Difficult equationAvoiding devastation by peaceful power transfer [Archives:2005/842/Opinion]

May 16 2005

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz al-Tarb
What can we expect from a region whose government suppresses public liberties, administratively cancels citizenships and practice political blackmailing. Their elections reproduce ruling elite.

The recent report on Arab World's development, focusing this time on freedom, has presented a view on facts of governance and life in the Arab area. It has no defect but it's not clearly prescribing a potion to escape our predicament and dilemma. Such a solution could not have been by putting the full responsibility on the governments or the public. However, following diagnosis, the elites can set up the “salvation” agendas to avert the looming devastation. This depends on a difficult equation revolving around peaceful and thorough transfers of power. The following are the most important freedom-related topics set forth by the report:

– Partial reform is no longer sufficient however wide it is. Indeed, it has become impossible.

– Politically, manacing human development has the severest effect on the rising opportunities.

– Continued Israeli occupation, Iraq's occupation and strong terrorism trends have dire consequences on human development in the Arab World.

– Israel has kept on violating freedom, public and personal liberties of the Palestinians. It has accelerated its policy to demolish houses and bulldozering properties.

– Under occupation and poor state of security in Iraq, Iraqi lives have been subject to death. Thousands of Iraqis, most of whom are civilians, are arrested, tortured, inhumanely and immorally treated. That flagrantly violated Geneva Conventions.

– Some of the reforms are real and promising but all of them do not address the liberty-suppressing atmosphere.

– The Arab area which is the worst in terms of dealing with journalists was described by Reporters Sans Borders' Report as “The Second Largest Prison in the World.”

– Freedom, especially the freedom of expression and creation are facing many forms of oppression in most Arab states.

– Elections did not serve their purpose as a way for participation and power transfer. They reproduced the same ruling classes in most cases.

– The most atrocious measure against citizenship is the possibility to cancel an Arab national's citizenship. Some Arab legislatures tend to adopt such an administrative measure. Qatar has recently cancelled the citizenship of some 6 thousand nationals because of tribal and inter-Arab disputes.

– Women in general complain of lack of equality with men and discrimination against them in law and in reality.

– The respondents in the freedom survey showed a relatively higher level of personal liberty and relatively appreciated their enjoyment of public liberties especially those pertaining to good governance.

– Until recently, international forces turned a blind eye to human rights violations in the Arab World as long as the concerned countries do not threaten their interests (oil and Israeli security).

– The issue of freedom is not backed by Arab political movements with broad public bases that struggle for its sake.

– Of the essential tenets of Islam, which are absent in today's world, are the establishment of good governance and achievement of justice and equality as well as ensuring freedom, nation's right to appoint and dismiss rulers, and all private and public rights of non-Moslems.

– Constitutions authorize ordinary legislations to regulate freedom and rights. Most often, ordinary legislations tend to restrict rights and sometimes confiscate them under the pretext of regulation.

– Regulating the freedom of expression, the Arab legislators prefer security and public interest to the values of freedom, plurality, democracy and human rights.

– Taking into account the fact that the allotments for the judicial system is in the hand of the Executive Authority which intervenes in appointing judges, moving them, and dismissing them as well as the moral and financial privileges given to judges, all this undermines the autonomy of the judiciary in the Arab World.

– The common feature among the regimes is the concentration of power in the tip of the executive pyramid.

– There is what we may call the legitimacy of Arab blackmailing. Governments consider themselves the last defense line against the surge of extremist totalitarianism, chaos and State's collapse.

– Political parties are marginalized and the political process is not trusted.

– Presence of structural faults which can not be removed only through radical reforms of basic structure.

– Prolonging the current situation (development deficiency along with internal tyranny and external invasion) may lead up to a wider social conflict in the Arab World.

– The way to avert the looming devastation is the peaceful transfer of power through a historical process taken up by reform-supporters inside and outside the government. This should be aimed at enhancing freedom, rights and reforming constitutions and legislations related to the practice of political rights. The principle of equality in citizenship should be applied to all elements composing the social fabric in the country. This is the difficult equation as might be seen by anyone realizing the fact and desiring to reform things.

The above were the headlines of the crisis; do we have the solutions to them?