Al-Ahram Weekly Online   21 - 27 April 2011
Issue No. 1044
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

An uncommon agenda

The revolutions sweeping the Arab world are each one unique, despite their coincidence in time and despite the political similarities of the common people protesting against longstanding dictatorship and social injustice.

The situations in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain are cases in point, as tens of thousands of protesters continue to defy entrenched authorities and risk death and pushing their countries to the brink of economic bankruptcy and political chaos for the sake of greater freedom. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states with the blatant connivance of the US are pursuing a policy of pushing Iran out of the picture in all three cases. In Yemen, the picture is further complicated by the worries that the country is an Al-Qaeda haven.

The West long supported all the dictators of the Arab world in the pursuit of "stability" and in the protection of Israel from the wrath of the Arab people. Now Western leaders are flocking to the call of rebels in Libya, naming squares Tahrir in honour of Egyptians, eager to promote Western-style democracy.

Arab people should be careful of this new embrace of their cause, as it in the first place is intended to promote Western interests, economic and political in the Middle East, and only secondly, if at all, to address the demands of the common people.

Western advisers are quick to call on Syria to follow the steps of Egypt in the 1970s to embrace the US programme for the Middle East and discard its independent and critical position. US officials are working closely with Saudi Arabia to ease out Yemen's dictator in a controlled transition that would ensure continued US presence ostensibly to fight Al-Qaeda. In Bahrain they have contributed to a brutal crackdown on the revolutionaries.

In all cases, it should be remembered that the problems are the direct result of past colonial strategies, that there is little likelihood in finding a solution by taking Western advice.

While it is important that the legitimate demands of the people be addressed seriously and promptly, that a truly democratic order be established, it is not in their interests or the interests of the Arab world as a whole to expect the countries to follow some common programme of reform produced in and controlled by the West, as promoted by such organisations as the US government funded National Endowment for Democracy.

The wave of democratic change which began in Tunis and moved quickly to Egypt relied initially on Western innovations in mass communications, in particular, Facebook. But both revolutions were carried through to their successful conclusions only due to the bravery and resilience of the common people, and the pursuit of a dignified life for the people will require hard work and persistence over many years.

This need to keep the revolutionary process on track, not let it be derailed by Western powers with their own agendas, should be the focus of all the Arab world.

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