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Person of the Year - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Why did the American Time Magazine choose the Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Time’s 2007 person of the year, despite all his policies and stands which were upsetting to the American administration? Richard Stengel offers us the following answer:

Time’s person of the year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear – eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership – bold, earth – changing leadership.

The writer adds to this a significant concluding statement that “At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize he has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power. For that reason, Vladimir Putin is Time’s 2007 person of the year (Time Magazine, 19 Dec. 2007).

The choice of Vladimir Putin as Time’s person of the year is quit telling that normal people and institutions respect those who respect their country and evaluate its status and improve its reality. After all, Vladimir Putin is the leader who stood up to Washington on more than one issue, but in all these stands he sought an equal dignity for his country, and an equal status as a friend of the U.S. This means that, in the final analysis, every one, including one’s enemies, do not respect those who seek the satisfaction of the strong, or those who do not hold the integrity of their people and country at high esteem no matter what the price might be.

What is also important in this choice is that Times Magazine acknowledged that Putin “is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it”. This is a very important statement because the Western Media tries always to give the impression as if Western Democracy is the only type of democracy, even after all their crimes in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia. The most significant point here is that Vladimir Putin did not see that the social, political and intellectual terms of reference for the Russian people should be derived or even endorsed by Washington. He did not believe that the interests of his country should be approved by the White House or by those who call themselves “the civilized world” or “the Free World” or “the international community”, all of which usually refer to what is decided by the Neo-cons or the new Western totalitarianism that wants globalization to mean Westernization rather than the healthy interaction between different cultures and systems. It is now obvious to all that Washington refuses any democratic system which it cannot penetrate or impose its hegemony on. For an American Magazine to give this important honor to a president who stood firmly for his country’s democracy that differentiated itself from Western “Mother of Democracies” is an act that adds to the credibility of the Magazine and its editors. It is also a lesson for those who crawl to befriend Masters who interfere in their countries, undermine their sovereignty and freedom and still they make one concession after another against the rights and dignity of their own people.

For me as an Arab woman, the choice of Vladimir Putin as the person of the year has offered me an answer to a very important question, why the world shows no interest in Arab victims even if they reach millions? Why all the humiliation to our prisoners in Palestine and Iraq? The answer is no one will ever truly respect any one who does not show high respect for the integrity of his own country. This is the message of 2008 and we hope it will reach those who can benefit from it and are empowered to make use of it!

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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