What an ordinary Arab citizen wants |
Arab News - 15 July, 2012
Author: Tariq Al-Homayed
If the Arab Spring were a novel, then it ought to end with the words “and the mother of Bouazizi was imprisoned nearly 18 months after the Tunisian revolution,” particularly after everything that has been written about Mohamed Bouazizi. Bouazizi, of course, is the figure who is viewed as the “catalyst” or “inspiration” for the Arab Spring, after he set himself on fire in protest against the former Ben Ali regime of Tunisia.
The story, to those who don’t know, is that Manoubia Bouazizi exploded in anger toward a Tunisian state official because of a delay in her access to a government service in Sidi Bouzid, which is considered the cradle of the Tunisian revolution. As a result of this, the decision was taken to place the mother of Mohamed Bouazizi under arrest pending investigation. What happened to Manoubia is something that could have occurred to her son Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire, indeed his story was clearer, for he was protesting against the Tunisian authorities despite the fact that he did not have a street vendor’s license. Despite this, he exploded in anger and set himself on fire and is viewed as the catalyst of the revolution, whereas when his mother expressed her anger — following the revolution — she was imprisoned, and nobody interceded on her behalf despite the fact that she is the mother of the man who set himself on fire in protest against Ben Ali, or even because she is a woman!
Someone might ask: How could this happen? The answer is simple, and that is that the Arab citizen today — any citizen — does not pay any attention to what is being said by intellectuals or ideologues or anyone else, rather all that an Arab citizen wants is a dignified life, and the provision of his basic demands without any complication. Arab citizens want security, health care, education, their daily bread, and more than anything else; respect. These are the simple uncomplicated demands of Arab citizens, whilst we find the opposite amongst those leading the change today in the Arab Spring states, as well as those who support them. To summarize the Arab scene today, what we have witnessed is the ouster of those who were holding the reins of power and the arrival of those who previously aspired to power, nothing more and nothing less. The evidence is that the Arab Spring states are still drowning in power struggles and conflicts over drafting constitutions, arguing over who should have what power and what position, whilst the needs of the people are still not being seriously discussed, let alone the issue of preserving people’s dignity.
Therefore, the debate continues to rage about the sources of legislation, rather than the sources of feeding the people. The debate rages on distributing positions and powers, rather than the regime rushing to look at the needs of the people. Someone might say that there have been a huge number of protests and strikes in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, and this is what has hindered the return to daily life.
However this is not true, rather the ongoing power struggle represents the most important cause hindering the political process in the Arab Spring states. Unfortunately, the reality in the Arab world tells us that nobody has learned the simplest lesson, which is also a historical constant, namely that no party is capable of excluding another, and that people will not cheer for slogans and promises. The ousted regimes were not able to exclude those they considered their enemies, whilst the new regimes will not be able to exclude those who viewed them as enemies in the past. This is because states are not built on exclusions, but rather coexistence and providing a dignified life to the people, anything else is a luxury.
n The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.