If there are countries that showed hands-on, proactive solidarity with the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, they are Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Yemen and Algeria. News of protests are starting to come in from Morocco, Jordan, Syria and the Kurdish Iraqi-occupied territories. Many people are wondering why now, how come, how did it happen, where will it go, who will take power, and what impact will it have on world politics? All are valid questions, but what the world seems to be ignoring is that there is not a single state or government on this planet that is not complicit with and supportive of some or all of these repressive regimes.
These regimes have existed for decades, Mubarak hijacked the country for 30 years, Libya has been under arrest for over 40 years, Iran has been the victim of a brutal fundamentalist rule since 1979; and yet only now the world sees it urgent to topple these regimes. A month ago Mubarak was just another president, hailed for his “war on terror” and for seeking “peace” in the Middle East. Overnight he became the most hated and despised president of them all!
Bahrain until very recently was considered one of the “advanced” countries in the Arabian gulf. Everyone praised it for being the fastest growing economy in the Arab-speaking world. It was praised for granting women the right to vote (though it only happened in 2002!!). Overnight it shifted in the world´s opinion from being the island with the freest economy in the Middle East, to an island bathing in the blood of its own people.
The critical question today is which of our governments didn’t support or – even worse – continues to support these regimes? Which of our governments is not killing us or the planet? Will our government be another Mubarak, shifting overnight from a “democratic” and “liberal” regime to the new villain in town? Will we have to wait 30 more years to see that happen?
Social services cuts, unemployment, aggravated financial crisis, arms deals, nuclear energy, the plundering of every inch of the planet, the destruction of nature, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, border-police forces, immigration laws, racist governmental policies, deportations, genocides, colonial exploitation, imperialist control, economic and political hegemony, war, occupation, the so-called G8, multinationals, patents, forced labor, NATO, modern-day slavery, sweatshops, global warming, educational cuts, unjust housing prices, media hypocrisy and manipulation, censorship; Christian, Muslim and Jewish fundamentalisms; rigged elections, murderous foreign policies, slaughtering of indigenous peoples and their cultures, state-funded terrorism, state-funded lies and unfounded fear campaigns, sexist and homophobic laws and statements, brutal violence on all levels against non-whites, impunity, corruption… the list is endless. These are but a few adjectives that describe all of the governments today, not just Mubarak or Ben Ali, or Ahmadi Najad.
But Western arrogance (past and present) and racism, mixed with popular ignorance, makes it much easier to criticize those regimes with a darker skin color, and of non Judeo-Christian religions.
Select voices from the West rose up in an alleged “concern” for democracy, fearing the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. Not that the “concern” isn’t valid in the face of a possible repressive regime that violates the very essence of human diversity and liberty but, really, is the West free of such fundamentalism? And why voice these “concerns” when, in each and every uprising, the people affirmed over and over that their revolutions are popular, diverse, and non-religiously affiliated? Isn’t voicing these “concerns” so ardently, while ignoring first-hand testimonies, yet another vilification of Muslims everywhere, (a.k.a., “racist” discrimination)?
It is not a hidden fact that the Iranian regime is a brutal and violent machine that targets women, queer/LGBT persons, indigenous people (Kurds), and dissident voices from within. It is not an illogical concern that the Muslim Brotherhood could follow in the steps of the Iranian regime in their own way, and that they might resort to violence to impose their rule on society. What about the US Christian right? Or the Vatican? Don’t they also demand the same from women, from queer/LGBT people, and from the indigenous populations in their countries or in the places they invaded culturally and financially?
Why is it only the Iranian government that causes such a scare? Not that it shouldn’t, but it is worth questioning why the West is silent towards the not-so-dormant fundamentalism within its own borders. How is Iran more threatening than the US fundamentalism that waged wars and committed countless crimes against humanity, in the face of massive worldwide outrage? Only when the opposition to Iran and the concern over the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise-to-power is combined with a serious and active opposition to Christian fundamentalism in the West and the racist policies of Western governments, can we view these “concerns” as something other than pure racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.
The inability of many voices from the West to see the parallels and the interrelatedness of the repressive regimes in the Middle East and those in the West doesn’t only risk the lives and well-being of the rebelling peoples in these countries, but it also represents the increasing and ever growing racism, xenophobia and discrimination facing immigrants and populations descendants of non-white mostly non Judeo-Christian countries.
The EU jumped to “secure” its borders against an “immigrants’ influx” right after the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. With the aid of racist murderous Frontex, the EU launched what they call “Emergency EU border mission – Hermes” which started work in Malta and Lampedusa, Italy, on the 20th of February, 2011. Greek Citizens’ Protection Minister, Christos Papoutsis said “currently there is no particular risk of an immigrants’ influx, [yet] preparation and readiness are needed” explaining that security checks at land and on the sea carried out by the police and the coastal guards will intensify.. None of these countries or governments are offering the new Tunisia or Egypt the amount of assistance that they extended for years in support of the brutal regimes and dictatorships. On the contrary, they jumped to “secure” their borders, and protect their interests once again with absolutely no regards to human life and dignity.
The EU and the US seem to be misinterpreting, intentionally, the calls for proactive action. So does a huge sector of the European and the US societies. The people of Egypt, and later those in Bahrain, didn’t call on Obama to intervene because he is the embodiment of world peace in comparison to George W. Bush. The EU wasn’t asked to intervene because of its supposed respect for “human rights”, nor because of the Mediterranean/ Francophone affinity (a.k.a., big lie). The US administration and the EU were called upon to come clean up their own messes. It was not a call for help, and it is definitely not a call for solidarity, because people outside the so-called “first world” are aware of how little human dignity and life mean to these governments. The calls for them to take a stand is in fact a call for them to be held accountable for the dictatorships they long supported, nurtured and protected, despite countless condemnations from renowned international human rights organizations.
International calls for accountability in Egypt are increasing, people are outraged at the amount of money stolen (a.k.a., “acquired” until only few weeks ago) by the Mubarak family. Calls are increasing to hold the Bahraini regime responsible for using live ammunition against protesters fired from helicopters (most probably US made and donated in the form of “international aid”). The British government sold Libya a wide range of equipment to use against its civilians, including teargas and “crowd control ammunition”, valued at more than £200m over the first nine months of last year.
But the question is: when are we going to see these international calls translated into local demands to hold our own governments accountable for their active roles, not just for supporting and working with these dictatorships, but for who they truly are? When are we going to walk like an Egyptian, because if solidarity means anything today, it means that “the time for reasoning is past, [and] now’s the time to get steamed up and fight like mad.”
Mubarak was [is] not alone. He was and still is part of a global network of corrupt and criminal governments that supported him and nurtured his violence and brutality. Governments that act in our name, with our money, with our political force. Governments that act and walk among us, brush their blood-soaked shoulders with ours, and in the process stain our conscience. “Silence = Death” Act Up once said, and right-on they did.
This is the question today, who is our silence killing? It is time we reshape and redefine the famous anti-war slogan of “bringing the war home” into “bringing the revolution home”. There is no better and no more urgent support for the people of Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia…etc, than the toppling of our own regimes. There is nothing that the Egyptians and the Iranians and the Tunisians and ourselves need more than bringing Tahrir Square home, to bring the revolution home!