The Iraqi people restored the image of the Arab Spring after it faded beneath the rubble and victims of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s barrel-bombs, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the war on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab Spring embodies the right to live decently. This is what the people of Iraq have called for clearly.
These are the same masses who once chose sectarianism, who voted for former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law coalition, and endured corruption and poor services in a rich country for a whole decade. They had enough, for the same reasons Tunisians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Syrians and Libyans revolted five years ago. They did not differentiate between Shiites and Sunnis, between liberals and Brotherhood members.
They did not bring up back then the debate between a civil state and religious state. They only demanded decent living, good jobs, clean neighborhoods, electricity, education, health, representative and accountable government, and a humble, elected leader. Unfortunately, no such things happened as counterrevolutions prevailed and people became angry.
Tyranny is bad anywhere, but an Arab dictator is the worst
The Lebanese people no longer fear the Syrian war spilling over, and so do not have to overlook the absence and inefficacy of their government. They have taken to the streets, fed up of all the politicians, liberal and religious, those in and out of government. Will the next wave of anger in the Arab Spring uproot everyone?
People might bear tyranny for a long period out of fear. However, an outburst can occur unpredictably, at which time a leader will believe that it is mere exaggeration influenced by the propaganda of enemies and foreign conspiracies, and that the people believe in him and his wisdom.
However, these people will not endure poverty, hunger, constant power outages, the smell of accumulated garbage, the late payment of salaries, unemployment and high prices while politicians and army officers live in bliss.
Tyranny is bad anywhere, but an Arab dictator is the worst. For him, governance is the art of controlling and monopolizing all the benefits. He knows and cares nothing about proper governance.
Thousands were killed or disappeared during the reign of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who pretended to save the country from communists. Despite his acts of injustice and oppression, he performed a miracle for Chile’s economy. He was smart enough to let a specialist handle the economy, turning it from a sterile totalitarian one to a productive market economy.
The Arab dictator is ruthless and does not want any blessing. The only important thing to him is his longevity. During the last few years, we have witnessed conflicts, civil wars and biased media motivated by hatred, fear, sectarianism and partisanship.
All of that was planned. The tyrant does not want to hear about decent living, employment, clean streets, pride or dignity because he is incapable of providing them. He only promises stability and security.
If he is absent, chaos will prevail. Terrorism serves him and encourages him implicitly. Media affiliated to him remind citizens of terrorism day and night, in a bid to make them accept his violence. He is necessary to protect the state that terrorism wants to tear apart. Anyone who remains silent or presents another opinion is a terrorist who deserves to die.
This dirty tactic will work for one or two years, even a decade, but it will inevitably collapse. It is happening today in Iraq. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to save what can be saved. He is backed by cleric Ali al-Sistani and a group of Iraqi politicians. They might have been convinced that the anger of their Shiite voters could bring them all down, not just Maliki. They were all his accomplices once. Iraqis awakened. Will others do the same?
This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 25, 2015.