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 A worms eye view of revolution

اذهب الى الأسفل 
كاتب الموضوعرسالة
Dr.Hannani Maya
المشرف العام
المشرف العام

الدولة : العراق
الجنس : ذكر
عدد المساهمات : 41895
مزاجي : أحب المنتدى
تاريخ التسجيل : 21/09/2009
الابراج : الجوزاء
التوقيت :

مُساهمةموضوع: A worms eye view of revolution    الأربعاء 02 فبراير 2011, 03:02

A worms eye view of revolution

The worms of the earth are finally turning across the Middle East and while the outcome of events within Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt have yet to be determined, the roots of these protests and revolutions lie in one common factor, which is the shared experiences of millions of people in an already turbulent region.

A joint study by the Arab League and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) indicated that in most Arab countries young people constitute 50 per cent of the unemployed - the highest rate in the world, while official figures place unemployment in the Arab world at 15 per cent but many economists believe the real rate is far higher than government statistics suggest.

According to the same report, rates of poverty remain high - "reaching up to 40 per cent on average, which means that nearly 140 million Arabs continue to live under the poverty line", with worse news being, the region seeing no decrease in rates of poverty in the last 20 years.

While Arab countries like Jordan have been working to create an open-market economy that would see a greater flow of foreign capital into a resource-barren country, already dependent on U.S. aid, the foreign debt is estimated at around $15 billion, about double the amount reported three years ago, while the economy saw a record deficit of $2 billion this year, with inflation rising to 6.1 percent just last month alone.

Like in Egypt and Tunisia, in Jordan rampant unemployment and poverty is estimated between 12 and 25 percent, with local residents complaining that "The government buys cars and spends lavishly on its parties and travel, while many Jordanians are jobless or can barely put food on their tables to feed their hungry children," said one civil servant and father of three, who earns $395 a month.

It was not until the global economic crisis that the Arab world started to witness the recovery of popular opposition - first materialising in Egypt in 2007 and 2008, where strikes and protests were the first indications of a return to organised protests against political repression and poverty inducing policies.

These movements, while in the past have either gained concessions or been unsuccessful, they did lay the foundations which brought the students and workers together to challenge the apathy and disdain of the ruling elites.

According to Firas Al-Atraqchi, a lecturer at the American University in Cairo, “In an unprecedented show of civil disobedience and open revolt, young Egyptians have clearly and forcibly delivered a message that is still resonating in the Middle East and North Africa: Authoritarian rule in the region is over“.

The protesters have been dismantling archaic forms of government, in which the ruler is considered beyond reproach and where economic policies are determined by his self-preserving allies. They are demanding equality in the distribution of wealth, an end to state corruption, greater employment opportunities and a curb to rampant inflation.

Yet when street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi poured flammable liquid over his body and set himself on fire in Tunisia, his act of protest cemented a revolt that would ultimately end President Ben Ali's 23-year-rule and send the region into flames.

Bouazizi was only 10 years old when he became the main provider for his family, selling fresh produce in the local market. He stayed in high school long enough to sit his baccalaureate exam, but did not graduate. He never attended university, contrary to what many news organisations have reported but as his mother stated to Al-Jazeera; "He didn't expect to study, because we didn't have the money“.

He later applied to join the army but was refused, as were other successive job applications and with his family dependant on him, there were few other options than to continue working at the market and nearly everyday, he was bullied by local police officers, "Since he was a child, they were mistreating him”, even claimed one close friend.

Apparently the abuse took many forms, mostly petty bureaucratic bullying that millions of Arabs know all too well, with incidents including Police confiscating his produce, fines for running a stall without a permit and even six months before his death, police fined him 400 dinars ($280) – the equivalent of two months earnings.

So while people may debate the rights and wrongs of what is taking place on their TV screens, the sound of the young angry Arabs who are leading this regional revolution, conjures up in my mind one poem by Maya Angelou, who wrote:

"Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Hussein Al-alak is a journalist, campaigner and chairman of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign UK. You can read more articles by Hussein on his blog http://www.totallyhussein.blogspot.com/

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Can Mubarak cling on?

The old lady in the red scarf was standing inches from the front of am American-made M1 Abrams tank of the Egyptian Third Army, right on the edge of Tahrir Square. Its soldiers were paratroops, some in red berets, others in helmets, gun barrels pointed across the square, heavy machine guns mounted on the turrets. "If they fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished," she said. "And if they don't fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished." Of such wisdom are Egyptians now possessed.

Shortly before dusk, four F-16 Falcons – again, of course, manufactured by President Barack Obama's country – came screaming over the square, echoes bouncing off the shabby grey buildings and the giant Nasserist block, as the eyes of the tens of thousands of people in the square stared upwards. "They are on our side," the cry went up from the crowds. Somehow, I didn't think so. And those tanks, new to the square, 14 in all that arrived with no slogans painted on them, their soldiers sullen and apprehensive, had not come – as the protesters fondly believed – to protect them.

But then, when I talked to an officer on one of the tanks, he burst out with a smile. "We will never fire on our people – even if we are ordered to do so," he shouted over the roar of his engine. Again, I was not so sure. President Hosni Mubarak – or perhaps we should now say "president" in quotation marks – was at the military headquarters, having appointed his new junta of former military and intelligence officers. The rumour went round the square: the old wolf would try to fight on to the end. Others said it didn't matter. "Can he kill 80 million Egyptians?"

Anti-American sentiment was growing after Mr Obama's continued if tepid support for the Mubarak regime. "No, Obama, not Mubarak," posters read. And Mr Mubarak's face appeared with a Star of David superimposed over his face. Many of the crowd produced stun-gun cartridge cases fired last week with "Made in the USA" stamped on the bottom. And I noticed the lead tank's hull bore markings beginning "MFR" – at this point a soldier with a rifle and bayonet fixed was ordered to arrest me so I ran into the crowd and he retreated – but could "MFR" stand for the US Mobile Force Reserve, which keeps its tanks in Egypt? Was this tank column on loan from the Americans? You don't need to work out what the Egyptians make of all this.

Yet there were extraordinary scenes earlier in the day between protesters and tank crews of another unit (this time, the machines were older American M-60 Pattons of Vietnam vintage), which appeared to be about to protect a unit of water cannons sent to clear the streets. Hundreds of young men overwhelmed one tank, and when a lieutenant in sun glasses began firing into the air, he was pushed back against his armoured vehicle and had to climb on top to avoid the men. Yet the crowd quickly became good natured, posed for pictures on the tank and handed the soldiers fruit and water.

When a long line of troops assembled across the road, a very old, hunch-backed man sought and gained permission to approach them. I followed him as he embraced the lieutenant and kissed him on both cheeks and said: "You are our sons. We are your people." And then he walked down the row of troops and kissed each one and embraced each one and told each one that he was his son. You need a heart of stone not to be moved by such scenes and yesterday was replete with them.

At one point, a group of protesters brought a man they said was a thief – of which Cairo seems full at the moment – and he was trussed up and handed to the soldiers. "You are here to protect us," they chanted. When one of the soldiers hit the man in the face, his officer slapped him. Then the soldier sat down, shaking his head in despair. All day, an Egyptian Mi-25 helicopter – this time a relic of Soviet ordnance – circled the crowds, six rockets in the pods, but did nothing. Later a French-built Gazelle of the Egyptian air force flew low over the crowds, and the people waved at the place and the pilot could be seen waving back.

And all the time Egyptians walked up to foreigners – and a grey-haired Englishman doesn't look very Egyptian – and insisted that a people who had lost their fear could never be reinjected with fear.

"We will never be afraid again," a young woman shouted at me as the jets screamed over again. And a former cop now claiming to be a liaison man between the demonstrators and the army said that "the army will be with us because they know Mubarak must go". Again, I am not so sure.

And the looting and burning go on. The former policeman – who should know – told me that many of the looters are members of a group which belonged to the Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party, whose previous role had been to bully Egyptians to go to polling stations and vote for their beloved leader. So why, we all wonder now, are these men trying to loot and burn, crimes which are being blamed on all those who demand that Mr Mubarak leave the country? Those demands, incidentally, now include the expulsion of Omar Suleiman, his former top spy, who is Vice-President.

Across Egypt, and on almost every street in Cairo, there are now vigilantes – not Mubarak men, but ordinary civilians who are tired of the semi-official gangs who are robbing their own people at night-time. To get back to my hotel last night, I had to pass through eight checkpoints of men, young and old – one was stooped, with a walking stick in one hand and an old British .303 Lee Enfield rifle in the other – who are now attacking thieves and handing them to the army. But this is no Dad's Army.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, a group of armed men turned up at the Children's Cancer Hospital near the old Roman aqueduct. They wanted to take the medical equipment, but within minutes, local people ran down the road and threatened the men with knives. They retreated at once. Dr Khaled el-Noury, the chief operating officer at the hospital, told me that the armed visitors were disorganised and apparently frightened of being harmed.

They were right. The reception clerk at the children's hospital showed me the kitchen knife he kept on his desk for protection. Further proof of fighting power lay outside the gate where men appeared holding clubs and sticks and pokers. A boy – perhaps eight years old – appeared brandishing an 18-inch butcher's knife, slightly more than half his height. Other men holding knives of equal length came to shake hands with the foreign journalist.

They are no third force. And they believe in the army. Will the soldiers go into the square? And does it matter if Mr Mubarak goes anyway?

By Robert Fisk for
The Independent

Inspired by the revolution in Tunisia, Egyptian youths are leading ongoing protests in their own country. Thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets across the country, demanding political change. So, how do young Egyptians view the protests and are they hopeful that change will come?

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Iraqis watch Egypt with irony

Iraqis who have long suffered from high unemployment, poverty and endemic corruption — the catalysts of unrest spreading in the Arab world — called on their own government to take notice.

Many watched footage of riots and looting on the streets of Egypt, the region's traditional powerhouse, with a sense of irony. The scenes brought back disturbing memories of similar mayhem in Iraq, but also feelings of admiration for an uprising that came from the streets rather than in the wake of a foreign invasion.

The demonstrations come as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki grapples with complaints that he has failed to provide basic services and security as he begins a new four-year term with a fragile coalition."I wish similar demonstrations would take place in Iraq against the government," said Najat Shaiyal, the 31-year-old owner of a tea stand in central Baghdad.

"The government does not provide jobs or services. We are still suffering from a lack of electricity," he said, smoking a cigarette as he served customers in the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Karradah.Analysts and many Iraqis said people in the war-weary country were not likely to take to the streets en masse.But U.S. officials have warned that poor services, such as electricity and water, pose one of the greatest threats to Iraq's shaky peace.

A report released Sunday by the U.S. reconstruction watchdog agency noted that Iraqi officials are trying improve the nation's electricity grid with hopes of meeting power demands by 2010 but acknowledged that doing so would be costly and difficult."The lack of perceived improvements in Iraq's water, sewage, and electricity systems could lead to popular unrest more so than political or sectarian disagreements," the special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction found.

Shiite hard-liner Hakim al-Zamili warned that the events unfolding in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and even neighboring Jordan show that all rulers must eventually answer to their people, and that the lack of jobs and services could prove the tipping point."Everything has an expiration date and the Arab regimes that neglected their people for decades have reached theirs," he said. "These outdated regimes have offered nothing to their people."

He urged restraint region-wide, noting the damage done by widespread looting and chaos after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq."The region is moving toward chaos, not stability," he said. "Surely, what is happening in the Arab countries will expand to include Iraq if the Iraqi government fails to fulfill its promises and pledges given before the elections."

Many Iraqis from Baghdad to the semiautonomous northern Kurdish region said they were inspired by the uprisings and prepared to join protests at home."I wish the young people here would stage demonstrations and make an uprising — something that I would like to call the jobless revolution," said Hazim Kadhim, a 27-year-old arts graduate who has been unemployed for four years.

Jameel Ahmed, a 40-year-old government employee in the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Azamiyah, however, pointed out that Iraqis had been isolated for nearly three decades under Saddam's iron-fisted rule. Widespread protests against a lack of electricity last summer also failed to take root.

"The Iraqis do not have the culture of change that other nations have," he said. "Besides that, Iraqis have been through a lot of disasters and they won't risk having more disasters by asking for change."Al-Maliki has come under widespread criticism for the state of the country nearly eight years after Saddam's ouster, and Iraqis remain bitter over months of political deadlock that followed an inconclusive March 7 election.

The prime minister seated a Cabinet on Dec. 21 but has not filled key security posts, including the defense, interior and national security ministries. Anger rose after a wave of bombings over the past two weeks that killed more than 200 people.Some battle-hardened Iraqis chuckled when state-run TV reported that the embassy in Cairo was calling on Iraqis in Egypt to be careful and providing them with a number to call in case of emergency.

In his first public comments on the situation, al-Maliki said the Egyptian government and other regimes need to give people space to express their views instead of punishing them."The best way to do that is the return to democracy and real and honest elections and transparency," he said in an excerpt of an interview with Iraqi state TV to be broadcast in full later Sunday.

Shiite cleric Sadriddin al-Gubbanchy called the string of uprisings an "Islamic Arab Revival" and urged the Iraqi government to appoint the new security ministers and improve services, according to the Ahlul Bayt News Agency."The people's silence does not reflect their satisfaction, and their patience shall end just as the patience of the Tunisian people did," he said during Friday prayers in the holy city of Najaf.

Associated Press. Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.

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Arab patriotism has awakened

As police stations and ministry of interior installations continue to burn through the night in many of Egypt’s cities, the Arab World is waking up to a new dawn.

In more than 18 years of living in Cairo, I have never felt the sense of cautious hope that exists in Egypt now, particularly among young men and women who feel that for the first time in their lives they may actually be able to determine their own destinies.

Young Egyptians that say that despite the number of teargas canisters fired at protesters and the number of those who have been beaten and detained, long-dormant patriotism and pride have been finally awakened.They feel emboldened by the positive changes in Tunisia and believe they share common cause and aspiration.

Many of the students I teach at the American University in Cairo have taken part in the protests, avoiding tear gas, seeking refuge in shops and alleyways. They have been reporting and participating in the protests. Some have been beaten only to return the next day and face off with riot police.

To them, they have known no other president, no other ruling party and no other political system. They have for years been groomed on the government’s realpolitik on the one hand, and the empty rhetoric of opposition groups on the other.

They have made it clear to me that these opposition parties, long defunct and impotent, have been replaced by grassroots social action. Their fears of detention and torture have been supplanted by the need for better living conditions and better wages.

The protests have drawn Egyptians from all walks of life, many of whom have never participated in demonstrations and feel that the time has come for them to voice their resentment.What started with a few dozen protesters on January 25 quickly mushroomed as passers-by and ordinary citizens joined in.

This was the Arab Street – the silent majority which has finally found a voice to express palpable anger.Listening to the protesters, one gets the feeling that they have not been deterred by the severity of the beatings; rather, their resolve has been hardened.

In an unprecedented show of civil disobedience and open revolt, young Egyptians have clearly and forcibly delivered a message that is still resonating in the Middle East and North Africa: Authoritarian rule in the region is over.

The common yet indigenous, denominators – political and economic disenfranchisement and disdain at rampant corruption – between the two countries were conveyed through social media networks, helping to create a momentum that seized popular anger and provided it with a dynamic that produced mass mobilisation on the streets of Tunis and Cairo.

By calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, and persevering in the face of tear gas, water cannons and baton beatings, young Egyptian men and women have beat back decades of one-party rule, brutal repression against civil liberties, iron-clad control of the media, and corrupt economic policies.

The protesters have been dismantling archaic forms of governance in which the ruler is considered to be beyond reproach and economic policies are determined by his self-preserving business elite allies.

They are demanding equity in the distribution of wealth, an end to state corruption, greater employment opportunities and a curb to rampant inflation.They want to be able to express themselves freely – both in mainstream media and online – without the specter of arrest, torture and imprisonment looming overhead.

Just three months ago, Egyptian authorities released Kareem Amer, a blogger jailed in 2007 for defaming Islam and the presidency. His release came just a few weeks after several stations were taken off the air by the national satellite carrier NileSat for allegedly failing to abide by their contracts and/or failure to pay licensing fees.

They are not interested in a change of government – as Mubarak promised on January 28 - and they will not be dissuaded by repeated promises of economic reform and prosperity. They believe that Egypt’s current socio-economic malaise is rooted in the political system itself, a system which has not evolved since the first revolution overthrew the King of Egypt in 1952.

When the ruling National Democratic Party swept Parliamentary elections amid allegations of widespread fraud last November, Egyptian youth said that they felt their votes had been stolen and the entire process of political reform hijacked.

Some observers at the time warned that the government would likely suffer a backlash. The young protesters that we now see on the streets of Cairo, Ismailiya, Suez, Alexandria and Mahala want a political process that safeguards their democratic participation.

Few in Egypt have a desire – or expectation – to see Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son, inherit the presidency in a contrived political gimmick to convince the public that there was a democratic transfer of power.

Among my students, Copts and Muslims alike, there is a call for social cohesion. In the aftermath of the bombing at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, many Egyptians blamed the government for failing to adequately protect minorities and allowing sectarian strife to fester.

Now, the momentum – and history - is on the protesters’ side.

Firas Al-Atraqchi for
Al-Jazeera. Firas is an associate professor of practice at department of journalism and mass communication at the American University in Cairo.

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A worms eye view of revolution
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