“Without me, there will be civil war, there will be chaos:” The last card of unpopular dictators
Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president of Egypt who ruled for 30 years, is said to have accumulated $70 billion from corruption and Egypt has been under Emergency Law as long. Under the law, the police power was extended, constitutional rights suspended, and censorship legalized. Over 30,000 activists, opposition groups, and people who criticize the government were in prisons during Mubarak’s rule (1).
Angry, unemployed, and oppressed youth finally broke the long silence and fear and burst into the streets calling for Mubarak to step down. As more and more people poured into the streets calling for “Mubarak, leave, leave, leave,” Mubarak finally decided to agree to “not run for presidency in the next election” and pledged political reform. The protesters took no heed to it and continued to protests. Day by day, the Tahrir Square of Cairo was being filled with determined and ambitious people calling for Mubarak to leave. Mubarak, on the 17th day of protest, transferred some of his power to a newly appointed vice-president, Omar Sulaiman, but that did nothing to encourage the protesters, now in millions, to go back to their homes. During an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mubarak said that “he’s fed up with being president and would like to leave office now, but cannot; for fear that the country would sink into chaos”.
Dictators and autocrats like to think of themselves as the sole protector of the nation. They like the population to think that without them, there will be chaos and violence and that the country will shatter. Thus, they began to make such comments. This is in fact their illusions speaking, thinking that the mass would listen to them and stop with protesting and go back to their lives. The lives that were ruled with an iron fist, with violence and suppression by the government; the life that there exists no equal opportunities in employment, education, social services. If these leaders are so sincere in reformation, why do they speak of reform after the people take the streets? Why do they not speak of them and take actions sooner? Why after 20, 30, 40 years?
This is precisely what the Yemeni President Ali Saleh said on March 22nd: “Those who want to climb up to power through coups should know that this is out of the question. The homeland will not be stable, there will be a civil war, a bloody war. They should carefully consider this”. And this he said 30 days after the Yemenis started to protest and after mass defections by top generals, soldiers, government ministers, his son-in-law Yehia Mohammed Ahmed Ismail, as well as his own tribe taking stance against him. In other words, he said this while he is weakest and trying to use the card to defuse the protests, but he failed. On March 25th, the soon-to-be-ousted President Saleh announced that he does not want power but wants to put the power into safe hands. And it is very clear how the protesters responded to that.
Seif al Islam Qaddafi, the son of Muammar Qaddafi, did not wanted to be left out of this trend so he warned on February 20th that because of the demographic of Libya, civil war will peril. The warning however fell on deaf ears and the rebels and the people continued with their demands for Muammar Qaddafi to leave. Muammar Qaddafi also blamed the problem on Al-Qaeda telling Christiane Amanpour “my people love me, they would die for me.”
The Bahraini government on February 26th dismissed several of its ministers. The government also announced to cancel 25% housing loans that have already been given. But these concessions failed to appease the protesters and they defiantly continued to protest. The protesters are mainly Shia sect of Islam, a majority in Bahrain, being ruled by the Sunni minority. The Shias have long complained about poor treatment in employment, housings, education, infrastructure, while the Sunnis benefit higher status. The Shias are also prohibited from important political and military posts. The Bahraini government security forces have very brutally cracked down on the protesters killing at least 21 and injuring over 600. The government has gone as far as keeping the access to the hospitals blocked.
The brutalities seen by these governments against their own people, these oppressed people, is mind boggling; and it only shows that these governments and leaders are not sincere to their leadership and to the vanguard of their nation and its citizens, it is only to accumulate more wealth and to maintain the control of power.
The world was waiting for Syria to join in the mass Middle East protests, and it finally did. The story of the Syrian government in treating its people is like the rest of these governments: oppressive, abusive, unequal, dictatorial; and the faith of the Syrians are like the same faith of other nations. So then on March 24th, the Syrian city of Daraa finally erupted drawing thousands of people calling “Freedom, freedom.” And, as expected, Bashar al Assad, Syrian president, vowed to increase public worker’s salaries, greater freedom of press, and may lift the 48-years old Emergency Law. The opposition groups and protesters, as imagined, have refused the concessions and are continuing with the protests. Syrian forces have responded as abusively as did their counterparts in other countries with more than 61 killed so far with Syrian army opening fire on the protesters.
Kurdistan region of North Iraq is also not immune to these protests. Although the situation in the Kurdistan region is much different and better than most of the Middle East, the region has also been plagued with corruption, nepotism, high unemployment, and rotten social services. There have also been increased attacks, assaults, and murder on journalists and members of the opposition groups. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) must take great notice of these mass protests in the Middle East and do what these governments have not done by creating better institutions that is based on justice, equality, liberty; and to stop doing what these governments are doing, in repressing their citizens and curtailing basic freedoms. Kurdistan Regional Government, too, used the same excuse; excuse of pointing their fingers for their problems on somewhere else: Iran. Many government-controlled media outlets blame Iran and its influence behind the protests. Do they mean Iran is behind the corruption, nepotism, high unemployment, attacks on those who criticize, and all the other problems in Kurdistan? Do they mean that those tens of thousands of people in the street are being influenced by Iran and not protesting because of frustration and they no longer will tolerate the injustice by the government? While it does not take rocket science to know that Turkey, whose prime minister Reccep Erdogan, is scheduled to be in Kurdistan region in a day or two, and Iran, whom just received Nechirvan Barzani, the former prime minister of Kurdistan region, would love to see Kurdistan region destabilized and would even help in its destabilization, neither does it take rocket science to know that those people in the streets are sick and tired of government taking them as fools by making empty promises of tackling corruption and providing better services such as clean water and electricity and yet nothing ever gets done. The Kurdish people endured much in the hands of Saddam Hussein and continually are being suppressed today in Syria, Iran, and Turkey; the people do not need to suffer any more under the rule of their own government.
The people must not stop until their legitimate rights are respected and responded; this is an opportunity that was long missing and must not be passed on easily. The liberty and equality of the people must in all ways be attained, and this battle must be won by the determined and revolutionary people of the Middle East. The world must condemn these nations and governments who suppress their citizens; and those who are responsible for assaulting peaceful protesters and journalists must be put behind bars. They must be brought to the Hague and face their crimes.
Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, we are waiting for your bravery and courageous steps to be taken in this fight of liberation, of dignity, of honor.
(1) R. Clemente Holder (1994-08). “Egyptian Lawyer’s Death Triggers Cairo Protests”. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.