By Khalid Amayreh
I was really planning to write an article entitled "the lying woman from Washington " in which I wanted to expose the utter hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton's recent call for political reforms in the Arab world. After all, the United States has always been the main impeder of democracy in the Arab region as it has constantly and consistently embraced criminal and tyrannical regimes from Casablanca to Bahrain.
However, the dramatic events in Tunisia seem to be taking a certain unexpected turn which no serious observer can treat with indifference.
In Tunisia things seem to be sufficiently clear. The people of this north African country are simply rising up against a thuggish, rotten and despicable dictator who has come to consider Tunisia , its people and resources a kind of farm for himself and his family.
To maintain this state of affair, he built a vast net of secret police apparatus, including death squads whose main job is to witch-hunt, abduct, brutalize and even liquidate all those who dared show a gesture of dissatisfaction with the hateful regime.
A classical dictator of Nicaragua's Anastasio Sammoza's or Iran's Shah's type, Zein el Abidine ben Ali has effectively transformed Tunisia into a huge prison maintained by terror and secret police. In doing so, he encouraged all sorts of corruption, including embezzlement of public resources, nepotism, bribery, graft, cronyism and abuse of power. The entire country reached the verge of dilapidation.
The regime also deployed tens of thousands of informers and secret agents in every corner and cranny of the country, sowing mistrust, suspicion and fear.
As to the West, which keeps babbling about democracy and human rights, it watched Tunisia descend into the abyss in terms of human dignity, human rights and civil liberties.
Human dignity was being raped every day, every hour and every minute by a thoroughly nefarious regime that valued the legitimacy which came from French and American acceptance more than that which came from its own people's acceptance.
Human rights organizations and political dissidents have long complained about the rampancy of torture in police lockups and interrogation centers. The US and France, which the regime always sought their satisfaction, didn't mind repression, even torture as long as the regime invoked the Islamist threat mantra.
The president and his thuggish cohorts, aides, and hangers-on would simply silenced European and American diplomats by confronting them with the following question: Would you want to see another Khomeini or a Muslim Brotherhood rule here? And, of course, the mostly Islamophobic diplomats would reply in the negative. And then the conversation is effectively over.
In fact, the terrorist regime in Tunisia has exploited to the fullest western animosity toward Islamic revival movements, especially after 9/11. Some of the draconian measures taken by the regime against its own people included serious curbs on religious freedom, e.g. Obtaining a police permit for frequenting a mosque for prayers, subjecting basic civil rights to police endorsement, and barring people not deemed as absolute supporters of the regime from holding public office.
Eventually, the situation reached the implosion point, especially with unemployment and poverty reaching unprecedented high levels.
In a desperate effort to contain the popular uprising, the tyrant, ben Ali, has promised that he won't seek another term in office and that he would allow civil liberties and political reforms.
However, the tyrant obviously can't be trusted and that in any case the Tunisian people know too well that his words are worthless.
Hence, the only way out of the current crisis lies is the immediate ousting of Ben Ali and preferably putting him on trial for abuse of power and breach of trust.
The ongoing uprising in Tunisia should serve as a late wake-up call for Arab tyrannies which continue to oppress and enslave the masses like nowhere in the world.
It also shows that the silence and patience of the Arab masses can't be taken for granted because there shall come a time when enough is enough, and the powder keg can not be kept from going off any longer.
It is really heartening for the vast majority of Arab-Muslim masses to see the people of Tunisia rise up against one of the most decadent and repressive regimes in the Arab world, a regime that thought, mistakenly of course, that satisfying its benefactors in Paris and Washington, even by tormenting and savaging the people, would prolong its life span.
The sun of freedom is rising from Tunis this time. After all, it was the famous Tunisian poet, Abu al Kassem al Shabbi, who said:
"Itha ash-Shaabu yawman Aradal Hayat Fala budda ay yastajeebal Qadar"
Or- If one day the people really sought life, destiny will certainly consent.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|