Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Arab Presidents Are Leaving

By Elias Harfoush
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 07/06/2011

As far as the Arab presidents are concerned, the issue of staying in power has grown to become as important as booking a seat on the first departing plane. The Arab uprisings have not allowed a considerable chance to make a choice. This is a new phase that the Arab rulers are not accustomed to. The populaces are asking for their rights and dignity, and the response to that is only being made with bullets, which in turn summon more bullets in the countries that are loaded with weapons. And the threats of civil war constitute the only outcome of such a confrontation.

Rulers have been accustomed to the silence of his people for decades. And when the wave of protests and uprisings started, they were taken aback as they discovered that the weapons of fear are no longer sufficient to hush the protestors. Even the slogans of “nationalism” and the speeches of “resistance” are no longer sufficient to mask the demands and the delayed rights. In this era, where everyone who possesses a cell phone or a computer has become a correspondent, banning news and images is no longer possible. Truth has become faster than sound. And the world that was ready to strike deals in the past, is no longer capable of compromising and or accepting to deal with regimes that respond to the demands of their people through weapons and killings.

The Arab populaces used to be the ones to leave while the ruler would remain in power for a long and happy time. The cities of the world have been flooded, over the past decades, with Arab nationals who left their countries in search for employment opportunities and a good life that their own countries had failed to provide. This has never been a source of concern for rulers. On the contrary, they [i.e. the rulers] used to consider that this is a way to lighten the economic burden and that these countries are actually relieving him from his problems.

Today, rulers are the ones who are leaving or bracing to leave. They have an eye on their aids and those among them who are bracing to attack them whenever a chance presents itself. Meanwhile, they have a second eye on their exile place, which is still available and which will allow them to retire away from the demands of the people and the problems of the authority.

Some are “envying” Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, not only because he “understood’ his people but also because he understood that taking the airport road is easier than taking the other roads. Had Ali Abdullah Saleh realized this before it was too late, and had he responded to the Gulf initiative, he would have saved himself from leaving the country wounded.

Rulers uncover late remedies in the hope of prolonging the regime’s life: pardon decrees, new laws for the parties, prisoners’ releases, and dialogue committees. But the people realize, through experience, that these are fake remedies. They also realize that delaying the announcement of these remedies implies that the objective is to prolong the life of the regime and to keep the old status quo rather than to solve the problem.

There is new book whose chapters are unfolding in the Arab history. We have not been used to reading anything like this book. The Arab youths are surprising us with their courage and their readiness to die for their freedom. It is only natural that rulers should be surprised as well. They [i.e. the rulers] are not left with too many opportunities or choices. Thus, leaving the palace becomes the least harmful and the best choice for the future of their people. And to complete the chapter of the new Arab book, it is not only sufficient that the rulers leave. For decades, the Arab populaces have suffered from oppression and from the lack of internal immunity. This can only be made available through deep convictions with democracy, liberalism, and the respect of the others’ right to be different. There are many obstacles on the road for a better future, and this has become evident so far through Tunisia and Egypt. There is a fear that the faces of the future would cause us one day to regret the blackness of the past.

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