Arab democracy ignored by the democracy summit
At the beginning of the eighties I “embraced” democracy completely, after a long road that led me from the Popular Front offices in Beirut in the seventies to a pilgrimage in 1975 to Mao Tse-tung’s hometown in the countryside of Changsha. , as if we were circling the Sacred House.
The transformation took place and I discovered that behind all communist and nationalist thought there is nothing but the worship of people and the rule of parties that gradually turn into mafias that confiscate the rights of millions, and behave in their lives as if they were herds of cattle.
The writings of Solzhenitsyn and Abd al-Rahman Munif were also instrumental in my discovery of the horror, ugliness, and immorality that hides behind the shining slogans of tyranny.
The Arab Spring came to show the world mature, civilized peoples who avoided bloodshed. They did not raise religious, sectarian or ethnic slogans, but rather slogans demanding dignity and freedom. The first real elections came in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to show long queues for the widest popular participation, then came the events of Algeria, Sudan and Lebanon to show that we see with eye the birth of the peoples of citizens who are no longer subject to subjugation. As soon as the autocracy returned to rule in Tunisia on July 25, the demonstrations against it do not stop and will leave it sooner or later.
Over the course of 4 decades, many intellectual battles passed by me, how many books I read and wrote, how many hours of discussion, and also how many political battles with friends, with opponents, with enemies… that led me to prison, to dismissal from work, to exile, and then to the presidential palace culminated On January 27, 2014, I am proficient in my capacity as the President of the Tunisian Republic, the first democratic constitution that Tunisia has known.
Oh, my exaggerated optimism on that memorable day, and I believe that democracy has won definitively and that it has all the future in front of it to adopt the rule of law – the institutions that I dreamed of for 4 decades – as a tool to crystallize a people of citizens on the ruins of the people of subjects created by the dictatorship.
Here the autocracy has returned to Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, only after 7 years, and here I am again hunted and accused of high treason, just as it has been for most of my life.
Over the course of these last four decades, the endless intellectual and political battles—especially the experience of opposition and governance—have taught me a lot about politics, people, and democracy.
If some young people asked me to summarize the most important things I learned about this democracy, I would allow them to put the juice of this experience in the form of 4 recommendations for everyone who will continue a battle that turns out to be more difficult, longer and more dangerous than we expected.
They treated lightly all those who rant about the “maturity” of the Arab people or their inability to democracy
Someone recently wrote in the British newspaper “The Guardian” that the Arab Spring revolutions were a “ridiculous imitation” of the Orange Democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe in the eighties. It is a position that continues what has been said for the past half century – in some Western circles and among theorists of Arab tyranny – that our peoples are “culturally unqualified” – and who knows, perhaps even biologically – to adopt and live under democratic regimes.
The Arab Spring came to show the world mature, civilized peoples, who avoided bloodshed, did not raise religious, sectarian or ethnic slogans, but rather slogans demanding dignity and freedom. The first real elections came in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to show long queues for the widest popular participation, then came the events of Algeria, Sudan and Lebanon to show that we see with eye the birth of the peoples of citizens who are no longer subject to subjugation. As soon as the autocracy returned to rule in Tunisia on July 25, the demonstrations did not stop against it, and sooner or later will leave it.
Happened, and don’t be fooled by those I called the “e-generations” that used all modern means to organize the first electronic revolutions that no tyrannical genie would return to the bottle.
And if you were told to look at the results of the elections in Tunisia and the types of people who fill parliaments, they said that the German people sent a Nazi majority in 1932 and paid a heavy price, and now the number of those electing the extreme right does not exceed 10%. Therefore, it is necessary to accept the right of peoples to experience and learn, and to give them enough time, because there is no people who are born democratically with culture and instinct and who, from the first day, choose their representatives.
Pay attention to the ease of appropriating the mechanisms of democracy and using them to destroy democracy
The peaceful democratic revolution in Tunisia, after the revolution of December 17, 2011, brought about free and fair elections to be a stage of discussion and competition between political programs that raise the ceiling of collective awareness. So, in less than a decade, they turn into an arena of conflict; The weapons include lies, rumors and deception, and victory is for those who own the largest amount of misleading media, targeted opinion polls and Facebook networks, and behind the scenes support for foreign intelligence services.
The peaceful democratic revolution brought freedom of organization, and the national arena witnessed the birth of political companies led by corrupt businessmen, remnants of tyranny, or agents of foreign counter-revolutionary interests.
The peaceful democratic revolution brought freedom of opinion under the illusion that it would be the weapon of the oppressed and the oppressed to defame their tormentors.
But the wealthy and corrupt have seized most of the means of communication that have become in their hands a tool for spreading systematic misinformation, and even tarnishing democracy and revolution and imposing trends that serve their interests.
This disaster occurred as a result of a wrong strategic choice for which the leadership of the Ennahda movement bears the greatest responsibility, which is to precede the so-called national reconciliation over accountability. Thus, only a few months after the revolution, the old regime regained all its ferocity to fail the revolution and return to rule and lead the country to the situation it is in, that is, the return of individual rule and the elimination of the constitution that the revolution brought.
The lesson that Arab democrats should remember wherever they may be able to in the future is that they do not need any form of bloody violence to defend the democratic system. But they desperately need a law to isolate all tyrannical men and organizations; These people are afraid and not ashamed. Experience has also shown that transitional justice is meaningless with a junta unwilling to apologize and reconcile; Hence, the motto should be accounting, accounting, then accounting. In particular, a package of laws must be put in place that frames all freedoms so as not to prevent them in any way, but protect them from the deadly quadruple of every democracy: the corrupt financier, the corrupt politician, the mercenary media, and the misleading voter.
If democracy is not a lioness with claws and fangs, its destiny is to fall victim to predatory wolves that will use all the most despicable and meanest means to kill it.
Do not separate democracy from economic and social rights, otherwise you will spread the red carpet for the return of populism and tyranny
The most important thing for Arab democrats is not to deal with democracy from the perspective of the liberal ideology that separates freedom and justice, but from the perspective of the human rights ideology that links them.
Let us recall that democracy in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but the political rights represented in Article 19 (freedom of opinion and expression), Article 20 (freedom to organize) and Article 21 (freedom to vote).
But these rights are neither separate nor superior to economic and social rights, i.e. the right to social security (Article 22), the right to work and protection against unemployment (Article 23), and the right to rest and leisure, especially in reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic paid leave (Article 24). , the right to a standard of living sufficient to ensure the health and well-being of himself and his family (Article 25), the right to free education, at least in the primary and basic stages (Article 26), and the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community and the enjoyment of the arts (Article 27).
If the expectations of the Arab elites are to reach the individual and collective freedoms enjoyed by Western peoples, then the expectations of the general public are to enjoy the economic and social levels that these peoples enjoy.
For democracy to bring them freedom is a beautiful and desirable thing, but if this democracy remains unable to meet their needs in terms of work, health, education and other services, they will turn their backs on it, clinging to the rope of any populist charlatan or any tyrannical demagogue.
It is the harsh and repeated lesson for all those who think that democracy is a goal, and for our peoples it is a means for more social justice, ending corruption and the monopolization of wealth, power and prestige by corrupt oppressive elites.
For us Arabs, democracy should be a means to achieve another of our most precious goals, which we called in ancient times “Arab unity”. How many attempts have proven impossible to achieve under authoritarian regimes. There is the model of the party’s struggle – represented by the Baath Party that has controlled Syria and Iraq for decades – and the failure of the slightest rapprochement. Every dictator wants to unite a nation that tyranny has torn apart.
There is no hope for this nation in any form of coordination except with democratic countries that alone can build the union of free Arab peoples on the model of the European Union, which did not see the light until after the collapse of Nazism, fascism and communism.
Do not be hostile to the West and do not trust it
On the 3rd of July 2013, the democratic regime was overthrown in Egypt, and it happened that the then French President Francois Hollande made an official visit to Tunisia, and at the joint press conference at the Carthage Palace, I condemned in the strongest terms this coup and remained the guest – the representative of one of the oldest democratic regimes In the world – the progressive socialist Hollande is very cautious, refusing to take an explicit position.
I was not surprised by his position because I, as an opponent for many years, had a painful experience with most Western democracies. On the one hand, lip service to the concepts of freedom and human rights, and on the other hand, the continuous support for tyranny because it was – and still is – serving its interests, and this is all that matters to it.
The least that can be said about the major Western countries is that they faced the Arab democratic revolutions with much reservation, and that they did not do much to prevent their clients – mainly the UAE – from sabotaging them. Also, when we said in Tunisia that we do not want loans, but rather convert debt into projects that your companies win, and you and we win, the responses were more than lackluster. Thus, the political and economic support was very expressive of a position that was neither marked by explicit hostility nor real support.
Will American policy change after the Democracy Summit, in which Arab democracy was absent, except by representing Iraq, that is, the democracy imposed by the invading American forces in 2003, which cannot be said to have endeared neither the Iraqis nor the Arabs to democracy? We hope so, but without illusion.
If the reason for the French leaders’ lack of enthusiasm for Arab democracy stems from their ideological intransigence and their preference for a secular dictatorship over a democracy that can bring Islamists to power, then the reason for American decision-makers is their realization that only dictatorial regimes can – besides the special military deals they provide – ensure normalization with Israel .
It is what these systems have understood and are constantly playing on; She realizes that the way to the heart of Washington runs through Tel Aviv.
On the contrary, the Americans know very well that any Arab democracy, as a whole democracy, is subject to its public opinion, and Arab public opinion – albeit with peace – categorically rejects its humiliating conditions, i.e. acceptance of an apartheid state and occupation at the same time.
For Arab democrats, peace is required and necessary, but on terms accepted by the people, not imposed by hated regimes.
It is these conditions that give the Palestinian people their full rights, either within a continuous, independent and viable state with East Jerusalem as its capital, or a democratic state like the one that Mandela built on the ruins of the “apart two” state. .
Pending the settlement of history, the Arab democrats have no choice but to support the Palestinian people at all costs, and rejecting normalization is nothing but a mockery of reality, and a delay in curative solutions that alone can build real, ie lasting peace.
Regardless of the tyrannical regimes being like the cover placed on the crater of a volcano whose boilers will follow up on explosions that will threaten the West with all their consequences, America will face a strange paradox.
We do not forget that it is currently living in conflict with China in all fields, mainly in the field of the most successful political model presented to the world.
By supporting regimes such as the Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi regimes, it is in fact supporting countries that have embraced the Chinese model, not the US (i.e., authoritarianism + liberalism) in its strongest manifestations. How strange that American policy contributes to the success of this model, which may constitute an irresistible temptation in the coming decades for many countries in the world, when Western democracy was said to have peace even in its oldest strongholds.
That is why I say: Do not count on Western countries; Let it reap the fruits of short-term policies, but rely only on yourselves, and if you find a change in its policies, it should be within the framework of a relationship of partners, not clients, that is, without compromising our right to an Arab democracy that wants peace and refuses to surrender, it does not matter that Islamists or secularists come to power, as long as you Stick to the rules of the democratic game.
It is important that we never forget that there is a West that is our sincere and sincere ally, that is, the West of civil society and human rights organizations in particular. The solidarity of this West has had a great advantage in supporting the Arab democratic movement, and it is also the constant pressure on Western governments, especially the major countries, to change policies that are contrary to their principles and interests, mainly strategic interests.
In all cases, the fate of democracy worldwide is at stake, not only in our countries. Therefore, all democratic forces in the world must build bridges between them, establish alliances, and mobilize in the face of the internal danger represented by the quartet of corrupt financiers, corrupt politicians, mercenary media, and deceived voters, and in the face of the external danger represented by the dualism of old tyranny and new populism.