Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Muammar Qaddafi is known to be the joke of the Arab world. Just type his name on youtube and you'll get an endless number of some hilarious speeches and remarks he's made in interviews and conferences. He clearly suffers from one or more psychological conditions that seem to be refractory to medical therapy.
That would have been funny to watch if Qaddafi was a celebrity not reluctant to embarrass himself in any possible occasion.
But when it comes to ruling a large and a very oil-rich country inhabited by only 6 million people, it stops being funny. One would expect such a country to have the best schools, colleges, hospitals, roads and energy plans in the world. Instead, Libya remains a third world country in most aspects. It's doing well when you compare it to the rest of Africa, but when you compare it to what it should be, it is centuries behind.
To my surprise I met many Libyans living who live in the United States, and among them I haven't met anyone who admired Al-Qaddafi. What's even worse is the horrifying stories I heard about how he handled any opposition to his regime.
One of these stories was his involvement in the war against Chad. Al-Qaddafi decided to get involved in a civil war in neighboring Chad, and actually did occupy part of this country as if he need more land (Libya is the 17th largest country in the world). One day he told high school students in Libya they were going on a field trip. He sent buses to their schools, gave them guns and sent them to fight in Chad. Thousands of Libyans died and got injured in a brutal war in 1986. Qaddafi claimed a decisive victory in Chad initially, but when he suffered a bad defeat he went on Libyan TV to criticize the "stupid military that decided on its own to get involved in this war". He didn't want Libyans to see those who were wounded with visible injuries such as head injuries or amputations, so he ordered the military to kill those injured. Yes that's right, he ordered the silent execution of those Libyan civilians and soldiers who were forced to fight in an unnecessary war against their will and were severely injured. Instead of an apology or compensation he got them killed. Nobody can argue with him. Nobody can call for change.
There are numerous of stories in Libya that reflect his brutality and make Saddam Hussain look like an angel. Unlike Saddam who established a solid health care system and got his people (men and women) extremely well-educated, Qaddafi tried to keep his people oppressed and incapable of any critical thinking.
During the very short period I worked in Jordan, I was shocked at the number of Libyan patients who traveled to Jordan to get medical care. Libya has the potential to build a Mayo clinic in every little village. Libyan doctors seem only to shine when they the country. Wealthy Libyans would never stay in Libya to get treated for anything or receive education. Leaving the country is the way to secure a future even though their country is so damn rich.
Even though I've never been to Libya, and I don't intentionally follow their news or read books about it, I can easily come up with a list for 1000 reasons why Qaddafi has been a terrible president. Maybe I will when I have more time.
To symbolize the corruption and autocracy the Libyans are subjected to think, think of the beloved son, Al-Saa'idi Al-Qaddafi. He decided to play football, placed himself as the captain of the Libyan national team even though he didn't play for any club at the time. He ordered the players to pass him the ball in every game. When the team was coached by a talented Italian coach (Bersellini), the first thing he did was fire Al-Saadi because "he wasn't a football player". The Libyan Federation fired the coach instead and brought Al-Saadi to the team. Al-Saadi then paid millions of dollars to top-quality Italian clubs just to include him in the squad. They didn't let him play a single minute, and he was eventually asked to leave Italy because he failed a drug test.
This is how Libya is run, violent dictator, family running the country, opposition is crushed (literally), corruption is the rule, and stupidity is king. Qaddafi seems funny when he talks, but nothing about his corruption or violence is funny. It wasn't surprising to learn today that he asked his military to shoot peaceful demonstrators from helicopters. What was surprising to me was to see protests growing in numbers, which gives me another reason to be very proud of those people. His people have had enough, and they're willing to sacrifice their lives for a better future for their kids. It's good to be an Arab these days.
(Aboce is a picture of Qaddafi with a picture of Omar Al-Mukhtar. Reminds me of a picture of Madonna wearing a cross)
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Sunday, February 06, 2011
First, some people in South Dakota are asking me if my family is safe. For them Jordan is Egypt is Yemen is Pakistan. It's the same country. I just tell them my family is OK, thank you very much.
Let me start by stating the obvious: Mubarak is terrible person. He's even worse than we expected. What was going on in Egypt with military cars running over people was disturbing. But almost any other Arab leader would have done much worse than that from day one of the protests. It's not a Mubarak problem, it's an Arab leader problem. Arab leaders would do anything, anything, to stay in power.
I don't think many people will agree with me on this, but it's not only Hosni Mubarak who is responsible for the situation in Egypt right now. Jamal Abdul -Naser and Anwar al-Sadat are also to blame for implanting dictatorship as an acceptable way to rule a liberal country like Egypt, and allowing intelligence officers to spy on their people and report whoever had unfavorable opinions about the president. As much as I respect Abdul-Naser, he paved the way for Egypt to become an autocracy. Al-Sadat was even worse, supporting empty-headed radicals who eventually assassinated him.
Egyptians proved to me to be much more civilized than what I've thought. All the protests were very peaceful until the government thugs started beating people. I still consider it a white revolution. Contrary to what most Jordanians believe, Egyptians do have class. Protesters themselves even cleaned the streets at the end of each day.
Some analysts in America continue to produce statistics about how radicalized the Egyptian society have become, and are concerned that the leadership in Egypt will be a fundamental one, one that will abuse women's rights and persecute Christians. I can't deny that such mentality does exist in Egypt, but it's the incredible oppression, poverty, and lack of freedoms that allowed these irrational ideas in Egypt in the 1950s to become somewhat popular. Egyptians and Arabs desire freedom as much as Americans do, and it's such a hypocrisy from some Americans to be stand against their own beliefs and values being practiced in other countries. I expect that from their presidents, but the people themselves, come on!
Finally the protests in Egypt are not between Egyptians and Mobarak, they are a fight between Arab citizens and their tyrant leaders. Never did Arabs have fair and just elections but for the past 2 weeks each one of us had an ambassador in Midan Al-Tahrir. Pick your side, it's a struggle between good an evil as clear as good and evil can be. Whatever will happen in Egypt will affect other countries
Whatever was going on in the past 2 months gave us hope and pride to be Arabs again. They'd better mark Mohamed Bouazizi's grave well because one day I will be going there and thank him. He started an era where Arab leaders will be afraid of their people and where opinions will be respected if they're unpopular. How will the future evolve is something I'm uncertain of, but it will be better.