Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters
It is a customary practice to see Arab people browse for fresh news of the ongoing Arab revolts, called the Arab Spring. They find civil unrest in Tunisia, riots and regime destabilization in Bahrain, tribal armed clashes in post-Gaddafi government in Libya, military conflicts with Islamic fundamentalists in Yemen, recurrent mass protests and disorderliness in post-Mubarak Egypt, regime’s massacres and bloodthirsty assaults on civilians in Syria and so on. So they wonder why Arab people have to pay this bloody cost for a shift from autocracy to democracy. They try to contemplate what the Arab revolts have missed, which led to this long road of agony and turmoil to attain democracy and freedom.
Apart from the effects of the longstanding reign of ruthless dictators, Arab’s social and political movements missed having the first significant step towards democracy. They missed to have a transitional period, named the ‘Liberalization’ process. Actually, malcontented Arabs have marched on randomly toward their objectives without prior political planning, tactical preparations or predesign to cope with the expected consequences of such life-or-death power struggle.
Typically, the purpose of adopting a liberalization process is to put gradational pressure on authoritarian rulers, military elites and interest groups to moderate their power grip to secure some civil rights in return for some stability. This transitional process or passage is meant to protect, to some extent, individuals and social groups from the tyranny and malpractices of authoritarian regimes. It is also recommended because it allows the economy and civil society of the country to rearrange its tracks to deal with the incoming irregular situation. Each liberalization process, whether it is conducted in a peaceful way or revolutionary mode, has to have its own form, phases and pathways.
In effect, similar transitional processes are patterned either in low-pressure manner and/or in a revolutionary mode depending on the level of motivation and tolerance of the commonalty. Ruling politicians usually play, designedly or not, pivotal role in the change process, seeing that soft-liners and hard-liners alike, are always anxious to retain control and preserve their interests. While soft-liners tend to position themselves gradually in chorus with the sense of change to contain and de-escalate the motion of the opposition, hard-liners employ their excessive authority to hamper and countermine people’s revolt, or conduct unrestrained oppressive armed operations in the name of public stability and country’s interest.
Though most Arab revolutions have managed to overthrow their despotic regimes, they’re yet to bring real democratic reform to their nations. Unfortunately, unheeding the importance of transitional process is the initial reason why Arab democratic activists could not transmute people’s massive support into new common political drive. This, however, is because Arab civil societies and political movements were not preconditioned to cope with such political vacuum at which they lost grudgingly the political theater to the most organized parties— in most cases, the Islamist parties.
Following the victories of the revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen, Arabs, by and large, were — as now — ready to go through a real free democratic society. Yet, there are growing doubts that Arab Spring countries will not enjoy a West-like democracy in the near future. Most likely, they will have recurring free elections at best. Apparently, there is a realistic ground for similar political analyses and forewarnings. This is mainly because democracy, or as sometimes called majoritarianism, is rationalized here and now as a form of governance only, whereas its first base is to give rise to a national mindset of free will that honors human rights and civil liberties.
The fact is that though Arab Spring countries have accomplished free multiparty elections, they’re still falling short from advancement and applying two of the most vital concepts of democracy: justice and equality. As yet, none of the new parliaments and governments have drafted or constituted laws and decrees to bring forth some rights to Arab women and children, for instance, or to equalize legally between their various social and religious fabrics. Seemingly, justice and equality are not on the priority lists of the newly elected rulers, seeing that solidifying power and taking vengeance are topmost items of their agendas.
Freedom, justice and equality are the cornerstones in building any civilized society or nation. Actually, the belief that political policies should make people equal was massively adopted long since the French Revolution in 1789 and the American civil war in 1861. Beyond these dimensions, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, along with its Civil Rights subcategory, has guaranteed by international law three main groups of rights, namely:
a) Individual civil and political liberties (freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture; freedom of movement, association, expression; religious and philosophical liberty; the right to privacy; the right to vote; and the right to a fair trial).
b) Social and economic rights and freedoms (rights to education, health care, work, fair conditions of employment, and to maintain a minimum standard of living).
c) The collective rights (the rights of populace) designed to advance the position of minorities and to encourage self-determination and equality.
Alas, none of the like seems to be materialized before long in the Middle East arena. Would the Arabs re-calibrate the outcome of their Arab Spring before it is too late?Author’s Note: This article is also published at the Arabian Gazette website