Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Freedom is the answer. Who's next?

I'm reposting this from the site Khalas, and reposting it without permission. I hope they won't mind. Please check out Khalas at http://enoughgaddafi.com/ You should also pick up the mixtape of hip-hop protest songs from artists all over the arab regions of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria. It's dope, even if you don't understand all the words! The mixtape can be found here.

Khalas is the arabic word for Enough. The Tunisians and the Egyptians had enough. Who's next? How Soon? Read on...

Click to play Omar Offendum, The Narcicyst, Freeway, Amir Sulaiman & Ayah - #Jan25

Protesters are confronted by riot police. (huffingtonpost.com)
There are many ways to take the life of a human being. There’s the Mubarak way: allow corrupt police officers to smash an innocent young man’s skull in broad daylight in front of witnesses, then let those officers go with little more than a slap on the wrist. There’s the Ben Ali way: over a lifetime deprive him of his dignity and means of supporting his family until he snaps and, out of sheer desperation, takes his own life. Then there’s the Gaddafi way: hang the young men in public, replay their execution on television over and over again, leave some of their bodies dangling from the gallows for days, and drag the rest through the streets for all to see and take heed, just as he did on February 17th, 1987.

Egypt and much of the Arab world wept for Khaled Said, for the needlessness of his murder, for its brutality, for the cheapness of his life in the eyes of the very government purporting to bring “peace” and “stability” to his country. Those of us on the outside watched with admiration as peaceful demonstrators lined the corniche in Alexandria last summer in silent protest, outnumbered by police in full riot gear, wondering if Said’s death would galvanize the Egyptian people to demand change. And now, seven months later, the people have finally risen up and said enough, have outnumbered the police and resisted their attacks, have scoffed at the regime as it digs in its heels and continues to hide behind its lies about “stability.” But what happened between Khaled Said’s tragic murder last June and the January 25th uprising that finally roused the sleeping giant in Egypt? The answer, as we all know, lies in Tunisia.

Tunisia and much of the Arab world wept, too, for Muhammad Bouazizi, not only because of the tragic circumstances of his suicide, but because so many Arabs understood all too well that feeling of impotence and rage that comes from having one’s head repeatedly stepped on—from being repeatedly violated—with no hope for justice and no way of fighting back. Bouazizi took his own life because he could no longer endure living under a system which had stripped him of his humanity, his livelihood and his future; in that state of mind, pushed beyond the limits of reason or hope, the idea of burning became less hateful to him in comparison. So, in a highly symbolic act, a young man driven to the brink lit his body on fire in a desperate attempt to communicate his suffering to the thugs who had terrorized him and to the regime they represented—to show them, by making it painfully clear on the outside, exactly what they had done to him on the inside.

By the look of Ben Ali’s expressionless face as he stood in front of the cameras in Bouazizi’s hospital room, it seemed that the young man’s tragic protest had barely registered with the autocrat. But for the Tunisian people, a nerve was struck, and the message had resonated loud and clear: enough. A short time later Ben Ali was on a plane to Saudi Arabia, and a collective shudder went up in the halls of leadership throughout the Arab world. But what happened between Bouazizi’s self-immolation on December 17th, his tragic death on January 4th, and Ben Ali’s previously inconceivable departure on January 14th? One can speculate about complex sets of factors, about timing, about Ben Ali’s mismanagement of the situation, about foreign manipulation, and so on, but I want to believe that the truth is far simpler: that the Tunisian people heard Bouazizi’s cries, and that they decided to fight for him. And once they did—once they began to unite, to organize and to resist—the paper tiger began to crumble. This is precisely why Ben Ali and his family fled Tunisia within such a short time after 23 long years in power, and why the supposedly indomitable Mubarak regime, even with the continued support of the most powerful nation in the world, now finds its back against a wall, confronted by a people who will no longer tolerate the status quo.

In the meantime, the question on everyone’s lips has been: where will it happen next? This is a crucial point that must be emphasized—the question itself has changed fundamentally. No longer can we speak of if and how, now the only valid questions are where and when. The events of Tunisia and Egypt represent a monumental paradigm shift in the politics of the Arab world, from which there is no turning back: what once seemed impossible we can no longer deny is possible. It follows that we have only ourselves to blame for our own inaction. Rulers can only govern with the consent of the ruled—whether tacit or explicit—and this they often achieve through coercion and violence, through the instillation of fear and apathy, and through the creation of illusions: illusions of strength, illusions of indestructibility, and above all, illusions of futility and hopelessness. The latter is the deadliest weapon at a tyrant’s disposal, and represents the most effective way of consolidating and maintaining power over the longterm.

In commemoration of the tragic events of February 17th, 1987, and of the events of February 17th, 2006 in which 18 demonstrators, mostly youth, were killed and at least 700 others arrested, many Libyans are calling for a day of peaceful protest this February 17th in cities throughout the country. The Gaddafi regime has responded to these calls with a campaign of fear, rounding up over a hundred community leaders, activists, bloggers, and tribal leaders in the city of Benghazi and threatening them with retaliation should they decide to take part in the planned demonstrations. Moreover, he has vowed to punish entire families if even one member joins in the day of commemoration.

In Tripoli, Gaddafi is taking a different tack; there, his local Revolutionary Committee (lajna thawriyya) is encouraging people to protest and even organized a protest of its own in front of a local Chapter of the General People’s Congress (lajna sha’biyya) during which it called for the people to rise up against the current Prime Minister, Baghdadi Mahmudi. It is unclear whether Gaddafi is trying to co-opt the demonstrations (to make them his own personal thawra as he has made everything in Libya over the past 40 years) and redirect them against anyone but himself (including his own Prime Minister who he didn’t hesitate to throw under the bus), or whether he is simply making a mockery of the calls for protest. What is clear is that the autocrat, after witnessing what happened to the neighbor to his west and what is now happening to the neighbor to his east, is taking every preemptive measure he can to prevent the Libyan people from gathering on the streets in opposition to him.

It is no coincidence that Gaddafi’s foremost concern throughout his four decades of rule has been the dismantling and prevention of even the most rudimentary forms of organization and civil society in Libya. Like all seasoned dictators, he understands very well that the main advantage his people have against him and his comparatively small circle of thugs is strength in numbers. Destroy the people’s ability to unite and to organize, and a country of millions is reduced to an atomized collection of isolated individuals standing alone before one man and his well-armed security apparatus. This was precisely the situation in Tunisia, until Bouazizi’s self-sacrifice shocked a weary nation into rising up and overthrowing a dictator; and this was precisely the situation in Egypt, until the Tunisian uprising showed Egyptians for the first time in decades that they could take control of their political future. Gaddafi knows this, and he is terrified of it.

No one has the right to chastise the Libyan people if they do not descend onto the streets en masse on February 17th—if they choose not to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones—and I cannot in good conscience ask such a thing when I live in a country where, only a few days ago, I marched with thousands of people through the streets of its largest city, in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia, with no threat to my safety whatsoever, and my right to protest protected by a constitution. This, despite the fact that I have never been so ashamed of my government for its hypocritical, cowardly and unprincipled response to the peaceful uprising in Egypt, even after our current president campaigned on a platform of “hope and change,” taking his lofty message to the Egyptian people nineteen months ago when he lectured them on democracy and his commitment to “governments…that reflect the will of the people.”

February 17th, 1987 and February 17th, 2006 were terrible days in Libyan history, but they were by no means unusual. It would be a mistake to say that Gaddafi has spilled the blood of the Libyan people as if it were water, because even water is a precious thing in Libya. His regime has destroyed a nation once brimming with potential; deprived generations of education, opportunity and hope; dragged a people’s name through the mud along with his own and those of his pathetic children. The Gaddafis and their cronies are the most shameless, the most backward, the lowest of Libya; the weakest of character and the least deserving of honor, respect or fear, let alone sovereignty. And I have no doubt that they are also the most fearful and the most cowardly; such people know only violence, intimidation and displays of brutality; they know nothing of courage or strength, and when confronted with a real threat, their fear becomes even more manifest in their abhorrent actions.

Click to play Ibn Thabit - Al-So'aal (The Question)

I have written before—and I still believe—that only the Libyan people can change their present condition, and only the Libyan people can decide when the time is right to do so. But it is my fervent hope that we all learn from the courageous examples of our Tunisian and Egyptian brothers and sisters, that we recognize that the question is no longer, “can it be done?” but, “when will we do it?”. When a large enough number of Libyans resolves to unite and organize around a common purpose; when they study and draw from the successes of their neighbors to the west and to the east; when they rise above the divisive and violent tactics of a tyrant; when they tire of being constantly lied to, condescended to, and mocked by an individual who seems to revel in insulting their intelligence; when they reject fear and apathy; when they reaffirm their sense of agency; and when they decide that the potential gains are worth the almost certain losses, then their own paper tiger will have no choice but to crumble. The great Tunisian poet Abul Qasim al-Shabi, like Muhammad Bouazizi, was only in his mid-twenties when he died in 1934, but over 75 years later his poetry lives on: its message, eerily prophetic; its words resurrected on the lips of countless hopeful, joyful people over the past weeks and months. His words ring truer with every passing day, and I never tire of hearing them: If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate must answer their call. Whatever happens this February 17th, I will continue to be proud of the Libyan people, and I pray that they never tire of hearing al-Shabi’s words either.

Contributed by Najla Abdurrahman (http://enoughgaddafi.com/?p=431)

Good luck to any people who want to find and fight for their freedom. Do what it takes to get it. Der balak alaa halak

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