Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Monarchies and the Arab revolutions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Six months on from the beginning of the Arab revolutions, are Arab monarchies still immune to these events? When this question was put forward at the beginning of this year with the fall of the two Arab regimes (Tunisian and Egyptian), it was not easy to answer because the element of surprise was sweeping the entire world, and it was not easy to exclude a single state from what was happening. But now that half a year has passed and the dust of some of these revolutions has settled, the situation is different and analysts have been able to gain new information and develop new hypothesises.

When the citizens of Arab monarchies did not declare they would revolt against their governments, it was not out of fear of confronting the security forces. Arab nations that are ruled by oppressive, dictatorial, violent regimes such as Libya and Syria, and even Egypt to some degree, have greater reason to fear their security forces, yet revolutions broke out in those countries with a courage and strength that was difficult to suppress. Therefore the conclusion is that all the Arab monarchies, without exception, enjoy at least a minimum level of satisfaction among their people. The case varies from one monarchy to the next but what brings them all together is that the level of discontent has not reached such a degree that people are calling for a complete overthrow of the regime. In these monarchies, the people still believe that it is not in their interest to reproduce the Arab revolutions, whose conditions, causes and reasons differ to their own.

The citizens of our region’s monarchies realized, by looking at the Arab reality on the ground, that the revolutionary republics calling for freedom, democracy, justice, equality and helping the poor are in actual fact the ones who mistreat and humiliate their own people and deprive them of the wealth of their country. Thus it was only natural that these people were more susceptible to the Arab revolutions. The Libyan people for example held a tremendous amount of resentment and anger towards the wretched Gaddafi regime, so the current revolution in the country is a logical and natural outcome.

The television coverage of Libyan cities and towns, and even in Syria, did not reveal the gross, violent methods used in dealing with protesters, who are merely calling for their freedoms and dignity. Rather it revealed the failure of the revolutionary republican regimes to spearhead development in the country. In Libya, television clips showed the miserable conditions in cities and villages with regards to the streets, houses, planning, hospitals, schools and the infrastructure, to the extent that these places looked like they could be in the desert of Chad or Niger, rather than cities in a country that sits on rivers of oil, owns vast amounts of natural resources, and is home to a population of no more than a few million. Libya is almost the same as Saudi Arabia geographically and demographically, as well as in terms of tribalism, climate and sources of income. You only have to look at the stark difference in the living conditions, security, and human dignity between Libyan citizens and Saudi citizens to see why the former decided to revolt, and the latter did not.

Let us compare between the Syrian republic and the Jordanian monarchy: Syria has a bigger population, a better tourism sector, is more geographically diverse, and is richer in terms of water. Jordan has limited sources of income, a harsh terrain, and a short sea coast of a mere few kilometers. But then we see that the latter surpasses the former in terms of healthcare, education, housing, urban planning and in most aspects of development, not to mention human dignity. So doesn’t it make sense that Syria would revolt, and Jordan would not?

At the same time there is a danger in monarchies becoming complacent regarding this comparison between themselves and oppressive, dictatorial regimes. This would lead to the undoing of their achievements, and possibly to regression. The Arab revolutions should be an incentive for wider and more comprehensive reforms, as this is the basic element for survival, stability and continuity.