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Domino effect continues… who’s after Egypt?

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With the collapse of dictatorial rule in Tunis and the running demonstrations in Egypt since 25 Jan with Friday the 28th culminating in the biggest series of demonstrations for decades, which other country could follow this popular domino effect?

The regular culprits and the most shaky governments seem to be Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen, most of which witnessed significant demonstrations since the Tunisian popular uprising. Whether those demonstrations would be sustainable is anyone’s guess. The Egyptian situation certainly seems to have taken the officials there by utter surprise. I’m not sure why; with 30% illiteracy and some 50% of its population living with under the equivalent of two US Dollars per day, the massive amount of human rights variations visited upon them, they should’ve really expected it.

As I watch Al-Jazeera at the moment with it declaring the government issuing a curfew from 6PM – 7AM Cairo time, it seems that they now got the message, but they certainly didn’t read the situation on the ground very well.

With Egypt taking the opportunity of the first celebrated date after the Tunisian uprising to start their demonstrations, I can’t but postulate that others might use the same technique to illicit support for their causes and start the process of toppling their particular domino piece. A quick search of possible “flash dates” in the Arab world resulted in one very close to us; the commemoration of the declaration of these very islands of Bahrain to be a Kingdom. That date of course is Feb 14, just a couple of weeks away.

A smart government would tone down its celebrations at this particular time. A smarter government of course would immediately engage its populace and show them that the long promised reforms are immediately introduced in tangible forms in order not only to momentarily ameliorate their citizens’ senses, but to simply make good on its promises.

What do Bahraini citizens want? Live in dignity and have their basic human rights, and intellect, respected. Translating that into practical terms, I personally think the very first thing that should be enacted is the declaration of an impartial truth and reconciliation committee with all relevant powers, the rescinding of contentious laws, particularly 56/2002 and the enacting free press and respect for freedoms of association and speech.

Will the government be cognizant of these feelings and acquiesce to these reasonable requests? Especially when you consider that these very factors will strengthen their position and perpetuate their rule?

I don’t know. After ten years of promises, I feel its high time that those promises are enacted.

The last thing we need is even more strife in this country. We’ve had enough.


Wake up calls…

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Read Eric Goldstein’s articles in Foreign Policy if you have a chance. The gist of it is the realisation which should be visited to all heads of state is this:

A government that crushes dissent and censors the media might preside over relative prosperity and make the trains run on time, but its real stability remains in doubt as long as its citizens cannot express grievances through peaceful and open channels.

Need I transpose the paragraph above to our media and freedom of expression situations in Bahrain?

Oh and another thing, slap as much make-up on a sow but the pig will remain a pig. So fixing the situation is not only the necessary thing to do, but the smart thing that will ensure longevity.

The flurry of announcements by senior government and ruling family officials since Friday last are exemplary, and the various meetings with the plebs too, but action is what is needed now, not words and not public relations.

Simple gestures like reforming the constitution, the press and criminal laws and allowing independent and free media organisations would be a good start to rebuild a solid foundation.

Just sayin’


From one extreme…

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Whenever something gets banned, people will find a way around it. Simple human nature. This is even more so if the entity doing the banning is a government. Tunis – yes, the laundry is being well and truly aired about that oh-so-stable country aplenty now – has not only banned the call to prayer on their official TV channels, but has also banned all religious programming on them too. Guess what happened immediately after their dictator was thrown out:

Tunisian TV channel resumes Adhan broadcasting

January 17th, 2011 – 11:17 UTC by Andy Sennitt.

A Tunisian TV channel has reportedly resumed broadcasting the Adhan [Call to Prayer] after the ousted president Zine El Abidin Ben Ali fled the country amid widespread anti-government protests. Ben Ali ended his 23-year rule on Friday after weeks of street protests all over the North African country.

The Arabic language Al-Mofakirat Al-Islam website said in a report that Tunisia’s Channel 7 TV resumed broadcasting Adhan five times a day. “He (Ben Ali) was against broadcasting Adhan, holding Friday prayers in mosques during his rule,” the website said. The ousted president was also “bitterly opposed to hijab (Islamic dress code) and imposed a ban on many veiled Muslim women,” Al-Mofakirat Al-Islam added.

Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for more than two decades. His era was marred by repeated human rights violations and torture. On Sunday, acting leaders in Tunisia discussed the composition of a unity government as post-revolution unrest continues to grip the North African country.

Source: Press TV via Media Network

I’m willing to bet that the pendulum now will swing from the one extreme of robbing the Tunisian people of one important element of their identity, religion – through to the other end and we’ll see the rise of Islamism and Islamist sentiments.

So who and what gets sacrificed at the alter of extremism? Common sense and moderation.

We have quite a lot to learn from the “Tunisian Experiment”, and the wise will benefit most if they take time to understand what transpired and why and try to enact those lessons in their own societies with the inculcation of the respect for human rights and their freedoms of faith, association, thought and speech, and not to shove one doctrine or another down people’s throats.

The next few months and years will be very interesting indeed for Tunis and the Arab world in general. I just hope that this transition, painful as it will be, will be beneficial with the minimum loss of life and hardships.