When John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, he definitely didn’t have the idea that the “Kingdom of Heaven” in Middle East would be a permanent lost cause. The recent uprising in the Middle East against long serving autocratic regimes indicate two things; you can’t get away with oppression in 21st century technology era, and poverty is as real in Middle East as the million dollar Christmas Tree in Dubai. I think the idea of using technology to fight against the oppressive governing powers was shown very effectively in the Iran’s Green Movement that started last year. The recent uprising is a bit different though. Its youth using the “Western” technology, that most of the time they denounce, is now used more and more to oust their Middle Eastern powerhouses throughout the whole region . After the brutal killing of Ahmed Hashim al-Sayyed, 25 year old from Alexandria, for posting a video of local police officials splitting a drug bust this summer. The indications of distress were there in Egypt since then but the Tunisia movement spread like fire. Now it’s not just Tunisia, which successfully thrown out the government of Ben Ali; or Egypt, where the three decade leader Hosni Mubarak is holding into power on military mercy. It has spread in Syria, Lebanon and now Jordan is taking precautionary steps.
The story of Ben Ali and his former hair dresser wife is like a fairytale. The wife with the help of relatives has allegedly taken over almost 30-40% of the Tunisian assets which is approximately 12bn dollars according to BBC sources. Hmm, sounds way too familiar to my ears. Now Mr. Ali’s accounts in EU countries are frozen and it’ll be interesting to see how long he can live in the safe heaven of his Wahabi masters in Saudi Arabia.
But Hosni Mubarak’s story is a bit tricky. For that, I’m happy for the people of Egypt that they are practicing their right to protest but not having him in the Middle East doesn’t really mean a happy ending. Mr. Mubarak has oppressed his people with the use of military and secret police for over three decades but the world only was concentrating on his role as a key figure in the Middle Eastern peace process. Surely he’s a key figure and even though a pail looking Mubarak with ailing health was standing behind Obama quietly in the White House last summer, the international community will welcome a pail Mubarak then no Mubarak. As one of the few Muslim Arab countries who has bi-lateral ties with Israel, it’s very important to know what would happen to the peace process in a post Mubarak era. Mubarak has dominated over The Muslim Brotherhood, a popular Islamic political front, with detention and murder of many of its top heads. But the silent support the Brotherhood is providing to Mohamed ElBaradei means they are ready to play key role in the post protest political map. Also in Tunisia, the Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi’s return after 22 years means the political sphere in the country also might move from secular oppressive leadership to democratic religious leadership. Also in Lebanon the constitutional prohibition of non-Sunni becoming president and the Hezbollah backed new government surely is looking to clash.
With Syria and Yemen having problems with the Sub Saharan newly formed Al Qaeda and post Saddam domination of Iran it seems really impossible for the Western blocks convincing Israel to take a middle ground in the peace process. Also the Hamas-PLO never ending tango to power is really not helping the situations. In the broader picture scenario Mr. Mubarak seems to be a very key figure to the entire process. Then again, in a democratic world who would support a secular tyrant? It’ll be interesting to see what he does. Will he still try to keep the road clear for his son Gamal, who’s to many is a lot more favorable leadership choice, by sharing power with ElBaradei backed opposition or totally relinquish power or hold “till last breath” as he promised after his post operation televised speech.
With an increasing poverty gap between rich and poor, compounding effect of unemployment and a region wide militancy tension, the entire Middle East seems like fed-up with the current status quo and will welcome any form of change. But the question is what that change will bring to the regions stability. After oil, the regional powerhouses has also successfully exported religious fundamentalism. For that, the indication that the infant democracies in the region also might take a non secular character will be a concerning factor for the rest of the world. The region really didn’t build any economic infrastructure on anything else besides oil money. Egypt is actually an exception which exports agricultural commodities too. In a year when the price of commodity is soaring round the world, an unstable Egypt really will put an upward pressure to the global commodity market. And in an integrated global market, everyone will be affected.
It seems no matter what this region does, it always makes news and the effect is always global. A crying child in the Palestinian camps still make great recruiting video for many organizations and the division between the oil rich countries and its neighbors really make you wonder about the whole “brotherhood” concept. Post Saddam Iran is stronger than ever and now provides sectarian backing to Hezbollah and Shia political forces in Southern Iraq. The Wahabi oil money is still flooding from Saudi. The aged king of Saudi and the post King Abdullah Saudi is also another interesting story to look for. But with the picture of people all round the region, aware of democratic rights and now ready to practice it really gives the world hope. A multi party democratic Middle East might be the only solution to force the governments once and for all ends the violence and tension in the region. May be then the lost paradise will be regained 🙂