Arab failure… again? [Archives:2003/07/Viewpoint]

February 17 2003

The present time constitutes a major test to Arab nations and leaders. In a time when war is being prepared by the US and Britain, Arabs are witnessing one of their weakest and most humiliating moments.
It is truly a pity to see the whole world protesting in millions the possible strike against Iraq, while we Arabs continue to go on in a trance that we have been put in by our oppressive and backward regimes.
Despite the fact that it is us Arabs who should be the first to protest and call for demonstrations in solidarity with our Iraqi and Palestinian brothers, we seem to be the only ones not so enthusiastic about going to the streets and expressing our anger.
“If fifty or more people try to gather in Al-Tahrir Square, the city center, for a demonstration, they are immediately dispersed or arrested by the police forces,” said one of the Yemenis I asked of the reason why we are so quiet.
Our regimes have made us afraid of protesting and think that it is against the law. In fact, a new law has been approved in Yemen to limit the right of demonstrations creating obstacles and challenges to all those who want to express their opinions.
“Even when we are allowed to protest, we are given posters of the president to raise them high during the protest,” he added. “In a time we are protesting oppression possible oppression against Iraq by a foreign state, we are suffering of oppression in our own countries. I just hope that our leaders realize the damage they have done to our reputation through their cruel actions against their own people.”
Yemenis, like many other Arab citizens fear going to the street without the permission of the state, which mostly doesn’t permit demonstrations unless it serves its own interests. Looking at the millions who demonstrated last Saturday in the streets of London against their own Prime Minister, we need to gain more self-confidence and trust in that people are the ones who should speak out if governments are too weak to do so.
It is us, the public, who should exert pressure on our governments to not blindly support the superpower of the world in all its actions. But how can we raise our voices if we are not even given permission to gather in the city center?
On the other hand, our Arab foreign ministers are still debating the program and timing of the urgent summit to be held in Cairo. They have not come to any consensus on how to handle the event, and how to go about it. They have shown how scattered, divided, and weak we are as nations. They have brought us embarrassment by not being able to come to common grounds on vital issues such as this eminent war.
Will Arabs fail again to bring about a positive change in heart and unite our stance?
From what I see so far, they wouldn’t, and they will fail . . .again!