The news took over this week.
Concerning the Arab Revolution, there is some good news. Yemen’s dictator Salah finally negotiated with the opposition parties to leave power and the country. OK, so he’s gone. Problem: his family and the whole power structure remain in place. Elections have been promised in two months, however, if the current government runs those elections, then nothing much will change. The people have not bought it and continue to protest and civilians continue to die everyday. It’s a rocky road ahead.
Dozens of Syrian civilians also continue to die everyday while peaceful protests continue. Unfortunately, the US government may attempt to weigh in on the side of the revolution in order to maintain influence in the region, giving the revolution a bad name (messy politics in this part of the world). Hard to predict the outcome. I salute the courage of the Syrian people. It’s a rocky road ahead.
Egyptians protested in Tahrir Square once again to oust the prime minister, viewed as a Mubarak supporter. So the ruling military council (which basically has a death grip on the country) named another prime minister who had served in the Mubarak government—unacceptable in the eyes of protesters, as one might imagine. In the meantime, Egyptians elected a parliamentary assembly to formulate a new constitution. However, the military council intends to have the final say on any proposed constitution. The military council (Mubarak’s cohorts) obviously wants to keep power, influence, and wealth. It’s a rocky road ahead.
The new transitional Libyan government is having difficulties bringing armed groups under control and collecting weapons, while trying to form a new army. Tripoli is under lockdown and militia groups have been asked to return home. Armed groups have attempted to cross the border into Tunisia and when refused, have been known to open fire on authorities. Tunisians living in towns along the Libyan border, the very people who opened their homes to Libyan refugees, appear to be fed up with the lawlessness that war has unleashed. Tunisian authorities have closed the border until the Libyan government can send competent authorities to control the situation.
Members of Tunisia’s constitutional assembly seem to have forgotten that their role is to write a new constitution. A tug of war has developed as certain groups demand a “piece of the cake” in the new government. In the meantime, the Central Bank has issued warnings that the country is on the brink of bankruptcy and protests continue to cripple the economy. Liquid bottled gas, which many people use to cook and heat, has become scarce as temperatures drop.
As if there weren’t enough urgent problems, a university in Tunis closed temporarily because bearded men beseiged it, demanding that women students wear a “niqab” (black fabric covering the head and face) if they wanted to take their exams. I would first comment that I have nothing against women who choose to “veil”, that is, wear a headscarf and modest clothing if that is their choice. One’s clothing should not get in the way of attending school, voting, working, or anything else for that matter. However, attacking university women and imposing a way of dress—which has no foundation in Tunisian tradition, by the way (this comes from the Gulf)—impinges on women’s rights. History shows that the attack upon women is not a question of religion (Islam preaches moderation), but rather a bid for power that makes use of women as pawns. Why don’t they go and empty the numerous bars of drunken men? It seems these men perceive university women not only as a threat but the “weakest link” as well. Economic and social classes also enter into the question, as new groups struggle to fill the power vacuum and push aside established upper and middle classes.
And I would venture to guess that Tunisia is doing better than anybody else.
Indeed, it’s a rocky road ahead.