The Arab Spring in Doldrums
By Saeed Qureshi
The Arab Spring has gone into a mode of hibernation for the present. The advance of the much promising Arab Spring has been halted in Bahrain by
Saudi Arabia and in Syria by Iran. Paradoxically in Bahrain it is the Sunni minority that is ruling and in Syria conversely it’s the Shia majority that is in power. So the underlying motive behind undercutting these patently watershed revolutionary movments directed at removing the authoritarian and hereditary dispensations, carry religious undercurrents. The Saudi Royal government has put her entire weight behind Bahrain’s ruling family of Khalifah, so much so that the Saudi armed forces and their huge military hardware and weaponry has been placed at the disposal of the Bahrain’s dynastic rulers. In March last year Saudi Arabian troops entered Bahrain and opened fire on the protesters, killing an unspecified number of protesters.
Both Bahrain and Saudi governments have been united in brutally suppressing the mammoth protest crowds mostly staged and carried out by the Shia community. It is indeed an historic chance for the marginalized majority population to capture power in Bahrain was done in Tunisia and Egypt and even in Libya and Yemen. The Shia community is undauntedly determined to continue their protests despite soaring count of casualties and deaths, resulting from ferocious crackdown by the security forces. In March this year, about 100000 protesters staged another rally at Bahrain’s demolished Pearl Roundabout but were tear-gassed and dispersed by the security forces. In order to create a regional bulwark against the burgeoning influence of Iran in Bahrain, the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced to forge themselves into a confederation.
The practical application of this proposal, however, is still in the making. While In Bahrain it is Saudi Arabia and other Arab hereditary states to join hands for warding off the Iranian influence, in Syria it is Iran that is straining her to salvage and buoy-up the tottering and fast weakening regime of Bashar-al-Assad belonging to the fanatic Shia branch of Alovites. The Saudis and Iranians are not vying with each other for emancipation of the oppressed communities or the removal of the brutal autocratic regimes. Their principle objective is to keep the ruling cabals in power and not for upholding the rights of the majority to rule. If it should be the Shia majority to fight for their rights in Bahrain and get a share in power through a democratic process the same benchmark should also apply to Syria. In Syria, it is a Shia minority that Iran wants to remain at the helm and Sunni minority regime keep ruling the country by unleashing a reign of tyranny on the people demanding change.
As such the flame of emancipation for the centuries enslaved people that was so bright and dazzling two years ago in the aftermath of the Tunisian historic uprising against despotic rule of Ben Ali in Bahrain and Syria is losing its glow. There was a trail of such defining and epoch making developments in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The autocratic regimes fell like house of cards one after another. Bu all of a sudden there seems to be a halt for the Arab Spring to further flower and wash away the left over scourge of totalitarian regimes. This set back or lurch has come about because of the unpalatable fact that two regional adversarial powers with a backlog of unbridgeable historical discord in faith are determined to outdo each other. The Saudi royal regime is in agreement with both Israel and United states to destroy the ongoing Iranian nascent nuclear enrichment program geared towards developing a nuclear weapons capability. Ironically both profess Islam. In Syria whereas the protestors are supported by the Sunni Muslim states, the government is publicly supported by the Shia clerical regime of Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah. The protests and widespread anti-government demonstrations across Syria began in January 2011 and expanded into a countrywide uprising. In one year’s violent clashes between the anti-government armed combatants and government security forces and army, thousands of people have been killed. The violent civil war still continues entailing causalities on daily basis.
The Arab Spring is a gift of the modern age with autocratic regimes taking to democratic course and shedding family rules. But there are countries that keep their national interests in view and disregard these monumental and spectacular changes moving the world towards becoming an abode of justice, equality, rule of law and responsible elected popular governments. While China and Russia claim to be the supporters of the oppressed classes, they are averse to the change of the system in Syria. This kind of hypocrisy reflects the narrow interests of the respective states in face of the popular desire for change in their countries. That change is for accountable and elected governments, political emancipation, diversity of opinion, economic empowerment and the end of dynasties that deserve to be thrown into the dustbin of history. Now there would be a lull in the encompassing expansion of the Arab spring but finally the unpopular family medieval dynasties will have to vacate for the democratic dispensations. The world is now united and integrated via the information technology and no country can remain an island of isolation and darkness and shut off and block the onset of information traveling across the globe through twitter and face book and Google and other devices. If the traditional rulers in the Middle Eastern states occupying power through succession or by force do not see the inexorable change in the offing, they would sooner or later, be swept away by the currents of global emancipation and pulsating urge for liberty and pluralism.
The strong man in Yemen the former president Abdullah Saleh finally perceived that unavoidable and irresistible change after brutalizing their people. He finally gave in to the people’s demand for change and there is a representative form of government gradually firming itself. Thus Abdullah Saleh too saved his life. It offers a pragmatic cue that should be taken by unbending rulers and myopic heads of states in Jordan, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria and Kuwait. They cannot stop the march of history and the history declares these dynasties irrelevant in the modern times.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat