ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Defend the Arab Revolution

Can the Arab revolution overcome the twin challenges of stubborn dictators and western military intervention?

In the heady days of February, when the Egyptian people successfully deposed Hosni Mubarak and his regime through an amazing non-violent revolution, it appeared that the “contagion” would spread across the Arab world, if not further. Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, Algeria, and Syria showed signs of popular unrest, demanding democracy and protesting against unemployment and food prices. The “baton” of the Arab revolutions, started by Tunisia and passed on successfully to Egypt was taken by the people of Libya and initially it appeared that here too a similar script would be followed.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s unchallenged ruler since 1969, has proved much more unyielding to popular demands and has brought in the armed forces to quash the popular revolts. As these columns had argued (“The Arab Beacon”, 5 February 2011), if the people of the Arab countries are being inspired by each other, the despots are learning from the experience of Tunisia and Egypt. The Jordanian king changed his prime minister and entire cabinet at the first rumblings of protest, while the rulers in Algeria relaxed emergency laws and allowed some civic freedoms after a gap of 19 years. Similar initiatives by the regimes of Syria and Morocco also seem to have quelled popular protests, at least for the time being. Gaddafi, however, has learnt the opposite lesson and as the popular movement gathered momentum – with his officials and diplomats defecting and army units laying down their arms – he dug his heels in. The death toll in Libya, therefore, has been very high. Though there are no available estimates, just the last day when Benghazi was still under the control of Gaddafi’s forces, hospital reports suggested that about 500 protestors had been killed by bullets, some fired from anti-aircraft guns, in that one day. Since then conditions have worsened. With the country effectively divided into two parts – under the control of Gaddafi and outside his control – the situation resembles a civil war.

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