Showing posts with label Dignity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dignity. Show all posts

July 30, 2015

Beyond terrorism: Sousse attack, economic development, fair trade, and dignity

    Thursday, July 30, 2015   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*


The intent of those who planned and carried out the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia and the reactions to it, both underscore the idiosyncratic connections between economic development and terrorism. Importantly, the attack ought to remind us of the global nature and imperatives, not only of ISIL’s brand of terrorism, but also of economic development. Both problems, terrorism and lack of economic development in the Global South, must be confronted cooperatively, because European countries were indeed involved, directly and indirectly, in creating the kind of conditions that weaken their southern neighbors’ economies, which in turn have created the kind of environment most suitable for terrorism.


Zakaria Hamad
When 30 British citizens vacationing in the city of Sousse, Tunisia, were killed along with three Irish, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese, and one Russian, the Foreign Office ordered all but essential travelers to leave that country immediately. Habib Essid, Tunisia’s Prime Minister, said that his government would help to evacuate approximately 3,000 Britons, but told Tunisia’s parliament that he was “dismayed by the advice from the Foreign Office.” The Tunisian government said the UK “was damaging the country’s economy,” which is heavily reliant on tourism, and may end up inadvertently fueling poverty and therefore terrorism. Oliver Miles, a former UK ambassador to Libya and Greece “found the [UK]’s response puzzling.” Other commentators and international affairs analysts contended that Britain was “wrong to bring tourists home” because it would weaken the only true emerging democracy in that part of the world.

August 8, 2014

The paradoxical nature of religious and ethnic states and the genocidal impulses

    Friday, August 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 
The Arab Spring that freed some of the peoples of the Middle East from state imposed fear produced an existential challenge for increasingly heterogeneous communities, forcing people to define the nature of the state and the character of the country where they live. It is true that self-rule and self-determination require a sense of self. However, building stable countries in the new Middle East is tied to the peoples’ level of awareness of the genocidal impulse espoused by certain social groups amongst them. 

The old Middle East was built on an artificial foundation imposed by Western colonial and protective powers in the form of superficial liberal thought, imported Marxist ideas, petty ethnic identities, niggling tribal structures, and a variety of downwardly managed and imposed ideas. The regimes and political forces of the pre- and post-colonial periods exerted virtual monopoly on governing institutions in most Arab countries. During the second half of the twentieth century, Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, began to challenge nationalist, monarchical, and clannish regimes arguing that Islamism provides a more inclusive political ideology for the peoples of the Middle East than alien ideas or narrow Arabism.

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

April 24, 2011

Are Arab World Revolutions different?

    Sunday, April 24, 2011   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Family members mourn during a funeral for slain anti-government protester Ali Ahmed al Muameen on February 18, 2011 in Sitra, Bahrain. Credit: Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
When the first demonstration took place in Sidi Bouzid after Tarek (Mohamed) Elbouazizi ignited the Arab revolutions by setting himself on fire in protest, the Tunisian government played down the event claiming that it was a local matter. Two weeks later, the protests became an uprising and spread to most Tunisian provinces forcing the head of the authoritarian regime, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia.

February 14, 2011

Egypt reclaims its dignity

    Monday, February 14, 2011   No comments
BY JEFF CHARIS-CARLSON • IOWA CITYSCAPES • FEBRUARY 14, 2011

To help make sense of last week's announced resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, I turned to Ahmed Souaiaia, a University of Iowa professor who teaches classes in Religious Studies, International Programs and Law.

• Q: What do you think was the final straw to trigger the recent revolution in Egypt that led to last week's resignation by President Hosni Mubarak?

• A: I am surprised by the quick success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, but I was not surprised by the launch of the uprisings. Anyone who follows the Middle East news on a regular basis and who takes the time to read the comments on Aljazeera and Alarabia websites would see the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. The success of the Tunisian revolution, which was ignited by Mohamed Elbouazizi's dramatic self-immolation, was the singular event that pushed the Egyptians beyond the threshold fear and into hope.

The Arab world was the only block of countries to not experience political reform. It was a matter of time, not a matter of whether a revolution would take place.

• Q: What role has the media played in bringing out this transformation?

• A: Social networks have played a major role during the events (updates and coordination), but I am not sure that these tools played a major role in preparing Arab societies for transformative events.

I do believe, however, that Aljazeera television stations have played a major role in shaping public opinion. Aljazeera is the only Arab television channel that is credible enough to be trusted by millions of people across the Arab world. Aljazeera achieved its status because of its consistency. For more than a decade, Aljazeera was subjected to repeated bans by authoritarian regimes, which only added to its credibility.

• Q: What happens next? If Tunisia led to Egypt, what does Egypt now lead to?

• A: That is a little difficult to predict, but if I were to try, I would look at countries whose governments have banned Aljazeera now or in the past. This is not to say that Aljazeera is orchestrating the events, but regimes that ban Aljazeera are afraid of free access to information, they are paternalistic, they have marginalized their citizens, they rule with fear and deception, they assassinate the spirit of belonging in their peoples, and they abuse human dignity.

Another way of gauging where the wave of change is heading next is to look at countries where one person or one party exerts an exclusive monopoly on power: they are the police, they are the judges, they are the legislators, and they are the administrators. They benefit from having that much power, but that makes them the focus of peoples' rage and anger. They are the only available targets for blame, especially in a climate when there is no credit to be gained.

This means that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya and other Gulf states will have to adjust and allow the emergence of civil society institutions and share governance power or suffer the same fate.

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions should teach the rest of Arab authoritarians that if they do not reform today, they will go tomorrow just like Ben Ali and Mubarak did. The reform cannot be cosmetic, it must be substantive, real and systematic. The rest of the Arab rulers must cede some power to their peoples or lose it all.

• Q: What should the position of the Obama Administration be right now in regards to the transition of power in Egypt?

• A: Nothing more than a declaration of respect for the will of the Egyptian people. The U.S. administration needs to realize that just as it was incapable of predicting the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian authoritarians or managing the direction of their transitions, it will be unable to influence the future of these emerging democracies. The U.S. administration must respect the will of the peoples, as I believe most Americans do, and must not dictate the terms of transition. Tunisians and Egyptians have risen up because their regimes stripped them of their dignity.

The U.S. should not remind them of the paternalistic mode of thinking and doing things; dictating did not work in the past and it will not work in the long run. The U.S. administration ought to trust that the Egyptians will do the right thing. The mutual respect that President Obama had promised the Islamic world in his first State of the Union Address must be practiced today with the peoples who rose up against dictators and tyrants.

• Q: If the Obama Administration does decide to take steps to ensure that the next Egyptian government is friendly to the U.S. (including giving access to the Suez Canal and maintaining peace with Israel), does it still have the leverage necessary to take any of those steps?

• A: I think that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were uprisings against fear. Tunisians and Egyptians rose up to reclaim their dignity as human beings, as citizens; not as subjects or as helpless children.

Contrary to what many claim, it was not a revolt primarily for bread, jobs, democracy or religion. They rose up to reclaim their dignity.

The U.S. administration can be best served by respecting the Egyptians and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. I honestly believe that the millions of Egyptians who have slept in the cold in the streets for 18 consecutive nights, resisted the provocation and brutality of the regime and its thugs, and kept the protest peaceful and orderly, are also capable of respecting the rights of other nations.

I am confident that Egyptians will stand for world peace, but not at the expense of their own dignity and interests. If the U.S. secures its rights, the Egyptian people, represented by democratically elected government, will be a constructive partner and ally. In other words, the U.S. can no longer buy consent and compliance, it must negotiate respectfully.

We now know the fate of trusting one person or one party at the expense of the rights and dignity of people. Kings and authoritarians are destined to go, but the people will remain. For a long-lasting peace and stability in this important place in the world, I advise the U.S. administration to do the right thing, not the expedient thing.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435.


February 13, 2011

Egyptians are taking their country back

    Sunday, February 13, 2011   No comments

Source: • GUEST OPINION • Press-Citizen FEBRUARY 12, 2011

Three Thursdays ago, I made a bet with one of my students in front of all his classmates: Hosni Mubarak will be out of power in less than 30 days.

Today, I know that I will be eating my pizza soon.

On the third Friday since the beginning of the uprising, at 10 a.m. CST, Umar Suleiman emerged on state television to say, “The Egyptian president, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, has resigned and handed over the administration of country to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. May God help us all.”

Immediately thereafter, the millions of Egyptians who filled the streets for nearly three weeks hugged one another crying and declaring, “Mabruk! (Congratulations!)”

For 18 days, thousands of Egyptians slept on cold concrete, lost more than 300 of their brethren, nursed the wounds of nearly 5,000 friends, and shared dried loaves of bread and bottled water. On the third Friday, they reclaimed ownership of their country and recommitted themselves to a pluralistic society.

Listening to the reaction of Egyptians to the announcement for which they waited for three weeks, one can sense the rebirth of Egyptian pride and Egyptian citizenship. One can sense that this revolution was not primarily about democracy, it was not about bread, it was not about jobs, and it was not about religion. It was about reclaiming dignity and defeating fear first and foremost.

Soon Egyptians will begin cleaning their streets and mending relationships. They will begin the long and arduous task of rebuilding a nation for every Egyptian. They will begin a new future not just for themselves, but the rest of the Arab world.

The rest of the world should give the Egyptians time to mourn and time to celebrate. They should be given the time to breathe the air of freedom without fear. They should be given the time to find themselves, again.

Egyptians will need to put their house in order and they deserve the consideration to do so without interference and without pressure. Tomorrow, Egypt will be back as a member of the world community that respects others, but more than anything else, respects its citizens.

Ahmed Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs and College of Law at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

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