x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

'Butterfly wings' and Egypt's revolt

A daily roundup of the region's news translated from the Arabic press.

"Mohamed Salmawi is more than a man of literature. He predicted the current revolt in Egypt in a novel, Butterfly Wings, three months ago," noted Abdul Rahman al Rashed in a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"Out of curiosity, I phoned him on Sunday to congratulate him for his predictive ability. He told me he just came from Tahrir Square, where he was protesting. I asked him: 'How did you feel when you saw the characters of your novel acting in front to of you?'

"'They were like Butterfly Wings on the stage,'" he said. The novel tells of change through a non-traditional power, neither parties, nor the army, but through the masses who use their own tools to alter the political situation.

The protagonists are "digital youth" who communicate through their own world and launch a broad rebellion against an authority they are estranged from. The government immediately accuses the opposition and arrests its leaders. This helps the real opposition in the streets.

"Employees join in the revolt, and the situation worsens. Even though the army is deployed, it refuses to repress protesters. As a result, the police lose control, and the end is known."

Had the Egyptian government read novels instead of police reports, perhaps it would have had escaped the present crisis, which has been simmering since the farcical legislative elections.

Any role for the army in the big coup?

The major changes taking place in the Arab region do not lie only in popular revolts but also in the changing role of the army in political life, argued Saad Mehio in a commentary for the Emirati daily Al Khaleej.

Traditionally, any democratic evolution in the Arab regime must be supported by the military establishment because its serves as the backup for both the intelligence and security apparatuses.

In the decolonisation era, the army emerged either as a modernising agent to facilitate national integration or a coercive force, which directly or indirectly governed some states.

Yet, the role of the army has evolved remarkably over the last three decades due to changes in the nature of the security challenges faced by different Arab countries. As interstate conflicts have eased to a large extent, civil disputes have increased, which has given reason for the growing influence of security forces and intelligence agencies. The influence of these institutions has in recent years grown proportionately to their role in countering mounting terrorism.

This concentration of power is similar to totalitarian regimes, whose influence go beyond security matters to monitor all aspects of political, social, cultural and economic life. This spreads what is dubbed by some researchers as an "inhumane security culture", the main obstacle that hinders true political reform.

The long road towards social justice

"Change initiatives led by popular masses in Arab countries should continue until they achieve democracy," observed Azraj Omar in a commentary for the London-based newspaper Al Arab.

Political change - although important - is but one aspect of many more others that need to be considered in order to effect a more comprehensive social evolution. A philosophy of change requires a reconstruction of the entire cultural basis of the society.

In this context, individuals and groups should think critically about their situation and analyse the causes of gross social inequality as well as the exclusion of the vast majority of citizens from access to fair distribution of national wealth, whether economic or knowledge-based.

This problem has roots in colonial times and is linked to the social structure. Many Arab countries still adopt economic approaches that reflect old colonial systems, ones that are less conducive to promoting social justice.

Likewise, a tribal structure together with sectarianism encouraged once by colonial powers have thrived under different forms, while they still influence top decisions in many spheres of life.

For these reasons, any radical change in our societies depends not on removing individuals, but rather on raising moral awareness about civil rights and what constitutes social peace.

Turkey is happy after all about Lebanon

In an opinion article carried by the UAE newspaper Akhbar al Arab, the columnist Mohammed Noureddine wrote that Turkey expressed high satisfaction following the appointment of Najib Miqati as the prime minister-designate of Lebanon.

This came in a statement by the foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu during a visit to Strasbourg last week. Turkey also called on the various Lebanese political forces to move away from violence and respect the democratic process.

This is probably a call directed to the Future Movement for self-restraint after the "Day of Rage" staged by the party's proponents.

While Ankara has for years knit strong relations with the Hariri family, it also maintains relations with other political actors in Tripoli, including Mr Miqati.

For this reason, Turkish political circles are keen to strike a balance between different political groups in Lebanon. This is why they were prompted alongside with their Qatari counterparts to help contain the crisis.

Yet Ankara, according to many observers, did not engage heavily in settling the crisis in Lebanon in the first place.

The evolution of events was rather the by-products of a complex internal and regional factors.


* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi