Tyrants still refuse to go gracefully into the night. Most fight and are quite prepared to destroy everything which makes the next leader a likely tyrant as well. Even when the transition is peaceful enough, it is often enough all hijacked by another tyrant. Of course, tribalism has always been a convenient shortcut to tyranny as well.
Libya and Sudan prove that the simple struggle for freedom and democracy persists in the region. It’s the world that is determined to see it die.
12 June 2019
It might sound absurd to make such a statement, given the usual and not entirely erroneous presentation of chaos and violence that has come to popularly define what is occurring in many of the struggles in the region.
Some have attempted to make the Arab spring ‘unknowable’ as a socio-political phenomenon, all the better to obscure the intentions of its subjects and justify counterrevolution. But the reality is that its aims of establishing freedom and democracy in a region run by decades-old systems of tyranny exists beyond its popularly accepted timeline.
How many people in the liberal democratic world knew or cared about the daily lives and hopes of the millions of Mohamed Bouazizis who were struggling across the region? How many even considered the dreams and fears of the Khaled Saids? It was only through the former’s self-immolation and the latter’s torture and murder that ‘Arabs’ forced themselves into the consciousness of the collective world.
And, however fleetingly, the world cared.
But it was barely even a year after this that the perversely simplistic and cliched term ‘Arab winter’ began to become normalised. The main culprit in the pessimism of the world towards revolution in the Middle East and North Africa was so-called ‘Islamism’, but the dominance of ‘political Islam’ was always a simplistic false sunset.
As was the case in Egypt, Libya, Tunis, Syria and Yemen, the popular forces on the ground, often with overt democratic backing, were parties and movements that reflected the religiosity of the populations – a religiosity that had often been viciously repressed by ‘secular’ tyrants.
But so pervasive in the West was the ‘war on terror’-era doom-mongering (often deliberately conjured by those who supported counterrevolution) regarding anything overtly Islamic in politics, it was in silence or with tacit acceptance that the free world watched as true counterrevolution swept the region.
This counterrevolution took the form of, at the very best, democratic parties being forced from office, and, at the very worst, such as in Syria, genocide.
Those who had claimed the real ‘end’ of the Arab spring was events like the ‘Islamist’ Mohamed Morsi being elected to the office of the presidency in Egypt, were suddenly quiet when they saw what counterrevolution really looked like in the heaps of corpses in Rabaa square.
Those who claimed that counterrevolution had triumphed in Syria due to the rise of ‘Islamists’ among the Syrian rebels, could only offer silence or denial when they saw the pictures of the children gassed to death by Assad.
In almost every national situation where counterrevolution has triumphed, it has been allowed to do so without any hindrance by the democratic West – in fact, in many cases it’s with direct or indirect support from it.
One came to realise that it didn’t matter how many times the dynamic proved itself to be, no matter the various contradictions, one of democracy versus tyranny. There was never any true support for democracy from those who pretended to be its bastions and patrons, all while powerful foreign anti-democratic forces, such as Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, mobilised viciously on the side of counterrevolution to crush nascent democracy.
In the shadow of the Iraq war, anti-humanitarian intervention has come to define the modern era.
It’s why one can look at what’s currently occurring in Sudan and Libya and see that these situations are simultaneously proof of the life and death of the Arab spring. In the latter, we’ve seen popular pro-democracy protests forcing the removal of one of the world’s most murderous tyrants in Omar al-Bashir.
But it hasn’t taken long for counterrevolution to rear its ugly head.
The proponents of democracy in Sudan suddenly found themselves up against a familiar enemy. The Transitional Military Council (TMC), backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, moved from a conciliatory relationship with the protesters to murdering them. Echoing the massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Rabaa in Egypt in 2013, on June 3rd the Sudanese military began a brutal crackdown on the protesters. The concessions and conciliation had ended – over 100 were killed in one day.
The murder continues. As I write this, I read three more protesters have been killed in Khartoum – despite this brutality, thousands of Sudanese have joined a general strike against the TMC.
The free world should be rallying.
But as has been proven in Egypt, Yemen and, worst of all, Syria, the TMC and its backers in Sudan know that no amount of dead Sudanese is enough for the world to do anything. All they have to do is glance over the border towards Egypt and observe as Sisi’s counterrevolutionary regime is showered with support from Europe and the US.
At the UN, a draft resolution sanctioning the murderous TMC was predictably shot down by Russia and China. One suspects that this move saved those countries, such as the US and UK, who at least have to pretend to care about human rights, from the difficulty of having to act against their natural instincts of supporting the TMC.
In Libya, eight years after the overthrowing of Gaddafi, not only does peace in that country seem to be remote, but some of the same powers who supported and participated in the NATO-led no-fly zone that aided the revolution are now directly involved in stoking war.
Though France has condemned the would-be tyrant Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli to overthrow the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) , the fact that they have been arming and aiding him in this endeavour for over two years contradicts such condemnation.
Again, one ought not be swayed by the waves of Islamophobic propaganda on this. Though the GNA contains forces like the Muslim Brotherhood (proponents of Islamic democracy), the system it envisions for Libya is one of parliamentary democracy. Haftar, on the other hand, models himself on his ally Sisi, while he receives backing from the counterrevolutionary Saudi-Emirati bloc, Sisi’s Egypt and Russia. There would be no democracy in Haftar’s Libya.
France is merely a vanguard of the EU in Libya, where while lip service is paid to the GNA, the reality on the ground is support for Haftar. As is ever the case with Europe, and despite the conjuring of Haftar as a bastion of secularism against ‘Islamism’ (Haftar’s forces contain pro-Saudi Madkhali Salafists), the real problem is the GNA’s unwillingness to accept the EU’s colonial plans for migrant detention camps in Libya. Haftar, on the other hand, would have no problem in allowing such camps to stop the inflow of African migrants to Europe.
To cut several long stories short, if Haftar was to take Tripoli tomorrow and overthrow the GNA, the world would not do a thing about it. In fact, Europe would rejoice, while the US, which mainly follows Saudi Arabia on these things, would likely swiftly accept the status quo.
It’s so easy to speak of the death of the Arab spring or the onset of an ‘Arab winter’. And though the realities of the horror of the counterrevolution are not to be balked at, the continuing situations in Libya and Sudan prove that the simple struggle for freedom and democracy persists in the region.
It’s the world that is determined to see it die.