Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Presidents of Arab Countries Haven't Changed in 30 Years - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Please read the following question and then select the correct answer or answers.

Which of the following Arab countries have had the same President over the past thirty years?

A.Egypt.

B.Yemen

C.Libya

The correct answers [to the above question] are B and C [Yemen and Libya]. It therefore seems that some people have misunderstood the statement made by the Emir of Qatar and his praise of “Iranian democracy” and especially his statement that Iran has “witnessed four Presidents since the Iranian revolution thirty years ago” whilst in contrast “during this [same period] the Presidents in some Arab countries have not changed, and so this shows that Iran practices democracy.”

The facts reveal that the Libyan President has been in power since 1969, while Yemen has had the same president since 1978, and Egypt since 1981, may they all – God willing – enjoy a long life. Therefore the statement by the Emir of Qatar should not be interpreted as him talking about Egypt, for this applies more to Libya [and Yemen].

It is striking that the Emir of Qatar also described what is going on in Iran [with regards to the protests and violence] as “things that take place in every democracy and this is what happened following the French Revolution.” If the Emir of Qatar’s intention in saying this was to draw parallels between what is happening in Iran and the French Revolution then this is all well and good as this would mean that Iran is the dictatorship and the “green revolution” will lead to the country becoming a garden of democracy in our region, rather than a “garden of sorrow” as Dr. Mustafa al-Labbad, Egyptian specialist on Iranian affairs, described it.

Otherwise what is taking place in Iran cannot be compared to the French Revolution which took place in one of the oldest [world] democracies, as Iran – even if it has witnessed four presidents – has created an unprecedented dictatorial regime in our region, despite claims [made by the Emir of Qatar] of Iran’s democracy.

Democracy does not mean that one person – the Supreme Leader of Iran – decides who has the right to stand for elections. Democracy is not afraid of the media nor does it ban it. Democracy does not cut off telephone communication, expel foreign journalists and arrest members of the local press.

Democracy does not fire upon demonstrators, as the very right to demonstrate is one of the rights included under a democracy. Democratic countries are not afraid of the internet, Twitter, or YouTube, nor do democratic countries kill an innocent woman such as Nada Soltani.

What is happening in Iran is not something that is inherent in a democracy; rather this is closer to what happened during the 2000 US presidential elections between George Bush and Al Gore. Both sides announced victory at the elections and the issue of uncounted or invalid Florida votes arose.

Both parties used official apparatus [to resolve this problem] and the USA spent almost 40-days not knowing who would be the next President. Despite this Washington did not declare an emergency, no protestors were shot or arrested and America did not close its borders to the world. Eventually a Supreme Court ruling emerged declaring Bush to be the next US president.

This is something inherent in democracy, whereas what we see in Iran today is simply state violence, particularly since the Iranian authorities have admitted that there are discrepancies in three million votes. This is a number that is at the very least equal to the combined population of two Gulf States.

Our problem is that we are not democratic, and our republics are not [true] republics, and many are not dedicated to the pedigree of our Emirates and Kingdoms despite everything that these [Emirates and Kingdoms] have accomplished and given to the people.

These are my observations, other than this the statement made by the Emir of Qatar was just fine!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

More Posts