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Saad Khan Headshot

Where Is the Revolution?

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Was it a revolution really? It has been only a week since the military takeover in Egypt and a month since the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. There are, however, no visible signs that the loss of life, property, wages, and energy earned any tangible dividends. Although the Egyptian army has promised elections within six months, there is no guarantee that it will actually happen. Tunisia remains a dirty mess with no signs of improvement. What, then, is the achievement of the people and will they be able to see any changes?

The answer to this question remains elusive. The events, however, have set into motion a chain of uprisings on the Arabian street. Bahrain is in hot water and Yemen is seeing daily protests against the government. Iranians are waking up to the changing realities and so is the autocratic regime in suppressing their voices. Surprisingly missing from the list is Syria, where people are still unable to overcome their fears of mortal backlash by the despot regime. Jordan has seen a surge in public anger and the aging dictator in Libya is using brutal force against protesters. Saudi Arabia remains an oasis of peace, at least for now.

Let's start with Egypt. The country is under absolute military control with almost the same restrictions as people faced under Hosni Mubarak. The military-industrial complex in Egypt is not ready to give up its privileges, whatever may be the number of people assembled at the landmark Tahrir Square. People were raising slogans in favor of the army just a week ago but they may soon turn up against them.

All eyes are now on Bahrain where government crackdown has angered protesters who had adopted peaceful ways of raising their voice. Sectarian fault lines run deep in the country, causing major rifts in the society. There have been conflicting reports about the presence of Hezbollah flags in protests. Even if it is not true, Hala Gorani of CNN did find portraits of Hasan Nasrullah during her visit in 2007 along with signs of broader support in the Shiite majority. As the protesters have started calling for the fall of regime, one can fear the worst outcome where a theocratic government backed by Iran and Hezbollah surfaces up in Bahrain. Anti-regime forces need to clarify their position on that as the world will welcome a secular, democratic state in Bahrain rather than an extension of Iran.

Speaking of Iranian influence, Syria remains surprisingly calm. The iron-fist control of Bashar Assad remains pervasive, backed by the relentless support from Tehran. Syria represents a reversal of Bahrain where dictators/kings from minority rules the majority except the fact that Syrian ruling minority is tinier than the one in Bahrain. It would be interesting to see Iran's take on the issue if people actually stand up in Syria. Most likely, Tehran would be facilitating regime change in Bahrain while aiding the ruling junta in Syria to crush dissent.

Yemen remains volatile but there appears to be little signs of revolution. Except for the Friday protests, which have become more of a tradition, Jordan remains calm. Libya, however, has emerged as a surprising entrant to the revolution party. Qaddafi is no stranger to brutal suppression and he is relying on his time-tested tactics to suppress protesters. Unfortunately for Libyans, his strategy seems to work. Tripoli remains free of protesters and his forces are on their way to cripple voices of reform.

One statement may sum up the dirty mess that Middle East and North Africa has become: there is no revolution. Tunisian success provided the impetus for other uprisings and Egyptians were finally able to get rid of Mubarak. Reform activists in other countries have taken a cue from these happenings without looking at the post-revolution conditions of these countries. Protesters in Bahrain are calling for the fall of kingdom but are lacking a road map for post-Khalifa scenarios. The apparent lack of a unified struggle for a democratic state can seriously undermine the region's security.

This is what is missing from the call for change. There needs to be a concerted, untiring struggle for change to see an actual revolution. Egyptian military will use the protester fatigue in its favor and the Bahrain royalty will employ the sectarian divide to cement its rule. Libyans are setting new standards in brutality and any uprising in Syria would usher in the worst backlash by the junta; they already have enough experience gained in the blood-soaked 1980s. Revolutions don't come from the playbook of a shy American intellectual, as the Western media would made us believe. They are a result of relentless struggle and a workable future road-map, which incorporates democracy as a cornerstone of its ideology and equal economic opportunities as its core.