February 12, 2011
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Changing the Middle East with peaceful means - By Hataw Sarkawt

Denial of people’s right to participate in a democratic process via fair elections could lead to violent revenge against oppressive regimes. This is what happened in Iran in 1979, when many valuable lives were taken by the new ruling fundamentalists. Unlike Iran, the people in Tunisia and Egypt showed that there is a civil alternative to violent regime change. I am wondering if the transformation is due to the cultural growth of the people in Tunisia and Egypt, the political maturity of their leaders, or a new strategy of the Western democracies. It might well be a combination of all of the above.

First, many people in the Middle East have been blind followers of their leaders for too long, possibly due to the aggressive nature of their leaders or the submissive nature of their culture. Most leaders in the Middle East have come to power by inheritance of being the kin of a King or an Amir or by forceful overthrow of their predecessors. Once in power they have ruled with an iron fist as the representative of their god. Their god has ordered the people to submit and accept their destiny determined by their lord or its messenger and representative. The outcome has been acting as a sheep herd under an arrogant and brutal shepherd unlike Jesus. It is refreshing that Tunisians and Egyptians have grown not to act as sheep any more and end their dark ages as the Europe did centuries ago or as the East Block did decades ago. Interestingly the progressive Arabs reminded the Iranian fundamentalists they have no intention to behave like them. They have decided not to turn against freedom and democracy. If I had a hat, turban, or scarf, certainly I would have lifted it in honoring the people in Tunisia and Egypt for how they changed their regimes.

Second, to their credit, the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt also behaved peacefully at the end. Reluctantly but progressively they came to conclusion it is time for them to go. They recognized it is time for them to give up their permanent power and let people have their say. The Tunisian president fled the country like most coward leaders. Unlike him but like Qazi, the Kurdish president in 1946, the Egyptian president decided to stay in his home country despite being overthrown. If I had a hat, turban, or scarf, certainly I would have lifted it in honoring his courage.

Third, the policy of the West in general and that of the US in particular seems to have become progressive and humanistic. After overthrowing the dictators in Iraq and Afghanistan and exhausting the resources, the strategy for a peaceful transition of the rest of the Middle East started with encouraging the Iranian people to stand up and demand democracy. Despite the failure of this strategy in Iran due to the brutality of its regime, the hopeful and democratic faction of the Western countries did not give up and encouraged other people to fight for their rights with peaceful means. Tunisians and Egyptians seemed to be more ready and did what they were expected to do in this day and age. If I had a hat, turban, or scarf, certainly I would have lifted it in honoring the democratic faction of the Western countries.

In short, the peaceful demand for democracy in the stagnant Middle East, where neither peace nor democracy has been of much value, is refreshing. Probably the people in Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of undemocratic Middle East are getting ready to do the same what Tunisians and Egyptians did.  Probably the leaders of these countries are recognizing they have to change. If I had a hat, turban, or scarf, certainly I would lift it in the honor of these people and their leaders, if they end oppression, absolutism, and inherited political power with peaceful means.


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