By Dr Geeta Madhavan
Humanity is on the roll demanding for itself the rights which are built into its psyche and have been denied to it for long periods by despots, oligarchies, repressive monarchies and military regimes.
The juggernaut on the move is crossing artificially created national boundaries and in its wake leaving many dead and the living more resolute to break free of the shackles of tyranny and control.
Those earlier sporadic protests that had intermittently heralded the reasons for change were firmly put down. They were seen as unconnected events caused by minor elements that would learn their lesson when faced by severity. The disconnect between the rulers and the ruled in these countries had grown so deep that the ruling establishment remained oblivious to the growing general discontent. Their reliance on the loyal and ruthless armed might of their nations may have been strengthened by the crackdown and the seeming success of the mowing tanks of Tiananmen Square in 1989. Ruthlessness and arbitrariness, they seem convinced, was the solution to every murmur of discontentment. Basic rights of their citizens to live without fear and with dignity and to choose their leaders was considered an anathema in these countries. Therefore, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Iran and even as this is being written, more nations are in upheaval.
The Middle East is in the throes of battle between the ruling houses and those demanding more rights. Fear of life, so assiduously inculcated in the minds of the people of these nations, seems to have fled and is now replaced by assertiveness of the crowds for their rights.
Uncontrollable corruption, denial of legal and political rights viz. absence of free and fair elections, draconian state emergency laws and absence of freedom of speech as well as social causes like unemployment and spiraling food prices are cited as the reasons for the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. This rage spread swiftly from the youth and the articulators of human rights to the discontented populace. The apparent resilience of the thousands of Egyptian protestors in the face of the mighty power of the state and the inherent conviction of their cause is modern day triumph of the civil disobedience movement. The movement is bound to spread to more nations that have pursued unpopular disputable policies. Undoubtedly the genesis of the movement sweeping the Middle East and nations with Muslim populace was in Egypt but to perceive the movement as a wave of Islamisation sweeping the world would be over simplifying the undercurrents.
Will the people who have demand more freedom and a right to better life, cast away those very freedoms in the name of religion and allow radical elements to fill the vacuum created by the fleeing establishment? It seems contrary to the purpose. It is not a malaise that they have sought to alleviate; it is a serious malady that they have vowed to debilitate. It is therefore, incumbent on the international community to view the events as they truly are and not coat them with the colours that suit their national policies and interest.
The nations that have enshrined basic human rights in their constitutional framework and secured them for their own citizens have a global responsibility to condemn those regimes that have denied it for too long to their people.
(Dr. Geeta Madhavan is an analyst working in areas related to international security and Terrorism. She can be reached at: [email protected])