Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Intifada Over the Arab World?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The riots that have erupted in Tunisia and Algeria over the past few weeks should sound an alarm bell in the rest of the Arab world. The "intifada," or popular uprising, in Tunisia and Algeria could mark the beginning of a larger campaign to get rid of the Arab totalitarian regimes.

The Arab dictators have good reason to be worried: the violence, which has claimed the lives of dozens of protesters in the two police states, is now being described as an "intifada"-- riots not only over unemployment and high food prices, but an expression of an increased sense of frustration with authoritarian regimes.

Instead of addressing the real problems facing their people, the dictators of Tunisia and Algeria have deployed thousands of police officers and soldiers to crack down on the protesters. The dictators have chosen to tackle the problem as if it were a security issue and not a genuine expression of frustration with financial and administrative corruption and a yearning for democracy.

Once, many young Arabs used to emigrate to Europe and North America in search of jobs and a better life. But the new restrictions imposed by Western countries on legal and illegal immigration have forced many Arabs to remain in their countries – making them more likely to vent their anger against their dictators and governments.

Arab dictators have never cared about the future and well-being of their constituents. These tyrants care only about keeping their kingdoms and fiefdoms and stealing the money of their people.

Most Arab countries are facing the same economic problems that have sparked the riots in Tunisia and Algeria. Many Middle East analysts are convinced that it is only a matter of time before the unrest spreads to other Arab countries.

The dictators of Tunisia and Algeria are now using every possible means to suppress the demonstrators, including opening fire at unarmed civilians on the streets and the arrest of political opponents, journalists and bloggers. But the repressive measures employed by the two police states will only aggravate the situation and strengthen the protesters.

True, young Tunisians and Algerians are desperate because of the bad economy in their countries: it has become increasingly difficult for university graduates to find jobs in Tunisia and Algeria. But the demonstrators there are not only looking for jobs. The message that they are sending is that they, like the majority of Arabs, are fed up with bad government and dictatorships.

The question now remains when Arabs living under other repressive regimes will follow suit.

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Khaled Abu Toameh

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