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What about the Gulf, Your Excellencies? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Change is a rule of life and an approach for development; this is a natural logic that applies to all development and something that is reflected in politics. There is a near consensus amongst Gulf intellectuals monitoring what is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan, which is that change is an inevitable duty. This is in order to protect the stability of our Gulf States and to ensure the rule of the Gulf ruling families. I write “to ensure the rule of the Gulf ruling families” because even the most radical legitimate opposition figures are not calling for the removal of Gulf regimes; this is not necessarily out of love for these regimes but due to an instinctual pragmatic awareness that their removal would mean chaos and instability and that their survival represents a safety valve for the security and stability of the Arab Gulf States which did not experience true stability until these ruling families came to power. In the past, this region was mired in the chaos of tribal in-fighting and lacked any features of state or government. The Gulf States are not brutal dictatorships in the same manner as that of the brutal Arab Republics, but they are also not fluid democracies like Finland, for example. The Gulf States are countries whose people live in a state of luxury in comparison with those around them, and this is thanks to the surplus oil reserves that some [states] have squandered and which others distribute to the people. This formula worked, and continues to work, ensuring relative stability and prosperity in comparison with the regional countries.

The following represents the position of the people of my generation in response to those who see the need to speed up the reforms on a national and regional level. Internally, we must understand the spirit of this age, confront corruption and bureaucracy, promote popular participation and strengthen the principles of human rights. As for on the level of the Gulf, we must work at a faster pace to create a Gulf confederation that promotes mutual trade, the Gulf economy, and a broader citizenship, this would strengthen the Gulf’s political and economic position on the regional and international levels.

This might be the opinion of most members of my generation, but what about the Facebook and Twitter generation? What is their view of the Gulf governments? How does the internet generation view the political situation in the Arab Gulf? What are their demands for change?

It would be ignorant to believe that we will not be affected by what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia. This is impossible, for Egypt in particular has been a source of influence; when Egypt was ruled by Nasser we became Nasserites, when it went to war with Israel so did we, and when it made peace [with Israel], we did not war. Egypt is the undisputed source for the winds of change in our region as a whole, which includes the Gulf region.

The internet has become more and more influential in our Arab Gulf region, particularly in Kuwait, which last week Human Rights Watch said had seen a decline in human rights. The Gulf region enjoys high levels of education, and digital or internet illiteracy is practically non-existent, particularly amongst the young generation. However anybody claiming to understand the demands of the youth and the repercussions of these are delusional, if not lying outright, and the question that must be asked here, Your Excellencies, is; can the internet generation have the same degree of appreciation for pragmatism [as my generation]? The Egyptians who lived through various different [political] eras complain that their internet generation “has no representative” or in other words, “does not respect anybody”, and anyone monitoring the latest scenes of violence in Egypt cannot help but ask “what has happened to the peaceful Egyptians? Where is the famous Egyptian patience now?”

Youth utilizing mobile phones and computers were responsible for inciting the popular revolution against the regime in Egypt. In other words, these youth are not starving, they have not been compelled to action and revolution by poverty and destitution, but rather what is clear is that they have specific demands far from the leftist slogans used to incite the proletariat or the deceitful slogans of political Islamism. This is a generation that has demands relating to greater freedoms and dignity, and an end to corruption, the violation of human rights, and the monopolization of power and wealth. Another question must be asked here, and that is are such demands absent from the minds of the Gulf’s internet generation? Are our Gulf governments working to promote human rights and confront corruption and the monopolization of power and wealth?

If the answer is yes, then there is nothing to fear, however if the answer [to the above question] is no, we must ask; have you received the message, Your Excellencies?

Saad bin Tefla Al-Ajmi

Saad bin Tefla Al-Ajmi

Saad bin Tefla Al-Ajmi is Kuwait's former minster of information and culture. He was formerly a member of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, and is currently a lecturer at the University of Kuwait.

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