The last tyrant

Published: February 16, 2012
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS [email protected]

The Arab Spring that started last year is now blooming with freedom and democracy. One can feel its fragrance all over the region and even beyond it. People in Tunisia and Egypt — the two countries where the popular movement for democratic change started first — have seen democracy have its first run, i.e. they have held elections. They are set to move on to the next stage of writing constitutions and working out a new compact between society and the state.

Morocco and Jordan, two traditional monarchies have begun to move toward popular participation. The Moroccan king in his wisdom and pragmatism allowed free and fair elections leading to the victory of the Islamists — which is clearly the new trend. Bahrain, Yemen and Syria have witnessed popular uprisings against the old regimes at varying degrees. Furthermore, the political feeling driving the change is the very modern notion of a representative government.

What the Middle East is witnessing is a very old historical struggle between the old regimes, built on dynastic tradition, and the new social forces wanting to claim power on the ground of the sovereignty of its citizens. In every age and in every part of the world, the old regimes have resisted this classic quest of the people to redefine their relationship with power. History, however, doesn’t give us a very clear pattern of people always winning and the old regimes dying out quickly. The rulers have silenced people with their power, but the mystique of freedom is that its dream never dies.

When we celebrate the success and sacrifices of the Arab youth in sowing the seeds of freedom by their blood, we must also remember those who suffered silently in solitary torture houses and ultimately met their Creator without the world knowing about them. There are countless such stories from the Middle East at large. Torture, violence and the use of state power to crush the human spirit in the Middle East were weapons of choice of the old regime and still remain so. The world at large has looked the other way for oil, markets, stability and security.

Syria is one place where tyranny reigns supreme. Bashar al-Assad continues to rule through state terror, suppressing dissent and peaceful protests by indiscriminate and disproportionate violent means. His father, Hafez al-Assad, another of the Arab world’s repulsive characters, left a horrible legacy of violence against his own people. Sadly, Bashar is walking down the same terrible path to cling on to power. The Syrian regime is committing genocide as it undertakes planned massacres of its own people suspected of resisting its rule.

There is total media blackout of the resistance and of the peoples’ uprising against the ruling Syrian regime. The glimpses of atrocities that are filtering out, thanks to the courage of some Western journalists and brave Syrian men, women and the young resisting the regime, are quite shocking.

More shocking is the silence of the Arab and the Islamic states and the insensitivity of their civil societies as the worst violations of life, liberty and property are being conducted by the Syrian regime. These states have skeletons of their own. But they must know that if the situation in Syria is not settled through peaceful change, then the conflict that will ensue will divide the Middle East and its neighboring regions along sectarian lines and breed violence on a much larger scale.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • M Baloch
    Feb 16, 2012 - 10:23PM

    “Syria is one place where tyranny reigns supreme.” what about Bahrain, sir? Recommend

  • Sajid
    Feb 16, 2012 - 10:29PM

    The civil societies and regimes in Islamic countries are waiting for the US and West to intervene and stop this genocide, so that then they can cry about it.


  • Shahid
    Feb 16, 2012 - 10:57PM

    @M Baloch: The situation in Syria compared to Bahrain is hundred times worse. There are more than seven thousand people killed in syria.How many people got Killed in Bahrain???. In syria they are using tanks against unarmed civilian population. Where are all the religious leaders in pakistan who condemn America day and night but never condemned saddam Hussain and now silent on Bashar Asad’s brutality. The role of iran is also very shamefull in this. by still supporting Asad we Know it is any thing but not an islamic republic.


  • Feb 16, 2012 - 10:58PM

    I have no trucks with ME politics, and I agree with you sir no doubt Saudi, UAE and Bahrain are shining examples of true democracy, only Syria is a tyranny. Looking at news head lines, chaos in Egypt and Yemen and continued fighting in Lybia, it is more of Arab Autumn than Spring do not you think. Recommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 16, 2012 - 11:06PM

    The military atrocities in Syria, Egypt, Behrain, etc., only proves that it is not just one man/dictator but the whole system of armed thugs that is ruling. These armies are not patriotic to the country but to their own interests. Just like Iraq the whole gang of armed rulers must be dismembered to liberate the people otherwise it is not possible. They would replace one man with the other.


  • M Baloch
    Feb 16, 2012 - 11:27PM

    Because Bahrainis are peaceful, they don’t use bomb blasts, klashinkovs and attacking public property and because there is peace keeping troops of great house of Saud and because Bahrain is only true democracy who can give citizenship rights to Pakistanis but not their natives, great logic sir…!


  • M Mohsin
    Feb 17, 2012 - 1:45AM


    Are the Bahraini people any less deserving of freedom? It is laughable to think that Saudi Arabia is the standard bearers of democracy in Syria. They are callous; fighting down to the last Syrian protestor in a cynical bid to topple the Alawite regime of Syria in its raging proxy war with Iran which cuts a swath from Lebanon to Pakistan. How long with these autocratic thugs command the unquestioning loyalty of ordinary Pakistanis. We are as uncritical in our support about them as America is about Israel.


  • What da?
    Feb 17, 2012 - 1:50AM

    Pointless article – simply regurgitaitng the news headlines! Did you even read what you wrote?

    “thanks to the courage of some Western journalists” – lols at Western journalists…because this is Western backed propaganda!

    Also, in case you haven’t head of Qatar/Saudi led Arab League – how can you say Arab countries are quiet on this issue?Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 17, 2012 - 3:48AM

    @M Baloch:
    There’s a difference between dictatorship and tyranny, that’s the difference between Bahrain and Syria.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 17, 2012 - 3:51AM

    @Ali Wali:
    UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are not murdering their civilian populations in the way that Syria is, and has had a history of doing. Remember 1982.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 17, 2012 - 3:57AM

    @M Mohsin:
    In Bahrain about 60% of the population is protesting against the rulers, and in Syria more than 90% of the population is fighting against a tiny minority who has ruled brutally for decades. And Syria has the worst human-rights record in the region. Whenever someone talks about Israel, I ask them, what about Syria? How can anybody possibly be against any country in the Middle East if they are not against the Syrian tyrants?


  • vasan
    Feb 17, 2012 - 9:52AM

    “More shocking is the silence of the Arab and the Islamic states and the insensitivity of their civil societies as the worst violations of life, liberty and property are being conducted by the Syrian regime.”

    IF u look at the history of the Arabic nomad land or in the Islamic crescend till pakistan, the above statement is not shocking because that has been the “normal” life there for donkeys years. On the pretext of religion so much of violence and suppression have been carried out, that it defies humanity and logic. They all have a lot of “martial” tendencies, I guess.


  • ArifQ
    Feb 17, 2012 - 10:02AM

    More shocking is the silence of the Arab and the Islamic states and the insensitivity of their civil societies as the worst violations of life, liberty and property are being conducted by the Syrian regime.

    Factually incorrect statement, had the honorable Doctor Sahib followed Syrian events or done his homework he would have not made this basic error. Fact is, the Arab League has been extremely vocal in their criticism of the Syrian regime going to the extent of withdrawing their diplomats.


  • Feb 17, 2012 - 10:05AM

    @Mustafa Moiz: yes Saudia and Bahrain are killing people, according to the news.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 17, 2012 - 10:37AM

    @Ali Wali:
    Look at how many people Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have killed and look at how many Syria has killed. There is no comparison, Syria’s rulers are the most brutal in the region by far.


  • Feb 17, 2012 - 12:26PM

    @Mustafa Moiz: it is not a number game, and Saudi n Bahrainis are not armed. Saudi get all oil wealth from Shia areas, and Shia live under poverty, nice one.


  • Feb 17, 2012 - 12:28PM

    @Mustafa Moiz: and my looking at does not matter, it is arab problem and they need to solve Ok.


  • HQ
    Feb 17, 2012 - 12:37PM

    @ those who are questioning Professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais over his statement on the silence of the rest of the Arab states – here’s a read between the lines that i can come up with. Will not necessarily match the view of the Professor – but will give an idea:

    a. What he is indirectly saying is that they should physically intervene, instead of arranging huge meetings that have zero outcome.
    b. They should take unilateral action, without depending on the US/NATO or UN to solve this issue.
    c. The Sunni states should participate and stop the genocide of Sunnis in Syria – being committed by its Shia regime – with physical backing from Iran.


  • jock
    Feb 17, 2012 - 1:30PM

    Tyranny should end in both Syria & Bahrain. Having said that, the extent of human rights violations is comparatively serious in Syria. Its a human problem and NOT an Arab one.


  • siddiqui
    Feb 17, 2012 - 3:15PM

    OIC and other Middle East countries are themselves allowed opportunities to foreign countries to attack their affected countries` sovereignty…


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 17, 2012 - 4:23PM

    @Ali Wali:
    At the end of the day numbers do matter. A dictatorship that kills a couple of thousand of its people and is more representative of its people is better than a dictatorship which murders over 30,000 of its civilians and is supported by a small fraction of the population.


  • ukmuslim
    Feb 17, 2012 - 5:33PM

    as per my indian view, usa wants to control the oil and related energy interests. thats why they were in iraq. after leaving iraq in destroyed condition, iran sees the lifetime opportunity of having its influence from mediterean to arabian sea. they are supporting bashar al-assad in syria with the help of hizbollah and the western coutries want change of the regime there. influence of iran (on oil trade) is what usa and israel don’t want. usa calls iran a part of axis of evil and iran calls usa the great satan. political, millitary and energy control of the region is the main goal of both sides.

    sub-continent (india and pakistan) is trapped in between. cause iran supplies substantial share of oil; while usa is main trading partner.


  • ahmed
    Feb 17, 2012 - 6:42PM

    Tunisia :- Revolution was successful but new regime fit in the Plan B of US foreign policy(Noam Chomsky).President is human right activist. Very close to US NGOs.. case closed !!!!

    Egypt :- Revolution completely failed :- Revolution converted into Military coup which will have more power than civilian govt. Christian killing has started. wahabi and salafist ideology is spreading… detrimental in the long run for the society. may face problems like pakistan.

    Libya :- Completely destroyed by NATO :- will become another afghanistan.

    Syria :- Devastation :- No future now..

    Bahrain :- crushed by saudi military.. killings of shias.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 17, 2012 - 9:54PM

    Why does everyone emphasize that many of those who were killed in Bahrain were Shias? Why doesn’t anybody ever mention that those who are massacred in Syria are Sunnis?


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