It has now been nearly a decade since a fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire in a protest against police brutality and corruption. Thus began, “The Arab Spring” protests driven by millions of people who wanted participation in the governance of their countries.
But when it was over the foundations and pillars on which freedom is built were not there.
Egypt is again a repressive police state. In Yemen, the President fell but instead of reforms, there came Civil War, cholera and famine. Here, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is being played out causing much suffering and death.
Even more stable states such as Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco are grappling with the fallout of discontent and unrest.
Tunisia emerged as the only “success story.” In 2013 it adopted a secular constitution. There were 26 candidates for President, and a runoff election narrowed it to 2. But before the runoff one of these candidates, Nabib Karaoui (who got the highest percentage of the votes in the general election) was jailed on charges of corruption and money laundering. Usually leaders have to be in office a while to achieve this distinction.
Democracy in Tunisia may be delivering what seems like a meager result, but the simple fact that ordinary citizens are participating and expressing their choices is rare enough in the Middle East to be worth mentioning.
The flame needs to be nourished and in time it may catch on and maybe even spread. President Obama had expressed interest in the outcome but of course our current President is viewing it with complete indifference.
Last week in Egypt, thousands of people in Cairo and Alexandria continued protests which began in September demanding that President Abdel Fatah al Sisi beremoved from power. They are being met by severe reprisals, imprisonments and other punitive measures prompting Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to label Egypt a repressive regime. But none of this is deterring the peoples’ determination to oppose the government.
The flame of the Tunisian Spring is still flickering feebly. It must not be allowed to die out.