The Arab World’s Explosion

The Arab World’s Explosion

Among the many unmistakable signs amid the current popular uprisings is that those million-strong protests are in essence a public rejection of the region s history of division and isolation as well as regional cultures and sectarian, tribal and class/group interests at the expense of national culture based on common ground and destiny.

Since the June 1967 Arabs defeat against Israel, many Arab countries have been ruled by repressive regimes which advocated isolationism and a purely local culture and narrow interests void of any popular aspirations or national interests. Under phoney parties and empty slogans these regimes promoted isolationism, abandoned their pan-Arab responsibilities and were out of touch with the dramatic political developments and transformations worldwide, from the former Soviet Union republics and East Europe to military regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America, such transformations that took place after the collapse of the Communist block and end of the cold war which divided the world into two camps: socialist and capitalist.

Under their political and social conditions, Arab peoples failed to keep up with international transformations, which led to giving their regimes more power and domination and deprived peoples of enjoying freedom. Isolationism has led to weakening inter-Arab ties to such an extent that during recent decades there has virtually been no joint Arab concerted effort in the region s many issues and crises, but there have been a lot of conflicts, wars and division. These repressive regimes have adopted a strategy of evasion of responsibility for dealing with the outcome of the 1967 defeat, and instead of bearing the cost of recovering the lost rights, they have imposed a totalitarian rule and alienated the people from sharing in self-determination, which led to the need for further stringent security and oppressive measures to ensure absolute political and financial power.

Examples of the above regimes were found in Saddam Hussein s and his predecessors regimes which isolated Iraq from its Arab sphere and caused the region many disasters whose results are still seen in Iraq and the Arab world. Another example in Gadhafi s, which stood against the wishes of the Libyan people and alienated them from their Arab sphere, seeking a leadership in Africa, using his country s wealth under phoney slogans that Libya belongs to Africa rather than the Arab world. The outcome of this totalitarian, repressive policy is seen today in the bloody events and tragedy which the Libyans are suffering. That s all that this authoritarian regime has achieved during over forty years, leaving the Libyans dreaming of freedom, development and a decent life.

Similar examples of repressive rule have covered other parts of the Arab world Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq. The Iraqi and Sudanese regimes have tackled the issue of ethnic and sectarian diversity in such a way that led to partition and division. We today recognize a new state in South Sudan which does not belong to its origin. Another state is on the horizon in north Iraq. The totalitarian, incompetent regimes wrong handling of certain issues has led to this division and fragmentation. Such handling included the relationship between Arabism and ethnicity in its African and Kurdish spheres in Sudan and Iraq respectively, the relationship between Islam and Christianity in Arab societies, and sectarianism in Arab Muslim communities, such as Sunnis and Shiites.

Eliminating the will of the peoples

The situation was exacerbated by the totalitarian regimes which used repression to control their people and made them unable to take any decision on their life and future. The regimes ignored national interests and created division among Arab societies and their relationship with other Arabs, and involved them in inter-Arab conflicts using tanks and military aircraft, the most well-known of which is the forty-year-old Iraqi-Syrian Baath conflict. Egyptian-Sudanese relations were also frozen for almost similar reasons, and endless conflicts extended to Arab north African countries, draining wealth and impeding development and integration.

This abnormal, illogical situation created by totalitarianism and isolationism has led to the rise of such previously unknown chauvinism that two regimes with common struggle against colonialism and joint development fields were involved in an absurd conflict in which accusations and insults were exchanged due to the results of a football match!

Peoples were therefore often trying to vent their anger in the wrong direction, and repressive measures gave many intellectuals a sense of frustration and despair in the future, particularly in view of the new signs of reversing the course of history so that Iran and Turkey can exercise new regional influence at the expense of the Arab world. There are repeated calls to divide the Arab world into two Iranian and Turkish axes. Some Arab repressive regimes have shared in this respect to depend on such influence for their survival, and even paved the way for Asian extremist views to gain ground among sectors of the Arab population who lost hope in their countries and governments. Among us we can now see covert and overt organizations belonging to non-Arab elements in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran trying to impose their religious views and traditions upon us.

Arab security penetration

The results of repressive, totalitarian rule has produced many tragic outcomes, the most serious of which is Arabs inability to cooperate and coordinate in the Arab security system which has been penetrated from all sides. Development projects have disappeared from joint Arab effort. These include Arab Common Market, Arab Economic Unity and Joint Arab Defence. Saddam Hussein s occupation of Kuwait in 1990 declared the shattering of the dream of joint Arab action at all levels and opened the door for the penetration of Arab security.

Fragmentation versus globalization

I discussed Arab fragmentation in the age of globalization a few months ago when I saw our Arab world pass through a seriously incomprehensible stage, namely gradual fragmentation and sectarian, tribal, ethnic and religious divide against a world trend for forming larger blocs which combine different nationalities and common cultural and economic interests. Despite the conflicts the world has witnessed over the past decades, globalization as a tool of progress has proved that national identities can still coexist and cooperate to avert disaster. In the Arab world today, on the other hand, we are completely out of touch with this world vision, as if we were unaware of the course of modern history which transcends sectarian and ethnic divide and seeks a world sustained by common interests, mainly human rights freedom, self-determination, livelihood and health, and achieves peoples solidarity at world level to ensure security and peace, avert disaster, war and weapons of mass destruction and brace themselves for natural disasters.

The development of the means of communication

Scientific advances have brought about an unprecedentedly historic revolution in the area of land, sea and air transportation, facilitating transcontinental travel and daily exchange of information. Similarly, modern inventions in the area of communication by phone or on the Internet have crossed borders and made peoples communicate directly without any barriers.

This breathtaking development in the means of communication has exposed the Arab world and Middle East and revealed how we are lagging behind the world round us. It has also shown that the decades long repressive regimes have deprived peoples of freedom, isolated them and encouraged tribal and sectarian values at the expense of national interests or any pan-Arab cooperation based on common interests and culture. This situation has caused Arabs a disaster and filled them with a feeling of frustration and despair in their rulers, which has ultimately led to a popular movement, similar to an explosion spanning the entire Arab world. This movement was sparked by the people of Tunisia, and a succession of explosions followed in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and even Iraq, which is still under direct American occupation. These Arab peoples, who have suffered division and isolation and have been subjected to worthless cultures, ideas and values, have exploded and shown the world at large their capability for reawakening.

Arab peoples surprise

These concurrent million-strong popular explosions have surprised the whole world, not only by exerting their will and expressing their desire for change and toppling repressive and corrupt regimes, but also by being a phenomenon of unity of purpose and slogans across the entire Arab world. Different generations of Arabs have suddenly been united in aims, destiny, interests and aspirations for rebuilding their societies, as if it is a historical movement for rebuilding the Arabs on the objectives and requirements of a new age. Similar movements took place in modern history, such as unity in struggle against the Ottoman Empire and Western colonialism in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This new stage is apparently a stage of democratisation and end of the national-state stage which has failed to lead Arab societies to freedom, popular involvement and democratic transformation.

The big questions today are: Will these similar popular Arab uprisings combine in the stage of democratic rebuilding? Will they promote some sort of cooperation and solidary that ensures rebuilding their societies, developing joint economic development plans, coordinating their foreign policies and formulating a new Arab national security strategy to protect their countries and wealth from penetration, interference and plunder? Will dreams of stability, development, production and raising citizens standard of living and preserving their dignity come true? Answers to the above questions depend on how far these revolts succeed in basing the foundations of freedom, paving the way for democratisation and establishing communities after the collapse of repressive national-states which failed to protect their lands.

What is taking place in the Arab world today is a major transformation, a new stage in history not less dramatic than the transformation that followed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and colonial domination and division of the Arab world, nor is it less effective than the stage of struggle against colonialism and rise of the national-state, as history teaches us that it is always in a state of forward movement.


Sulaiman Al-Askary

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