I do not know how many times I have made a mistake in my analysis or deduction, but over time I have come to learn that it is not wise to jump to conclusions and make hasty judgments. We all suffer from an inferiority complex towards all things Western, and we believe that Western correspondents know more than we do simply because they seem more professional, enjoy more freedom, and are more methodical. Hence we often quote them only to later discover that they were wrong.
Tunisia’s recent events have reminded me of the coverage of some foreign journalists, who have lived in the Middle East for quite some time, during the early weeks of the Arab Spring. They were almost unanimous in their view that these were civil revolutions that would bring about democracy along the lines of Switzerland or Britain. The media created heroes and historic symbols out certain characters who emerged on the scene, such as Wael Ghoneim in Egypt and Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia. But in the end the Muslim Brotherhood came out of nowhere and raced ahead of all others in Egypt and Tunisia.
Dr. Rachid Ghannouchi spent 27 years in London, home to the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy, but when he returned to Tunisia he approached governance in the style of the Arabs and their understanding of it. The first thing he did was exclude others.
Had Mohamed Bouazizi survived and were he to contemplate the current state of affairs, he would feel perplexed by the choice facing him: A regime that eliminates any semblance of political freedom or one that actually eliminates the politicians themselves, and allows the spread of chaos and brutal assassinations. What is better: Overtly restricting freedom, as was the case during the era of Ben Ali, or restricting freedom in the name of freedom itself, as is the situation today? What is better: A police state officially imposing silence, or a state where parallel entities are doing exactly the same? Both options are terrible. Yet this reflects the state of alienation that has emerged, between the Arab citizen and his legal system, over half a century during which there was a total absence of public laws.
Instead of allowing opposition to be exercised overtly and in public, as long as it recognizes the importance of human relations and the principles of rights and duties, violent movements have grown in the dark; movements that know nothing except violence and extermination.
Foreign correspondents were exaggerated in their optimism, but some of us continued to harbor our doubts. Some rushed to label us as enemies of the revolutions and the Arab Spring, but in fact we were simply waiting trying to know who the revolutionaries were, and what kind of spring they would bring to their countries.
Unfortunately, the events of the past two years have proven us right. We had hoped that Bouazizi’s ashes would fertilize another spring in the land of Tunisia, but it seems that the blood of assassinations foreshadows worse seasons to come.