Much like the wolf who wears sheep’s clothing, the dictators of Northern Africa and the Middle East previously adopted a policy concealing their true nature while trying to increase their fortunes and control over the past few decades. These leaders, once viewed as terrorists and enemies of the West appeared to soften their hard edges, seeming to appease some of the grievances of their people while reducing their violent acts towards outside countries. They gave the impression that they were allowing their citizens to grow and flourish under auspices of freedom, yet kept strict control over their representation to the outside world and the messages that they used to control their citizenry by state controlled media .
Once a wolf smells the farmer approaching, they get vicious and scared. It will kill everything in its path on the way out and fight until bitter defeat when forced into conflict.
It is in this way that previous protests have been quelled over the past thirty to fifty years; like the fierce predators they are, the dictators would destroy everything in their path then sit back and lick their chops. And then make another deal with Italy, or France, or whoever looked willing. Sharing real-time video via cell phones and YouTube was a complete impossibility. There was no ability for citizen reporting to get through before being completely shut down by violence and bribery. There were no plethora of media helicopter broadcasting live while squares and roundabouts were surrounded by tanks and troops and massive numbers of innocent people were slaughtered.
The oppressors of each country involved in the Arab Spring uprising knew that they were facing a unique position of weakness as stories of violence echoed like shock waves through cyberspace. They were able to sense a new fragility in their existence, leading to a heightened sense of fear and ultimately resulting in an escalation of violence; desperate attempts to maintain the appearance of control. The stability of these tyrants rely upon the collective power of the oppressed and the poor and controlling the media and communications means controlling the public mindset.
The strategic systems used by the various dictators throughout the region do not differ greatly. Important factors such as internal politics, security forces, state run media and social development are similar throughout these regions. These strategies neglected to keep up with the changes happening within their borders; modern transportation, media and information convenience enabled the masses to communicate more effectively and quickly than ever before. By time the regimes realized the impact these tools would have upon their authority, it was too late for them to respond with anything but paranoia and violence.
The leading parties of these oppressive regimes share similar methodologies to ensure political control. By studying their people they are able to identify the groups which are becoming strong enough to create a challenge to the power of the state. They look for gaps and disparities within those groups and use them to splinter them into a useless mess of small factions and then move on to the next largest. This ensures that only parties of the state’s choosing are cohesive enough to perform politically, allowing only those organizations which do not threaten their control to exist.
Outside of the major cities in Northern African and the Middle East most of the populations are still tribal in nature, broken up into bands of several families with few outsiders. The regimes took pains to ensure that these tribes would always have reason to squabble and quarrel, harboring fear of each other and outsiders.
This subversive planning ensures diversity of ideals and lack of unity. The massive adoption of cellular phones and new media technologies enabled public opinion in many areas to form a cohesion that had previously been isolated by more traditional means of communication which are easier to filter and control. As the communities became more and more inter-connected, the regimes began to lose the power of fear that mere media control, random kidnappings and torture instilled and were forced to resort to violence with greater frequency and extremity.
The use of fear and violence is a concept that the current regimes learned from colonial powers that occupied many of their countries during much of their previous histories. A standard policy for the current governments is to essentially colonize various regions of their country internally, rather than being controlled by external colonial forces.
This is achieved in several ways. Regions are afforded different tax rates, civil services, public works and varying enforcement of laws based on allegiance to the regimes.
How each region is regarded by the government determines the standard of living and political allegiance. If an area with opposing political views to the ruling party starts to get too strong, they neglect roads and hospitals, slow the supply of food and other resources. This causes weakness and internal strife as tensions rise. The dictators heavily tax and starve their opponent cities and tribes, allowing only allied regions to succeed.
The tyrants fully understand that when the various segregated groups and parties unite, the system itself is endangered. They know that it will take the full strength of their security forces spreading terror through violence to have any hope of remaining in power. Al Jazeera repeatedly asks people of various levels of authority, both inside and outside of the regions in question, why the leaders are not stepping down. Why they do not respect some other country’s call to cede power.
These dictators have been murdering and pillaging their own countries for decades, building immense wealth, power and fame. When a person has exploited their own people for so long, a psychological change occurs which dehumanizes those that they oppress while at the same time becoming ego-maniacal to the point that they almost lose complete touch with reality and begin to see themselves as the center of the universe.
Security forces are the most important tool within an oppressive regime. Most of the regions’ weaponry are only useful for fighting neighbors – or their own people. By segregating the military and police forces from the general public they are able to exercise control on a nation-wide level. There is a coherent feeling throughout the residents in each of these countries that the police and security forces do not consider themselves the same as the general populace. They are taught to regard all those who oppose the government as they would “rats and dogs” and often enjoy privileges that regular people do not.
In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Algeria and other countries, the tyrants use kidnapping, detention and torture to implant fear in the hearts of any movement by the people intended to free themselves from oppression. This creates an environment which prevents people from expressing themselves or resisting any corruption or abuse of power by the security forces to the extent that they no longer feel entitled to claim the rights that they are legitimately entitled to.
In order to conquer the spirit of their citizenry, the dictators cultivate this sense of fear through decades of abuse and oppression. When the prisons start to get full of opponents to their regime, they massacre the inhabitants mercilessly. Fear of being kidnapped and forced into this system of hopelessness spreads hopelessness throughout daily life. Prisons like Shehadnay and Abu Salim are infamous for their human rights abuses and mass elimination of prisoners. Qaddafi once killed more than 1,200 prisoners in less than three hours; Assad can kill 100 prisoners in three minutes.
The totalitarian dictators of Northern Africa and the Middle East do not care about race, age or gender. Women and children are taken, interrogated and beaten frequently. Parents are beaten or killed in front of their children, who are then detained indefinitely or left to fend for themselves. The regimes fear that children of dissenting families, or the women which give birth to them, will constitute a threat to the system eventually and use that as an excuse for their atrocious behavior.
As new age communication devices and tools grew to become ubiquitous throughout the regions, the collective consciousness of the citizens gradually became aware that they were all victims. Everywhere their brothers and sisters were being treated with the same disrespect and lack of value by the governments as their quality of life and sense of security continued to decline. After stories and images of peaceful demonstrations being met with ruthless violence spread throughout one country after another, the people galvanized against their oppressors. The more innocent victims that are claimed in this war against oppression, the more intensely bonded the protesters become until the entire populace will accept nothing less than absolute democracy, free will and basic human rights similar to the principles and ideals that the United States Constitution engenders.
It is a long road of descent that must be followed before an entire country, young and old, men and women, pour into the streets in unison demanding social change. Widespread corruption has lead to the erosion of infrastructure and important institutions. The people across these regions no longer trust in the health, education or police systems. Those who pay allegiance to their regime are rewarded by not being punished for corruption and other indelicacies. This model can be seen from the largest institutions down to the lowest level of civil interactions, business practices and indiscretions by local court officials and law enforcement.
It has long been the policy of these tyrants to persuade or coerce the young to work for their institutions, where the praises of the ruling party are many and criticism is not allowed. By using a corrupt system of rewards based on loyalty to the regime rather than the development of honor and values the dictators create a dedicated force that will do anything to keep the rewards coming, as opposed to being killed or tortured for any sign of dissent or even discontent.
In such a system of corruption, qualifications and competence have very little use except amongst the upper echelon of control. All that matters amongst the lower ranks are the abilities to intimidate and commit acts of violence, terror and war. Talent and intelligence is not deemed to merit reward or recognition. In these regimes of hypocrisy the only rewards come via theft and looting after committing acts of atrocity to innocent civilians in the name of their “glorious leader”.
The stories of these countries, each unique in their own way, also interweave and connect in a very complex manner that has been woven over thousands of years of history. Much of this cannot be understood by those from outside the regions because there is just too much intricate context for an outsider to comprehend.
There is no simple solution to dealing with these beasts, the only true solution will come through time and resilience. The institutions which drive the very essence of these countries needs to be cleansed to their core of corruption and intolerance. For many of the economic and civic services which provide for the people are themselves tainted to the extreme, and opening the minds and eyes of those who operate behind the desks, doors and offices also need to be cleansed of the preconceptions which have been driven into their minds daily and with repetition.
An additional challenge in overcoming such obstacles is that localized regions tend to be lead by regional mini-dictators who each control their own band of thieves, thugs, and security forces in various forms. These regional rulers were generally a typical criminal themselves and it is the most callous and vicious that ascend the ladder of leadership to rule over their region in terror. Corruption works both ways and the tyrants understand that they must also bribe members of the lower class to provide information and help them learn about and control areas of dissent. The more these type of people feel they are losing control, the tighter they will grasp on to it and with ever growing violence and intolerance.
Formal opposition parties in most Arab countries (such as Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen) are tolerated so long as they are do not upset the balance too strongly. The government will interfere with their organizational abilities to ensure that they are consistently fragile and loose knit. The regimes work to crush any semblance of true leadership within the opposing parties and with especially merciless force to those who shown any true sign of threat. Those who speak of true freedom and democracy are marketed as idealists and extremists, treated with disregard as a symbolic war against ideas. It is the goal of the regime to keep the status quo based on a system of oppression, robbery, corruption and control.
Other countries, such as Libya and Syria, do not allow the existence of opposition in any form. No form of freedom would be tolerated by these types of tyrants. No freedom of speech, no freedom of religion, no free will. Ideological thought is seen as enemy number one. However, the changes brought by technology jumped ahead of these dictators and enabled public knowledge and collective consciousness to grow beyond their control and with amazing speed.
The revolutions of the youth were carried out swiftly and without warning. There was no growing wave of opposition that corruption could dominate or oppress. No amount of theft or looting will quell the will of the people. These nations have been suffering for many years, decades in fact. Comprehensive history in these countries shows a long history of terrifying domination by the few and powerful. Technology has brought their consciousness together in a way never before possible. Together these things have enabled the enlightenment of a continent’s worth of people.
After suffering decades of oppression and terror throughout the region, reforming the governments and entire way of life is the only acceptable option for these peoples of oppression. A resolute campaign for reform and justice must be engaged to cleanse these great and historic lands of their bloody and tragic recent histories under brutal dictatorships.
For thousands of years oppressed people were voiceless. Ruthless abuse under the cover of darkness and state run media can no longer hide the truth. The people now know that they know that they no longer have to suffer in silence. The world of freedom is out there, it is listening, and now they have the tools that they will need to reach out and grab it.
Arabic originally by Dr. Hamza Mousa
English translation by Jason Edward White