Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Status Of “Friday"

By Jameel Theyabi
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 14/03/2011

The social networking websites are carrying sarcastic comments and jokes accompanying the popular revolutions in each Arab country. For example, after Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Jeddah and Hosni Mubarak stepped down – before the beginning of the Libyan youth revolution against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi – it was said that Gaddafi was thinking about annulling “Friday” from the week, as a preemptive step to prevent the transfer of the revolution to Libya. He also considered asking the Arab League to hold an urgent meeting, and look into the ways to deal with “Friday” which had started to pose a threat to the Arab rulers. However, the Libyan youth anticipated Gaddafi’s intentions, rebelled against him and toppled all the “hallucinating” concepts featured in the Green Book.

After Tunisia, and Egypt, the revolution moved to Libya, where some of the cities and streets are witnessing fierce battles between Gaddafi’s forces and the revolutionaries. Dozens of lives are thus being claimed every day, in light of the slowness affecting the issuance of the international resolution and the discrepancies affecting the positions of the states, even the Arab ones. Still, despite the delay of the Arab League’s decision to call on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya – a decision which will go down in the League’s history – this is the first time that the League stands alongside an Arab people against the ruling regime. This may be due to the fact that the politicians were influenced by the tensions on the Arab street, the fall of the rulers, and the popular revolutions witnessed in the region and moving from one Arab capital to the other since the beginning of the year.

Friday has become a glorious and immortal day in the history of modern Arab revolutions. It has started to enjoy a status in the people’s spirits, as well as in the hearts of the Muslims.

It thus went from being a vacation day to pray and rest from the hardships of the week, to a day of gathering, action and the unification of the goals and demands, where all the voices are crying out the same slogan: “The people want to change the regime.”

Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled on a Friday night and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted against the backdrop of the Friday of “salvation” which followed the Friday of “rage.” As for the Yemeni president, he is suffering from these Fridays on a weekly basis, as the Yemeni cities have already witnessed the Friday of “launching” and the Friday of “no return.” Moreover, the Bahraini government is suffering from the Friday of “change” and Algerian President Bouteflika is scared from the surprises on the street each and every Friday. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is stressing the Iraqis’ right to express their opinions freely, provided that they do not demonstrate on Friday so that that the situation is not exploited by the infiltrators, while Jordan is fearful about the slogans and the marches of the protesters that are increasing weekly. The Sultanate of Oman for its part did not elude the popular Friday of Rage, and witnessed turmoil in some areas.

In the meantime, additional Arab capitals are starting to see the emergence of calls for protests on Friday, as Kuwait witnessed demonstrations that were staged by the Bidouns but were quickly settled, while Saudi Arabia prepared - last Friday - for what was dubbed the “Revolution of Longing” but was thwarted by the people who refused to take to the streets and announced their insistence on upholding the command, their unity, security and stability.

Friday has now become known as the “day of rage” and is bearing witness to the fall, collapse and hallucination of Arab rulers under the fist of the people, which prompted others to offer concessions they would have otherwise found difficult to make, but also to listen to the pleas of the demonstrators and tend to the youth and their national demands.

In the past decades, the people feared the power of the ruler and the supremacy of the military. Today however, the rulers are the ones fearing the voice of the people and their insistence on their demands as they are assisted by the new media outlets. At this point I would like to recall an Iraqi joke told about Saddam Hussein who governed Iraq with gunpowder, chains and steel. One day, Saddam gathered his ministers and told them: I have uncovered a plot led by one of the persons present to stage a coup against me. His name starts with the letter “T.” Among those present were Tarek Aziz, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Taha Muhyi. But the three men remained silent and impassible. However, a man whose name does not start with “T” began shuddering. So Saddam asked him: Why are you trembling, even though your name does not start with a “T”? The man responded: Why would I not be scared sir, since you usually call me “Toad”?

The revolutions of the Arab youth are distant from the foreign conspiracies which some are accusing them of implementing. For their part, the governments should permanently and not temporarily respond to the demands and listen to the voice of the people. They must continue presenting positive and serious initiatives that would contribute to the instatement of political reforms, in order to enhance the principles of social justice and human rights and protect the citizens’ dignity, freedom, security and interests before the narrow governmental interests.

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