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Tunisia has now become a long list of nations where a popular uprising has led to the removal of a dictator that long oppressed its own people.
The catalyst the this popular up rise was when 26-year-old unemployed graduate Mohammed Bouazizi was brutally beaten by Tunisian police and the produce on his market stall confiscated, because of his crime for not having the correct permit needed to sell produce. In a country with a 14% unemployment rate, this was the last straw and pushed him over the edge. He doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside government offices, he eventually died of his injuries on the 5th January 2011.
From December 2010 demonstrations only grew in size as the economic situation of the country never improved as Ben Ali, the president long promised. The death of Mohammed Bouazizi led to the masses to take to the streets due to corruption, inflation and unemployment, since then nearly a hundred people have been killed by security forces.
The government of Ben Ali, which initially responded with defiance, it was stunned by the scale of public disquiet. Ben Ali, an absolute dictator, has left no opposition within the country. Ben Ali came to power 23 years ago in 1987 in a similar situation. Then, president Habib Bourgiba, a similarly unpopular president who had ruled for over 30 years was forced out, and replaced by one of his inner circle - Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
It appears the month long popular uprising led to a coup reportedly by Gen. Rachid Ammar, who previously was fired by Ben Ali for refusing to use deadly force against the protesters demonstrating across the country.
With this in mind we make the following observations:
1. Tunisia has shown that change can evolve very quickly with the overthrow of ruler no matter how strong the regime may appear. Many regimes in the Muslim world make use of the army and the secret service to maintain order and their positions of power. With the masses on the streets no amount of state apparatus can stop thousands of people wanting change. The Muslim rulers have coined an image that the status quo requires submission with change impossible due to poverty and a system that is non-operational. They have constructed this so any movement is crippled and unable to sustain the momentum for change as they lack resources and have different classes of people within their ranks leading to differences. The West have added to this through calls of reform and democratic change which only ensures the status quo remains. Tunisia contradicts all this as there was no organised movement to lead the demonstrators as the president had for long clamped down upon them. All of this shows that change is not just easy but inevitable, when the rulers do not represent their people.
2. It is important those calling for change do not take help from foreigners, however desperate the group may be. There are numerous examples of foreign nations supporting groups that called for change, which led to foreign interference once the existing regime was otherthrown. Also such change is weak and not sustainable. The colour revolutions in Eurasia are a case in point. The West supported, funded and aided the otherthrow of pro-Russian leaders in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Georgia, using the sentiment for change to take such nations out of Russia's orbit. However Russia has managed to reverse such changes. In the case of Ukraine Russia even brought the ruler who was over thrown in the Orange revolution back to power. It is important that the call for change remains pure and it remains indigenous, in such a case the change is for the people rather then for the interests of another power.
3. Those calling for and leading the call for change must ensure there is a post-regime strategy. There is no point over throwing the regime when someone from the existing rulers circle will take over. Similarly the establishment of elections after the removal of a dictator does not constitute change as elections are the simplest exercise that can be manipulated to ensure the pre-revolution infrastructure remains. Pakistan and Bangladesh are good examples of this. In Iran in 1979 after years of oppressive rule by the Shah supported by the West events reached boiling point when protesters were fired upon under orders by the Shah. This situation led to the emergence of communist, Marxist groups with academics, secularists and Islamic groups, all coming together to overthrow the Shah with no plan for the post-Shah government or system. Ayatollah Raholla Khomeini filled the void, once in power he worked to remove all those who could challenge his grip on power - which were all those groups who worked to otherthrow the Shah, many were assassinated, imprisoned or sent into exile. The details of the post - revolution architecture needs to be outlined first and on this basis groups and individuals should come together, without this the movement for change is destined to fail, even if it gains power.
4. In the last decade the position of the Muslims rulers has become untenable. It should be remembered the post WW1 structure of the Muslim world was constructed to ensure they would never be independent. David Fromkin, Professor and expert on Economic History at the University of Chicago highlighted this: "Massive amounts of the wealth of the old Ottoman Empire were now claimed by the victors. But one must remember that the Islamic empire had tried for centuries to conquer Christian Europe and the power brokers deciding the fate of those defeated people were naturally determined that these countries should never be able to organize and threaten Western interests again. With centuries of mercantilist experience, Britain and France created small, unstable states whose rulers needed their support to stay in power. The development and trade of these states were controlled and they were meant never again to be a threat to the West. These external powers then made contracts with their puppets to buy Arab resources cheaply, making the feudal elite enormously wealthy while leaving most citizens in poverty." This system is now falling apart as the Muslim world has seen that the rulers are the gatekeepers of Western interests. The secret services across the Muslim world, poverty, sectarianism, nationalism and corruption have also failed to stem the tied for change the Muslims desire. The Muslim rulers have struggled to thwart the mobilisation of the Ummah in an age where communication technology has advanced tremendously. With the explosion of satellite television, the Internet and mobile phones, people have found it much easier to communicate and to mobilise. Tunisia has shown that the Muslim rulers are on their last legs, all the Ummah needs is for the call for change to spread across the Muslim world.
The Muslim world should take inspiration from Tunisia in bringing change to the Muslim world. As one commentator wrote recently in the Washington Post, the US's greatest threat in the Middle East is not war, it is revolution. Since the floods in Pakistan the call for change is slowly gaining momentum, In Egypt many are looking at the possibility of a system not inspired form the Wes as Hosni Mubarak is nearing his end. The Ummah globally needs to ensure the sentiment for change is not high jacked by the West or their agents. The Ummah needs to show the armies in the Muslim world nothing less then Khilafah will do.