Middle East Winter: The people have spoken!

Middle East Winter: The people have spoken!

What is happening in the Middle East? First, people revolted in Algeria and Sudan. Those in power for a long time decided to renew their rule over the youth. It would have been accepted if their achievements had been exceptional. Instead, both countries have been in decline for ages, due to incompetency, corruption, nepotism and authoritarian rule.

In Algeria, the president suffered from the results of a stroke for years. His family and friends were ruling in his name, and making fortunes. Since business was thriving, they decided to renew the contract and put the dysfunctional boss up for another “guaranteed” election. In Sudan, the president was about to break the Constitution, once again, for another term.

In both nations, the people revolted and resisted. The old guard tried all the tricks in their books. When empty promises, intimidation and phony changes did not work, they gradually accepted some public demands. Protesters were wiser this time and refused to stop before they saw it all they way through to the end.

As the revolt calmed down in Algeria and Sudan, it fired up in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. It seems that leaders do not learn from each other. The longer they survive, the harder their ways and convictions become - they don’t listen, change or accept finality.

It is simple really! People want to live in peace and prosperity - that’s all! You elect a government to make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today. If leaders make it worse, every day, (for you, not for them), you feel cheated. If they work for their own personal agendas at the expense of yours, you feel angry. If they regard your demands as extravagant you become enraged. And if they sell your best interests to outside powers and then call you a traitor, you revolt!

In all three nations, governments are too busy abroad to care about what is happening at home. Leaders are defending their turfs, enriching personal treasures and solidifying their positions. In the meantime, the conditions of life are getting worse for everyone else. Basics, such as water, energy, education, medical services, are going down, while prices of necessities are increasing beyond reach. Jobless, restless youth are watching as the sons and daughters of rich crime lords, political bosses and corrupt officials drive around in their Mercedes and waste fortunes in fancy stores and nightclubs.

The system that produced misery must be wrong. That is the conclusion people reached and sought to change. “If, for ages, we run circles in this governance regime, hoping for the fruits of democracy, and then all we get is the right to vote, something must be really, truly wrong!” they conclude.

A taxi driver in Beirut once told me: “Half my family live in the Arab Gulf states. They tell us here that you are Bedouins governed by outdated tribal sheiks. They tell us we should be proud to live in a modern, sophisticated, democratic nation. But then, they go around these countries begging for help. They encourage us to migrate and send earnings back. And when the word comes from Iran, they attack the sources of our income, and cause our breadwinners to lose jobs and return. I was able to send my kids to school, my daughter to university, and live a decent life. Now, with my sons back from the Gulf, and your tourists and investors out, I can’t even pay the rent and electricity bills.”

Similar issues, similar messages are sent to similar politicians in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. However, since the mother ship is one, the same response comes. The ancient emperor, in Tehran, dictates the rules of engagement. No change. The people have heard it loud and clear. Their answer is as plain and strong: No deal! All or Nothing!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi