Monday, 14 March 2011

Arab drive for freedom cannot be stopped

CRACKDOWNS on protest merely postpone the day of reckoning – Arabs now have a shared, unstoppable drive for freedom.

That's the message from blogger and journalist Brian Whitaker in an article on the Guardian website.

He writes: "The fact that autocratic regimes in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are fighting back with lethal force should surprise no one.

"The more surprising thing is that Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt – two leaders previously regarded as firmly entrenched – were toppled after such a short struggle.

"Nor does the fightback mean that the outlook for democracy is dimming across much of the Middle East. Looking at the region as a whole, the prospects have never been brighter.

"Even if Gaddafi does succeed in quelling the Libyan uprising, it will be no more than a temporary setback for the wider Arab revolution: battles are being fought in too many places and on too many different fronts for anyone to stop it now.

"An important factor in this is Arabs' sense of a common identity: they are aware of what is happening in neighbouring countries and draw inspiration from it with regard to their own situation.

"The sight of grandees from the old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt being arrested on sundry charges of corruption, money laundering and murder gives them hope and encouragement.

"Similarly, the opening up of free media in those countries is having an effect elsewhere: in Jordan last week, 600 journalists demonstrated against government interference and censorship.

"This kind of cross-fertilisation (or infection, as the regimes see it) is happening in many areas.

"Toppling two of the Middle East's tyrants in little more than two months is no mean achievement, and all the other regimes have been severely shaken – even those that claim to be secure.

"Initially, that raised hopes extraordinarily high and the regimes' fightback has injected a dose of realism. It does not mean the revolution is failing or fizzling out but it does show that many people were expecting too much too soon.

"The far-reaching changes that the Arab countries need are social as much as political – and that will take time. Even in Tunisia and Egypt there are protracted struggles ahead.

"But the old regimes cannot survive indefinitely. A few years from now most of them will be gone or transformed beyond recognition."