BURAK BEKDİL > Enjoy your Arab Spring!

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“The goal is to stop Israel from turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city.” Readers of this column may think this paragraph will continue with a reference to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who in the past did not hide his dream “to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Palestinian capital Jerusalem.” But no.

The opening line, this time, belongs to Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who in the same speech praised the fighters who bombed the pipeline that carries natural gas from Egypt to Israel. The Arab Spring may have helped Egypt free itself from the dictator Hosni Mubarak but now it risks turning into a bloody arena between the ones like Mr. Mubarak and the ones like Mr. al-Zawahiri.

Eighteen months after the start of the Egyptian Spring, the country’s military leaders have issued constitutional decrees that give the armed forces vast powers and the presidency a subservient role, including granting themselves legislative powers, control of the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution.

No matter which one of the two self-declared winners wins, Egypt’s first free elections are full of systemic fraud including ballot box stuffing, voter bribing, voter intimidation and attacks near polling stations. That’s not surprising if you recall last month’s attack on secular candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s office after the election committee announced that Mr. Shafiq would face the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Mursi.

The Algerians, with bitter experience, cry and warn that Egypt could plunge into an Algeria-like scenario of violent strife. “Egypt’s transition,” American scholar Nathan Brown recently commented in the Guardian, “May well be from military dictatorship to presidential dictatorship.” (No typo here: Mr. Brown said Egypt, not Turkey.)

In Tunisia, Salafis burn police stations, cafes and bars, lash out at tourists and students, attack dramatists and ransack art exhibitions. The Kahwa al-Alia, a highly celebrated café in Sidi Bou Said since the end of the 19th century and a popular tourist attraction, was attacked and burned down. Mr. al-Zawahiri had recently urged Tunisians to riot against the government – and all things “un-Islamic.”
As a result, Tunisia, the “success story of the Arab Spring,” had to impose a curfew on eight regions including the capital, Tunis. And the U.S., Switzerland, Belgium and Austria have issued travel warnings urging caution to their citizens planning trips to “success story” Tunisia.

Meanwhile, in Libya, the National Transitional Council has ordered the military to use “all means necessary” to end clashes in the country’s west. Tripoli has also called for the creation of humanitarian corridors in “now-democratic Libya,” just like were proposed for “undemocratic Syria.”

The government declared the area a “military zone” following clashes between fighters from the Zintan and El-Mashashia tribes killed 14 and wounded nearly 100 people. And Zintan is the same tribe whose leader Ali Daw Zintani in March raided a five-star Turkish hotel in Tripoli, the Rixos Al Nasr, and kidnapped the hotel’s manager because he was asked to pay after a six-month stay. The gentleman Mr. Zintani benevolently agreed to release the manager after probably having recalled the Turkish support for the toppling of the tyrant Colonel Gadhafi.

In the country’s south more than 20 people were killed last week in inter-tribal clashes between the Saharan Toubou tribe and the Arab Zwei tribe. But most ironically, a vehicle carrying Britain’s ambassador to Libya was attacked by propelled grenades in Benghazi only days after a bomb went off just outside the U.S. consulate in the same city, the cradle of last year’s uprising supported by the U.S. and Britain. Ungrateful Libyans!

Luckily, the first 18 tumultuous months of the Arab Spring have passed. Once we deal with the next 180 tumultuous months, then the final 1,800 tumultuous months will be very easy to tackle.


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Notice on comments

Thracian Anatolian

6/20/2012 9:30:13 PM

There is nothing surprising that these countries should still be experiencing problems in their quest for democracy. The Europeans did not come to have democracy overnight either. So what right do we have to expect so much from the Arab Spring countries in so little time? Furthermore, there is no single pathway to democracy to which all countries are obliged to follow, that view is euro-centric and outdated.

US Observer

6/20/2012 8:26:42 PM

It's factual to say Democratic nations tend to be more peaceful than other forms of government. You may be right Cloud, maybe it never does happen in the ME. My contention is if it was going to happen, it will take generations to do it. The military in Egypt would be the bridge..much like Turkish military was for many years. We see how appreciated their efforts are around here.

Agnes Smith

6/20/2012 5:58:55 PM

BB keep up the good work - Been too incenced by the MA (as usual). You are the fresh air and he is a genious gowing backward - such a shame.

mengü çağatay özer

6/20/2012 5:38:29 PM

this is not arap spring this is muslim massacring !!!

Turk down under

6/20/2012 5:34:03 PM

How does the saying go? "The more things change, the more they stay the same" Burak bey, Fantastic! Yet again you you manage to present a clear picture, this time about the "Arab Spring" maybe we should re-name it "The Wests delusion"

mara mcglothin

6/20/2012 5:08:19 PM

CLOUD CHASER Democracy can't be forced, BUT how do you explain to someone what chicken tastes like, if they have never eaten it before? Sometimes you not only have to take the horse to water, but insist that he drinks so he can understand the benefit. There are enough Western educated people in Egypt who know what democracy is, but will their countrymen ever understand the principles of the protection of the minority etc?

Aslam Benli

6/20/2012 4:52:23 PM

calling for riots against all things “un-Islamic”, Al-Zawahiri is calling for the creation of the Great Caliphate? the only question is who will be the Supreme Ruler: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or better, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan...

cloud chaser

6/20/2012 4:14:15 PM

@US Observer I never did believe that democracy can be successfully enforced from without. I know Iraq was supposed to be modeled after MacArthur's Japan, but as I understand it, even to this day japan is still very much feudal culturally and politically. The only places were democracy holds are places were it was part of the foundation (e.g. USA) or enforced from the bottom up (e.g. france, and even they reverted to napoleon a couple of times). Sadly, democracy can't be enforced on a people.

US Observer

6/20/2012 2:18:43 PM

The Arab Spring came on its own without Western influence, although I see where some of you are making the connection. It's true, the thought was if you can establish Iraq as a Democracy it would spread to the region. I don't think anyone thought it was be soemthing quick though or that an Arab Spring would of happened so fast. Iraq is not even stable and on the brink of collapse. It will take a generation or maybe even 2 for that part of the world to see sustainable change.

david ellison

6/20/2012 12:48:41 PM

How do you manage to get away with it? I actually suggest that the weastern press is so tied up in the "glory" of the freedom fighters, they take no time to review the realities of the changes. Its a case of not confusing great stories with facts. Thank you for your honest appraisal . Done with humor also
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