10 Reasons Why Arab Spring Happened and Continues a Year on

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July 14, 2012 00:25
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REASON #4: ABSENCE OF POLITICAL DISSENT/LACK OF PARTICIPATION

Political dissent refers to any expression which conveys public dissatisfaction over the policies of the government. It may come in both violent and nonviolent forms – including protests, civil disobedience, strike, lobbying. The violent expressions may include self-immolation, rioting, arson, bombings, assassinations and armed revolution.

The lack of political dissent is the hallmark of any repressive government. Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes tend to punish any form of political dissent and are quick to quell it effectively. The suppression of freedom of speech is the first target of such government that denies an individual or group of individuals to speak freely without censorship, limitation or punishment.

Similarly, the freedom of assembly and association is the individual’s right to come together with the others to express, promote, pursue and defend common interests collectively. Any given authoritarian regime would deny this basic right to its citizens and violators would be punished sternly by employing the services of the notorious secret services and police forces. Jails and prisons in authoritarian states are full of political prisoners at any given time. Also, there is no existence of a viable political opposition group or movement.

Suppression of political dissent is very common in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Libyan example is a classic case study. The arrest of Fathi Terbil, a human rights activist arrested in Benghazi by the security services, triggered massive anti-government protests in cities across Libya on 16 February.

libyans hate gaddafi

Libyans stamp a portrait of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi, Libya. Peaceful protests against the regime escalated into a full-blown revolt when pro-Gaddafi forces launched a violent crack down on unarmed civilians in various Libyan cities on 17 February. Photo - John Moore/Getty Images

Instead of addressing the concerns of the general public and allowing them to peacefully air their views, the Libyan authorities commanded by Moammar Gaddafi, the 68-year-old dictator who has been in the power since the 1969 coup, opened fire on the protestors and used disproportionate force to disperse them. Initially, the masses withdrew from the streets but came back with vengeance after arming themselves with crude weapons and ammunitions.

The result was a large scale revolt that engulfed whole of Libya with large urban centres expelling the pro-Gaddafi regime elements and declaring the cities ‘free’. The West, long displeased with Gaddafi’s regime, rushed to arm the rebels and provided them air cover under the pretext of a ‘UN no-fly zone’ while they fought against forces loyal to the Libyan leader. Thanks to the use of massive and disproportionate airpower against pro-Gaddafi Libyan armed forces, the NATO-backed rebels toppled the regime in Tripoli and captured the country and executed Colonel Gaddafi and his sons in broad daylight without any trial.

While Gaddafi’s regime denied the masses their right to govern themselves and address their problems on their own, the new National Transitional Council is struggling badly to provide security, jobs, law and order and other basic necessities of life, something the previous government provided successfully.

Flash points: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco.

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