At the very beginning of the Arab independence of the last century, the populations which had just freed themselves from the yoke of humiliating colonization and cultural enslavement by the West were in a state of euphoria bordering on madness. Everyone believed deep down that the future was going to be bright for them and full of happiness and peace of mind.
The wealth gap
The populations of certain Gulf countries have, of course, greatly benefited from the national resources and the largesse of their states and have become rich individuals but yet, in a way, assisted citizens, with a sickly dependence on kindness and kindness. the generosity of the welfare state of their countries.
In these countries, where the oil resources were enormous and the population smaller, people unfortunately became slaves to the consumption of products imported from the West and especially of simplistic technologies for entertainment and well-being. Worse, the abundance of financial means, easily acquired, created in the population a latent laziness which pushed the State to import everything including Asian labor or other labor in large numbers. Currently, it is estimated at around 13 million people, if not more.
In non-oil countries, despite the lack of resources, states have had difficulty providing education, employment, health and housing to their populations, with the meager means they initially had. But very quickly, the inequalities widened between the rich and the poor and each country became two countries sailing at two different speeds and causing so much suffering and turmoil on a national scale.
At the start of independence, the establishment of a national economy, the installation of a national administration and the exit of the first technocrats from universities and colleges and their subsequent employment by the state temporarily created a middle class, but the life of this class, unfortunately, lasted only a few decades and soon, under the effect of economic pressure, it quickly dissolved and swelled the ranks of the poor class.
After independence, instead of solving the problem of national identity in each country separately, first by taking into consideration its cultural and religious minorities and then inserting them into a federal political system, the Arab rulers clumsily opted for for a unique identity: Pan -Arabism under the impetus of two political movements (socialist with a nationalist texture):
- Nasserism (originating in Egypt), and
- Baathism (originating in the Levant).
These nationalist movements cradled the Arab world in illusions of grandeur from which it would emerge only a few decades later, following:
- Repeated defeats in the wars against Israel;
- The arrival of political Islam and oppressive Islamism after the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, and;
- Saddam Hossein’s crushing defeat in 2003 in his war against imperial America.
Birth of Islamism
Political Islam took hold as it could in the whole Arab world and so it became, by force of circumstances, the defender of the underprivileged classes that he easily recruited, for his political project, thanks to two arguments important:
- The Islamist party is the party of Allah (hi Allah), for the glorification of Islam and the preservation of religion against the materialist and atheist West doomed to failure and erasure; and
- Social assistance offered to the poor in the areas of health, education, housing, etc., while the State has completely withdrawn from these areas, under pressure from international financial institutions such as: Bank world and IMF (edifying experience of Ikhwan in Egypt, which served as an example for Islamists in the rest of the Arab world).
Emboldened by Khomeini’s Iranian revolution in 1979 and the jihadists’ victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989, the Islamists attempted to seize power in several Arab countries by the simple use of force and violence. Technically unable to do so, they opted for indiscriminate terrorism.
However, the advent of the Arab Spring revolutions offered them power on a silver platter in some countries, such as Tunisia, Morocco and Libya.
The awakening of minorities
Around the 1980s, the ethnic minorities of the Arab world, emasculated since independence, wake up furiously: the Amazighs in the Grand Maghreb and the Kurds in the Mashrek.
The Amazighs scattered throughout the large geographical area of ââthe Grand Maghreb, in the form of linguistic and cultural islands called Tamazgha, could not claim true independence. The Kurds are in the same impasse, except that those of Iraq, long autonomous, helped the Americans to defeat Saddam Hossein and the Americans in return promised them independence, which they are trying to obtain, today with much difficulty, given that regional powers like Turkey and Iran, which have such minorities in their ranks, are indeed against such nationalist aims.
The Amazighs of Libya, long mistreated and repressed by dictator Gaddafi, helped the Arab Spring insurgents get rid of him but are today, a little, still marginalized by those in power who do not want to fully and openly recognize their language and cultural aspirations.
As for religious minorities, especially Christians in the Arab world, they find themselves in a very difficult situation today. They have been killed, suppressed and raped by the Islamic State, ISIS, in Iraq and Syria and weakened in other countries like the Christians of the Levant and the Copts of Egypt.
Military dictators: patriarchy and tribalism
The military seized power by force of arms and established repressive political regimes based on tribal allegiance, oppressive patriarchy, harmful and profitable corruption, and abusive co-optation.
After the respective independence, the Arab governments set in motion huge programs of modernization of infrastructure, education, health, employment, housing, etc., but all rejected modernity however. Thus, the patriarchy was maintained and strengthened and with it tribalism and related forms of allegiance and social enslavement.
The Heads of State became “Fathers of the Nation” (ab al-umma), then the leaders (za’im) and finally the dictators (ar–ra’Ã®s al-khÃ¢leld, âEternal presidentâ) some of whom were openly bloodthirsty, like Saddam Hossein, while others practiced a soft dictatorship (use of carrots and sticks) like Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Ali Saleh in Yemen and Assad in Syria.
To stay in power, these non-democratic leaders, who in principle reached the supreme office on a military tank, or by monarchical succession in the case of certain monarchies with a long tradition (Morocco) and others more recent (Arab Gulf and Jordan), have joined forces with:
- Military leaders;
- Subordinate political parties;
- Wealthy families;
- Religious leaders, and;
- Tribal leaders.
And they encouraged corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and the patron-client system. As for the base, it was kept under a food infusion and subjected to a repressive control, through:
- Subsidized basic food products (flour, oil, tea, sugar, etc.) and products (propane, water and electricity, etc.);
- Employment, long or short term;
- Financial privileges;
- Sporadic suppression with velvet gloves, etc.
Political parties, if there is a multi-party system, have all been co-opted and the real opposition suppressed, imprisoned or forced to leave the country.
These dictators had little difficulty in doing their dirty work because illiteracy was maintained, the tribal identity encouraged and safeguarded, and the political police activated, in order to keep the population “subjects” fully compliant instead of making them. fully enlightened âcitizensâ, that is, in other words, expecting from them unconditional and unshared allegiance at all times and under all circumstances.
Unfortunately, no Arab country has opted for the promotion of full democracy after independence. In fact, there were actually two kinds of dictatorships:
- Corrupted monarchies: The Arab Gulf countries are dictatorships with religious legitimacy and economic backing. Indeed, these monarchies have a tacit contract with the governed: social peace and the acceptance of full governance in exchange for cash donations and economic opportunities and a tax-free economic life.
- Classic monarchies: These are monarchies either based on historical and religious legitimacy (Morocco) or resulting from a learned political balance and are characterized by a margin of political freedom to keep the regime in place and a sophisticated system of co-optation where the regime and political actors find their own tribal path and allegiance (Jordan). These monarchies use a sham democracy to lull public opinion and deceive international opinion.
The Arab Spring
The advent of the Arab Spring was a God-given opportunity for the Arab masses to free themselves from Arab dictatorships, in their “soft” or “hard” versions, which have been at their peak for more than 7 decades. Thus, these Arab uprisings triggered by the Bouazizi match in Tunisia in 2011 and carried by a youth in search of employment, dignity and freedom have led to incredible governance changes, but not what most hoped for. cases. This incredible political tsunami represented an unprecedented opportunity for the establishment of a true democracy. Unfortunately, the Arab Spring turned into a huge disaster for two main reasons:
1- Seizure of power by the Islamists: The revolts were initiated by young people bruised by the archaism and violence of the regimes in place but due to their lack of organization and first-hand political experience they lost the upper hand to the Islamists who were very disciplined. , well-organized ideologically speaking and regimented in their movements., and;
2- The fall of military dictatorships opened the door to large-scale insecurity and horrific civil wars that continue to this day in countries like Yemen, Libya and Syria, making them sort of failed states.
Why the decline?
Modern-day Arabs have not taken advantage of geology (mineral wealth) or geography (proximity to liberal European democracies) to develop and serve their countries and citizens. The oil-producing countries have created social populations, unable to take charge of themselves and free themselves from the yoke of the past and access modernity.
The political systems in place created an Arab man limited in his knowledge, experience and sense of freedom of enterprise and thought. He is:
– A man who is afraid of the government; of the gendarme and the system, because of repression and open violence;
– A man unable to think freely and to make constructive criticisms;
– A man dominated by the trinity of tradition, religion and tribalism / patriarchy;
– A man obsequious in his political culture and using a sweet language to please governments and extract favors from them;
– A man crushed by poverty and lack of social justice, and;
– A man for whom bread is more important than democracy because he has been oppressed to make him docile and has become, so to speak, a compulsive slave to food and peace of mind.