurs when they are treated as if they are incapable of knowing what is right and what is wrong. They no longer accept the proposition that national security, prosperity, and stability are predicated on having one leader or one party running the government for life. This generation of Arabs is now demanding respect and wants the regimes to treat everyone with dignity or degage—as the Tunisian youth had said… Leave!
With the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian authoritarians, the Arab peoples have crossed a threshold. They have overcome fear and believed in the power of the people to make change happen, and in most cases, happen peacefully. The remaining Arab dictators are delaying the inevitable: they will all go or become isolated in a world that does not seem to tolerate the prescription of a president, king, emir, or “leader” consolidating and monopolizing power for life in return for stability and security. The peoples have learned that that is a false dichotomy and unjust trade.
* Ahmed Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs and College of Law at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Egypt reclaims its dignity

Egypt reclaims its dignity

BY JEFF CHARIS-CARLSON • IOWA CITYSCAPES • FEBRUARY 14, 2011
To help make sense of last week’s announced resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, I turned to Ahmed Souaiaia, a University of Iowa professor who teaches classes in Religious Studies, International Programs and Law.

• Q: What do you think was the final straw to trigger the recent revolution in Egypt that led to last week’s resignation by President Hosni Mubarak?
• A: I am surprised by the quick success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, but I was not surprised by the launch of the uprisings. Anyone who follows the Middle East news on a regular basis and who takes the time to read the comments on Aljazeera and Alarabia websites would see the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. The success of the Tunisian revolution, which was ignited by Mohamed Elbouazizi’s dramatic self-immolation, was the singular event that pushed the Egyptians beyond the threshold fear and into hope.
The Arab world was the only block of countries to not experience political reform. It was a matter of time, not a matter of whether a revolution would take place.

• Q: What role has the media played in bringing out this transformation?
• A: Social networks have played a major role during the events (updates and coordination), but I am not sure that these tools played a major role in preparing Arab societies for transformative events.
I do believe, however, that Aljazeera television stations have played a major role in shaping public opinion. Aljazeera is the only Arab television channel that is credible enough to be trusted by millions of people across the Arab world. Aljazeera achieved its status because of its consistency. For more than a decade, Aljazeera was subjected to repeated bans by authoritarian regimes, which only added to its credibility.
• Q: What happens next? If Tunisia led to Egypt, what does Egypt now lead to?
• A: That is a little difficult to predict, but if I were to try, I would look at countries whose governments have banned Aljazeera now or in the past. This is not to say that Aljazeera is orchestrating the events, but regimes that ban Aljazeera are afraid of free access to information, they are paternalistic, they have marginalized their citizens, they rule with fear and deception, they assassinate the spirit of belonging in their peoples, and they abuse human dignity.
Another way of gauging where the wave of change is heading next is to look at countries where one person or one party exerts an exclusive monopoly on power: they are the police, they are the judges, they are the legislators, and they are the administrators. They benefit from having that much power, but that makes them the focus of peoples’ rage and anger. They are the only available targets for blame, especially in a climate when there is no credit to be gained.
This means that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya and other Gulf states will have to adjust and allow the emergence of civil society institutions and share governance power or suffer the same fate.
The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions should teach the rest of Arab authoritarians that if they do not reform today, they will go tomorrow just like Ben Ali and Mubarak did. The reform cannot be cosmetic, it must be substantive, real and systematic. The rest of the Arab rulers must cede some power to their peoples or lose it all.
• Q: What should the position of the Obama Administration be right now in regards to the transition of power in Egypt?
• A: Nothing more than a declaration of respect for the will of the Egyptian people. The U.S. administration needs to realize that just as it was incapable of predicting the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian authoritarians or managing the direction of their transitions, it will be unable to influence the future of these emerging democracies. The U.S. administration must respect the will of the peoples, as I believe most Americans do, and must not dictate the terms of transition. Tunisians and Egyptians have risen up because their regimes stripped them of their dignity.
The U.S. should not remind them of the paternalistic mode of thinking and doing things; dictating did not work in the past and it will not work in the long run. The U.S. administration ought to trust that the Egyptians will do the right thing. The mutual respect that President Obama had promised the Islamic world in his first State of the Union Address must be practiced today with the peoples who rose up against dictators and tyrants.
• Q: If the Obama Administration does decide to take steps to ensure that the next Egyptian government is friendly to the U.S. (including giving access to the Suez Canal and maintaining peace with Israel), does it still have the leverage necessary to take any of those steps?
• A: I think that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were uprisings against fear. Tunisians and Egyptians rose up to reclaim their dignity as human beings, as citizens; not as subjects or as helpless children.
Contrary to what many claim, it was not a revolt primarily for bread, jobs, democracy or religion. They rose up to reclaim their dignity.
The U.S. administration can be best served by respecting the Egyptians and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. I honestly believe that the millions of Egyptians who have slept in the cold in the streets for 18 consecutive nights, resisted the provocation and brutality of the regime and its thugs, and kept the protest peaceful and orderly, are also capable of respecting the rights of other nations.
I am confident that Egyptians will stand for world peace, but not at the expense of their own dignity and interests. If the U.S. secures its rights, the Egyptian people, represented by democratically elected government, will be a constructive partner and ally. In other words, the U.S. can no longer buy consent and compliance, it must negotiate respectfully.
We now know the fate of trusting one person or one party at the expense of the rights and dignity of people. Kings and authoritarians are destined to go, but the people will remain. For a long-lasting peace and stability in this important place in the world, I advise the U.S. administration to do the right thing, not the expedient thing.
Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435.

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