x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

One tyranny strives to replace another

Egyptians are finding that their revolution has not worked out well at all, an Arab columnist says. Today's other comment excerpts touch on Russians leaving Syria and Arab promises of aid.

A new type of dictatorship in Egypt is opposed by the same form of popular protest and power

"Two years have passed since the first sparks of peaceful popular protests began in Egypt, and soon erupted into a popular revolution against an era of tyranny and corruption," columnist Mohammed Obaid wrote in the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej.

And now, he said, a new scene is playing out, on the eve of the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak on January 25, 2011.

"Unfortunately, two years later, not much has changed. Another form of dominance, more serious than the previous one, has taken hold. A power has risen that shields itself with Islam as a means to secure control over every aspect of the state. It is a mere clone of the former, regime clothed in religion. The faces have changed, but the dictatorial core remains intact," he said.

Egypt seems to be counting its days. Observers are afraid that the situation will get out of control. The near future looks hazier than it did on the day the revolution brought down a regime many had thought invincible.

The political situation in Egypt has been taken hostage by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies from various political Islamist groups. They command the executive and legislative powers, and the judiciary seems to be fighting a rearguard action.

In the name of religion and reform, the constitution was remodelled to satisfy their whims and serve their interests. Meanwhile, the opposition forces are fighting tooth and nail against yet another attempt to silence them and hijack the revolution.

The tools of dictatorship haven't changed at all. The state continues to try to make up the deficit by taking out more loans and grants. It is struggling to get its hands on total control, which current leaders had fought against in the name of religion and through religious-based accusations. The poverty-stricken population, which pays taxes on practically everything, seems to be gearing up for another round of protests.

When it comes to Egypt's regional and international policies under the new Islamist leadership, the situation is also complex. The Muslim Brotherhood built part of its ideology and popularity on its proclaimed defiance directed at Israel and at western intervention in Arab affairs.

Once in power, however, the group was quick to assert its adherence to accords with Israel and to reassure the West of its friendly intentions. It even went so far as to call upon Egyptian Israelis to return to Egypt.

"The scene isn't rosy at all. But as gloomy as it may seem, it still holds a glimmer of hope. The Egyptian people have decided to commemorate their revolution at its birthplace in Tahrir Square … there, they will protest again and in their collective psyche they reaffirm that the people's will eventually prevails," concluded the writer.

Russians flee Syria in a shameful silence

Russia evacuated about 80 of its citizens living in Syria earlier this week. On Wednesday, they crossed the border into Lebanon and flew to Moscow at dawn.

"I wonder why journalists weren't allowed to contact any of them," columnist Rajeh Al Khouri wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

"The diplomats who oversaw the evacuation may have wanted to prevent the Russians from talking about their ordeal in Syria.

"It may be that they wanted to make sure that none of the citizens would make statements that condemned their country's politics, especially because Russia continues to be an essential player in the Syrian tragedy," added the writer.

It was revolting to listen to official statements from Moscow telling us that the Syrian crisis was nowhere near its end, he said, when it is known that Moscow's own policies have been the main hindrance to all possible initiatives for Syria.

Listening to the Russians predict the continuation of the crisis, and watching them evacuate their citizens in total silence via Beirut's airport, it is safe to predict that Syria is heading towards worse times.

"But how long the tragedy will last, and whatever horrors and bloodshed it may still entail, will all certainly be on Russian hands," the writer concluded.

Arab states must fulfil promises for own good

At the closing press conference of last week's Arab economic summit in Riyadh, Prince Saud Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia said that the only guarantee that Arab states would pay agreed financial aid to needy countries is the conscience of Arab leaders, journalist Emadeddine Adeeb wrote in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

In the Arab culture, a man's word is binding. However, a review of past Arab summits reveals that many promises of aid have been unfulfilled.

"Supporting the Arab economies is a matter of life and death," opined the writer. "Economic collapse, unemployment and failure to reach the required development rates signal the start of chaos and state disintegration," he added.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from the Arab Spring, it is that rebelling peoples can't survive on freedom alone. Social-equality slogans don't put food on the table or pay for education, health care and essential services.

Arab economies are suffering mostly because of costly energy requirements.

In Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, for example, 80 per cent of state subsidies on goods and services are allocated to energy; that has been costing governments colossal amounts of money.


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem