Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egypt and Tunisia - is this the start of a 1989 for the Arab world?

1989 saw the end of decades long repression of the people of Europe east of the iron curtain.   Some of the countries have done well, others not so well, but in general it has been a success and most of the nations are now functioning democracies.    This sort of change is needed in the Arabic world.

At the moment there is not a single fully functioning democracy in the Arabic world.   The most open and democratic country is Israel but the Arabs are a discriminated minority in that country.  The next most democratic is Jordan, though it compares badly against full democracies.   Bahrain may be moving towards an open society, but it has a long way to go.   In general the people of the Arabic world have no freedom of speech, freedom of religion or freedom of assembly.    It is region where human rights have never been important to the rulers.

The events in Tunisia and Egypt are showing that the people are interested in having a free and open society.   The people are going into the streets like the East Germans did in Leipzig in 1989 and hoping the military is not going to mow them all down.  As we have now seen in Egypt, the military is staying out of it.  

In 1989 who could have seen the cascade of events that happened?   First Poland in September, then Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and finally Romania at the end of December.   In less than four months the political status quo of Europe changed.

We now have demonstrations in two countries, but we also have a much easier flow of information now than even ten years ago.  People all over the Arabic world are seeing for the first time ever Arabs rising up and demanding open and representative governments.  How long will people in Libya or Syria continue to accept being repressed second class citizens in their own nations?   How long will the people of Jordan tolerate a king that has the power to overrule the will of the people if he disagrees with the parliament?  

My hope is that 2011 becomes the 1989 for the Arabic world and that the people will finally be able to enjoy the most basic human rights.
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