Youths rise, empires fall

History repeats itself. It usually repeats in a span of 100 hundred years. Old empires fall and new empires rise with the passage of time, be it 100 or 25 years. Did you remember when the Ottoman Empire collapsed with the fall of Turkish caliph Muhtasim Billah in 1924 AD. The whole Arabian peninsular was under the control of Ottoman caliphate. Kamal Ataturk toppled the last Caliph to give rise to modern Turkey. The country under Ottoman emperor turns into a secular state which in 2003 turns into a model Muslim country inside 79 years under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of AKP. Turkey was profoundly influential not only in this region and Muslim countries of other regions but also in world stage of politics.

Definitely the emergence of Islamic Turkey started to influence the regional people particularly those of Egypt and Tunisia. Pro-democratic people rose up to the wake-up call and wanted an end to the authoritarian rules. Most of the royal families ruling the Mideastern countries span more than a quarter century. Among the nations ruled by authoritarians two giants have been deposed in the face of popular uprising. But now history of Arabian peninsular is rewinding within a space of 25 to 40 years.

Take Tunisia for example where Ben Ali took the power in 1994. The next years the rulers survived only under the tutelage of foreign masters, ruling the Tunisians with iron fist. Look at the recently-deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who usurped power in 1981 and had to quit power on February 11, 2011. He could undemocratically rule Egypt for 30 years and amass $70b wealth by dint of foreign powers particularly the US and Israel. Of course at the cost of the blood of Palestinians and human rights of the fellow countrymen. Western powers patronized his despotic rule for years to deprive the people of their democratic rights. Not only that the western regimes supported the Mubarak regime in grilling and killing the leaders of Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic scholars. The second highest US military aid was received by Egyptian army which was the source of power for the former military man.

Apart from this the whole region is in explosive stage. Libyan leader 68-year-old Moamer Gaddafi who has been ruling the country for 42 years may have to quit power anytime. Hundreds of people are being killed for demanding democracy and transperency,  job and honour, freedom and access to information. Tiny Arab state Bahrain, which has been hosting the US Fifth Fleet since 1944, is burning in the heat of slogans repeatedly chanted by the anti-govt demonstrators. Not only the sunni khalifa but also the soldiers stationed in Manama is not safe in the country which is home to around seven lakh people.

Against the backdrop of human history 25 years is not a long time. Authoritarian rulers now-a-days hardly survive democratic waves. It is not because autocrats today are more repressive than those of old days. The credit goes to the pocket of young people. Facebook generation between 15 and 40 years is mastermind of the revolutions in the Mideast countries. Bloggers must be there along with the wise and old people too in the movements. It is rather the social network which worked as the main mode of communication with person to person, protester to protester and even with the people to people who want their voices to be heard. The power of social networking could hardly be guessed before the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in Tunisia. It had been unimaginable when horse-carried postal service was introduced by the second caliph of Islam Omar Ibnul Khattab (R). Though monarchy has sustained in England, Australia and many other countries in the world, be it of Asia or Europe.  Repressive regimes change repeatedly particularly in Muslim countries with a few notable exceptions.

Egypt: The 18 daylong revolution, which was designed by some young people like Wael Ghoneim, Khaled, Mansour, Aala and others, pulled down Mubarak. Following the revelation of Wael Ghoneim google’s now famous executive as being behind the people’s revolution it’s only fair to announce that others were among the administration of January 25th and we are all Khaled Saed’s social networking Facebook page.
Abdul Rahman Mansour a young man who till recently remained anonymous during the revealing of Ghoneim’s identity is one of those who deserves to be acknowledged.

Mansour is a young man who had just begun his military service during the outbreak of the revolution and a colleague of Ghoneim and was an active element of the Facebook groups in addition to formerly working with Jazeera Talk and numerous other blogs and the official English website for the Muslim Brotherhood.

During interrogations after Ghoneim’s arrest Mansour’s friends decided it was safer to abstain from including his name during investigations fearing for his wellbeing since he was still in the service and the future remained unclear despite the team being innocent of any violence and only advocated peaceful protests.
The Faculty of Arts student who majored in Journalism has always aspired to perfect his writings and has proved to be a positive patriotic activist speaking as much as possible the truth relaying his dreams of a free Egypt where citizens enjoy freedom of speech without fear or oppression.

About youth English poet William Shakespeare said,

Crabbed age and youth cannot live together:
Youth is full of pleasance, age is full of care;
Youth like summer morn, age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare.
Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short;
Youth is nimble, age is lame;
Youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold;
Youth is wild, and age is tame.
Age, I do abhor thee; youth, I do adore thee;
O, my love, my love is young!
Age, I do defy thee: O, sweet shepherd, hie thee,
For methinks thou stay'st too long.

History: Have you ever thought that there is long history of Egypt which was governed by Cleopatra. When Pharaohs were ruling the country Musa (A) got trained by the administration under the dynasty and during the reign of Aziz-e-Meser Yousuf (As) got the orientation of ruling a vast territory like this North African country. Today’s Egypt and its surrounding areas including Jerusalem came under Muslim rule during the Caliphate of Omar ibnul Khattab (634-635). Before coming to the fold of the Islamic caliphate Egypt was ruled by the Byzantium.

Omar (R) entered Jerusalem in humility. The Caliph walked in but his servant comfortably riding on a camel. They had been taking turns walking and riding. It was then the servant’s turn for riding the camel reached the holy city of Jerusalem. The Christian leaders mistook the servant for the Caliph Omar. At one point, the Christians asked him to pray in their church but he declined. He refused saying that he is afraid that in the future Muslims could use it as an excuse to take over the Church for building a Masjid. The Christians gave the key of the Church of Resurrection to Muslims to be responsible for its safety. This key is still with the Muslims today.

Then came the Mamluk rulers and ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517. Then came the Ottoman empire which sustained between 1517 and 1805 AD. Muhammad Ali dynasty ruled the country from 1805 to 1882 and the history of modern Egypt conventionally begins in 1882, when the Khedivate of Egypt became part of the British sphere of influence in the region, a situation that conflicted with its position as an autonomous vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. The country became a British protectorate in 1914 and achieved independence in 1922.

Gamal Abdel Nasser established a one party state, known as the Republic of Egypt, following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. Egypt was ruled autocratically by three presidents over the following six decades, by Nasser from 1954 until his death in 1970, by Anwar Sadat from 1971 until his assassination 1981, and by Hosni Mubarak from 1981 until his resignation in the face of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

Mubarak era

After the assassination of President Sadat on 6 October 1981 Hosni Mubarak took power. Mubarak has maintained Egypt’s commitment to the Camp David peace process. The opposition parties have been weak and divided and are not yet credible alternatives to the NDP. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, remains an illegal organization and may not be recognized as a political party. Members are known publicly and openly speak their views. Members of the Brotherhood have been elected to the People’s Assembly and local councils as independents. The Egyptian political opposition also includes 23 parties in Egypt now :

Left-wing parties

Liberal parties

Right-wing parties

Awaiting license

Other political groups

Not the political oppositions but the bloggers, or cyberactivists have also played an important political opposition role, writing, organizing, and mobilizing public opposition.

2011 revolution and aftermath

Beginning on 25 January 2011, a series of street demonstrations, protests, and civil disobedience acts have taken place in Egypt. The demonstrations and riots were reported to have started over police brutality, state of emergency laws, unemployment, desire to raise the minimum wage, lack of housing, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech, and poor living conditions. On 11 February 2011, President Mubarak resigned, relinquishing power to an interim military authority.

Tunisia: Uprising in Tunisia is the first popular movement toppling an established government in the Middle East and North Africa since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

It is the first time ever in history that an Arab dictator has been removed by a popular revolution rather than a coup.

The Tunisian uprising – fuelled by economic and social grievances – is also the first revolt on such a scale against the new world order ushered in by the crash of 2008. It is part of the same struggle as in Greece, Ireland, France – and, of course, here. Its outcome will affect not only the Arab world, but also every country suffering in the crisis.

Tunisia is more urbanised (66% urbanised in 2000) than Egypt (45%), Syria (55%), and Morocco (56%), though only slightly more so than Algeria (60%) and less so than Iraq (77%).

Its average income per head (on purchasing-power-parity figures) is below the poorest countries of Europe – $9500, as against $11500 for Romania – but above most Arab states other than the oil-rich ones (Syria $4800, Morocco $4900, Egypt $6200, Algeria $7400).

The Tunisian people did not need a Wikileaks cable to tell them that their government was repressive and corrupt. According to one international study, 75% of Tunisians’ salaries only last them half the month; the minimum wage is only 130 euros a month. Unemployment in the Sidi Bouzid region is 45%. Unemployment among graduates is 40%.

In 2008, phosphate miners in Gafsa, where unemployment is 30%, were at the centre of an intense struggle, over a six month period. Starting in January, trains between quarries and factories were halted; unemployed youth occupied the regional office of the UGTT union demanding justice; strikes and demonstrations spread, attacking the boss of the phosphate company, who was also regional deputy of the ruling party, the RCD.

Unemployed youth, university students, school students and teachers joined the struggle.

The UGTT leadership was hostile to the actions, threatening to suspend militants who took part. But the rank and file, particularly teachers, carried on being involved. Then the regime cracked down.

Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor who set off the movement of January 2011 by burning himself to death in protest, and his family, were involved in that earlier movement. He was not just an unknown individual, but a respected militant.

The 2008 struggle, like the “jasmine revolution”, seems to have been spontaneous, in the sense that no particular organization was central to it. Right now there is no party or group which can claim to be leading the movement.

The UGTT has certainly been a driving force, and although it is weaker (and smaller) than it has been in the past, is still one of the strongest organizations in Tunisian society, with an unbroken, sixty-plus year history. Its decision to oppose the interim government seems to be because of pressure from below.

But although workers have been central to the struggle, this has not, on the whole, it seems, been in the form of strikes. A general strike was called earlier in January in protest at repression. But the fall of Ben Ali was largely due to the movement on the streets, rather than in workplaces.

There have been forms of popular organization. “Citizens’ civil defence committees” were formed in some neighbourhoods, particularly to organize resistance to the militias and the police, who were violently policing the curfew immediately after the departure of the president (to whom they remain loyal – unlike the largely conscript army).

But no political movement has yet emerged as any kind of leadership. The main parties are legalistic and bourgeois: opposition leader Najib Chebbi was quick to denounce the UGTT for “irresponsibility” when it resigned from the interim government, and has accepted the ministry for the regions.

There is a Democratic Front (or Forum) for Labour and Liberty (FDTL), which is an associate member of the “Socialist International”, and close to the French Socialist Party. The former Communist Party, now called Ettajdid, has the ministry for higher education.

A group called the Communist Workers Party (PCOT) seems to have some weight, though it seems to be Maoist (Hoxhaite, that is, supporting the former dictator of Albania). Its record which includes trying to develop alliances with the Islamist movement Ennahda.

Ennahda seems to have had little or no role in the street demonstrations; there have been, apparently, no religious slogans in the “Jasmine Revolution”. This cannot be solely because of repression. Egypt and Algeria have been considerably more repressive towards Islamist parties without driving their slogans out of circulation.

Accounts of Tunisian politics from the 1990s, however, perceived the threat of an Islamist take-over as very real, even imminent. In 1989, Islamist candidates (allowed to compete as “independents” although the Ennahda Party was still not legal) won 17% of the vote. Not a single opposition candidate was elected to the Assembly – the elections were rigged – but it seems that the Islamists’ base had at that point dramatically eclipsed the secular left’s.

History: Byzantine rule was ended by the Arabs, who invaded Tunisia from 647-648 and Morocco in 682 in the course of their drive to expand the power of Islam. In 670, the Arab general and conqueror Uqba Ibn Nafi established the city of Kairouan (in Tunisia) and its Great Mosque also known as the Mosque of Uqba; the Great Mosque of Kairouan is the ancestor of all the mosques in the western Islamic world. Berber troops were used extensively by the Arabs in their conquest of Spain, which began in 711.

The conventional historical view is that the conquest of North Africa by the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate between AD 647–709 effectively ended Catholicism in Africa for several centuries. After the Umayyad rule the Tunisians have seen many more struggles for power to control their country. Tunisia was a French ‘Protectorate’ – colony – after France seized it from the Ottoman Empire in 1881 and until it won independence in 1956. The colonial period, and the struggle against it, were markedly different from that in neighbouring Algeria.

The modern Tunisia began in 1946 when it becomes semi-autonomous state in the French Union. In 1947 Special ministry was set up, with Tunisian officials making up the majority. In 1949 Habib Bourguiba returns to Tunisia to promote independence, having been forced into exile in 1945. Then in 1955 a government with only Tunisian members was installed and the country becomes an independent nation in 1956. The Neo Destour party wins a landslide election and Bourguiba is elected president of the first Tunisian national assembly. In 1957 for the first time, women are allowed to vote in regional elections. Tunisia becomes a republic and Bourguiba becomes its first president. in 1964 swathes of mainly French-owned land is expropriated by the government, with the result that Paris stops all financial assistance. In 1975 Bourguiba is appointed president for life by the national assembly. In 1987 Ben Ali ousts Bourguiba in a coup, citing senility, and installs himself as prime minister. In 1989 Tunisia holds elections. Six opposition parties participate on this occasion but Ben Ali is elected president with 99% of the vote. His party, the RCD, wins all 141 seats in the national assembly. In 1994 Ben Ali is the only presidential candidate in 1994, winning 99.9% of the vote, drawing international condemnation. In 1998 Tunisia signs a landmark trade agreement with the EU. In 1999 Ben Ali received 99.44% of the votes in the general election to win a third spell as the country’s most powerful person.

In 2002 Ben Ali amends Tunisia’s constitution to allow a president to stay in power until the age of 75 and be re-elected unlimited times.

In 2004 Ben Ali is re-elected once more, again receiving an unlikely 94.5% of the votes. Opposition party the Democratic Progressives withdraws two days before the vote, branding Tunisia’s political system “a masquerade of democracy”

In 2006 a dozen hardline Islamists were killed in shoot-outs with security forces in the capital, Tunis. Lawyers say hundreds of people had been arrested on suspicion of links with terrorist groups since 2003, when the authorities gained new powers of arrest.

In 2009 Ben Ali was re-elected as president for a fifth term, winning 89% of the vote. Following violent protests throughout the country in 2011, Ben Ali reportedly flees Tunisia and the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, announces he has taken over as interim president.

Most of the falls of world regimes were spelt by organised group or groups but Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali’s collapses were not presided by young people sans political party affiliations. For protesting at the ruling quarter’s corruption, nepotism, media gagging, siphoning money out, unemployment, failure to curb price hike and so on these young people were arrested, grilled, tortured and above all many of them were killed on streets by law enforcing agencies, thugs, and even by armies. Journalist Julian Assange unmasked the seamy sides of this cosmetic civilization and dual and ugly faces of Mubarak, Obama, Suleiman, Irekat, Netanyahu, Ben Ali and  Ghoneim, Khaled, Mansour and Mohamed Bouazizi — all friends of Mark Zuckerberg — toppled them across the countries ruled by authoritarians.


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