The demonstrations in Egypt began with the slogan “free dignity…social justice”, and the regime responded first with confusion, followed by extreme violence. This led to injuries and deaths, and consequently demands intensified, ultimately calling for the downfall of the regime. This is what happened in Egypt, and the same scenario is being repeated in Yemen, where the Sana’a regime is tottering, in Libya, where matters have escalated into war, and now we are witnessing the same mistakes in Syria.
I say this now because tomorrow is Friday, which means that matters may get worse, and therefore my advice to the Syrian regime is: Do not fire bullets, do not kill. Indeed, do not kill, for the more casualties there are, the more complicated matters get, and there has been much evidence of this in our region in the last three months. Yet it is frustrating that few lessons have been learned, it seems that the citizen has no value in many of our nations. Violent oppression and murder complicate matters, and make solutions difficult. Such conditions can cause the situation to erupt with opposition forces breaking their silence, for after death there is nothing.
The fact is that many Arab regimes that are experiencing a state of impasse, not just the states that are being incited against, have forgotten, or do not have the capacity to accommodate, the great variable in both our region and modern history today, namely technology. Now it has become difficult to conceal the truth. Yes you can distort the truth, or call it into question, but now your opponents, rightly or wrongly, are also able to do the same thing. Today, the prestige of the state cannot be imposed through violence, as happened in Hama in the 1980s, and of course this is due to the media and technology. The prestige of the state can only be acquired through laws and genuine institutions. This is what we saw with the rapid breakdown of Mubarak’s regime, over 18 days, where the state did not have any prestige whatsoever. I still remember what a former Arab official told me, after Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali had fled from Tunisia, when he said: “Yes Mubarak is now on his way, what hope is there for a regime that spent the last three years searching for [Gilad] Shalit? While remaining silent in the face of all the insults directed at it from Hezbollah, and the manipulation courtesy of Hamas!”
Prestige is not intimidation, of course, but in reality it is a united internal front, achieved through genuine reforms, adequate living standards, and social justice, even in the absence of democracy. After that, and no less importantly, there must be positive international relations based on mutual respect and appreciation, through common interests, rather than through deception and patronizing.
We must remember, and learn, that the ordinary citizen today is not concerned with insulting Israel day and night, for that is the pastime of the educated ideologue. For the ordinary citizen, from Saudi Arabia to Algeria, and through Damascus, all he wants is to live with dignity, and to be able to pay his phone bills, buy bread, and educate his children until his last day, in all simplicity, no matter what the elite claim.
Therefore, there is no point in suggesting that the Damascus protestors are agents of Israel, and so on. When Friday comes, my golden advice to Damascus is: Do not kill, and do not open fire.