Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Arab Dreams and Gifts | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Did [Mohamed] Bouazizi help millions of Arabs fulfill their dreams? I do not know how many of those dreamers are happy now, but the news circulating throughout our region today seems to suggest that for some people this is like a festival of gifts. The Egyptians have celebrated, and also conducted sit-ins and brought lawsuits, with many being released from prison, and many others being newly detained. Many exiles have returned to Egypt and Tunisia, having previously been branded wanted criminals, or denied access to their homelands. Many are also seeking revenge, and the offices of the Attorney General full of those seeking fame and revenge. One guest interviewed on Egyptian television objected to this overwhelming mood of vengeance and accusation, saying: “I’m hearing a lot of rumors, but where is the substance? These are all rumors‚Ķnothing has been confirmed”. The man was commenting on the charges lodged against the family of the ousted President Mubarak, which allege that they are in possession of huge sums of money held in overseas bank accounts..

Kuwait has granted its [stateless] “Bedouin” “citizens many citizenship rights, thus facilitating their daily lives, and offering them the opportunity to earn a living. This has satisfied 130,000 Bedouins, who never dreamed of acquiring the quasi-citizenship rights they have now obtained. They now have passports, access to education and health care, and there is still hope they can acquire full citizenship in the future.

In Riyadh, I could hardly reach my hotel room for the crowds of people celebrating, after the [Saudi] government opened its wallet to approve a package of decrees. The state will increase welfare for the unemployed, provide half a million riyals to those seeking to buy a house or apartment, and grant all government employees a two-month bonus and a one-day holiday. The King in Saudi Arabia is enjoying enormous popularity due to his sincerity and generosity. These “gifts” were not announced before Saudi Arabia’s anticipated “day of rage”, but rather they were granted shortly afterwards, when nobody participated in the demonstrations. There is no harm in admitting that everyone is happy with these decrees, except perhaps the Minister of Finance, who seems somewhat bruised!

In Syria, Bouazizi’s inspiration has arrived relatively late. The President recently attempted to defuse an outburst in Daraa by responding to the residents’ demands, and dismissing their unpopular governor. The problem is that the list of demands is now long and expensive, and the challenges go beyond the city of Daraa and its governor. Whilst in Yemen, it seems that the Yemenis will soon celebrate the downfall of their long-serving President, and install temporary military rule until the scheduled election date. One hopes that the wishes of the Yemenis will be fulfilled without further bloodshed, for Yemen is indeed a difficult terrain, socially and geographically. In Bahrain, the protestors have failed to reap the fruits of Bouazizi’s sacrifice. The King pledged to carry out a set of political and social reforms, but the protestors were misled by extremist groups, who urged them to reject the pledges and continue to demand impossibilities. This has complicated the situation not only in Bahrain, but also regionally, and no one has benefitted from this.

This leaves the Libyans, who have spent 40 years dreaming of change. They are sick of their tyrant leader, and are now the most determined Arab people to carry out change. They regard foreign intervention as a golden opportunity to overthrow their leader, Colonel Gaddafi, which would be impossible without external assistance. It seems that the rebels in Libya have paid the highest price [with regards to Gaddafi’s campaign against them], since Bouazizi set himself on fire 13 weeks ago, and the winds of revolution blew through the Arab world.