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Long live Tunisia!

Those among us who still believe in the Arab Spring celebrated on Sunday a blessed historical and fateful day

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

Those among us who still believe in the Arab Spring celebrated on Sunday a blessed historical and fateful day. They celebrated the Tunisian elections which will grant Tunisia deliverance from Tunisians who have several times echoed that democracy is strife and that the old regime, with its obvious and hidden shortcomings, provided stability. The enemies of Arab Spring who are terrified of change have constantly sought to scheme plans to obstruct this change. They prefer that this spring totally relapses and that we return to the tyrannical era of slavery which lasted for over 1,000 years. Tunisia ignited the spark of change in December 2010 and it wasn’t long before this talk spread across the region. That date marked our rebirth and Sidi Bouzid became the pilgrimage site of those who believe in that historical moment and its goals.

The success of the Arab Spring in Tunisia confirms that what happened there four years ago was not a precarious event but a historical inevitability that must emerge victorious to those who believe it’s the only means to save Arabs from their inevitable fates if their choices remain limited to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or tyranny. What’s happening near Tunisia, that is in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, and the events in Iraq and Syria confirm that the Tunisian path of resorting to democracy is the right path. As for those who refuse this path, their countries’ fate will be strife, divisions, polarization, the spread of hatred among its people and even war and destruction.

Many had high expectations in 2011 and hoped their countries would enjoy peace, freedom, justice, equality and brotherhood but they ended up detained, pursued or displaced

Jamal Kashoggi

Many observed the Tunisians as they freely cast their votes. This scene instilled hope and devastated many people whose own Arab Spring has relapsed. Many had high expectations in 2011 and hoped their countries would enjoy peace, freedom, justice, equality and brotherhood but they ended up detained, pursued or displaced. Some even ended up as fighters, killing and getting killed. Tunisia, which inspired these people, is a beacon of hope for them today.

Devolution of power

The success of the Arab Spring there does not necessarily mean the victory of (the oppressed) - like the Islamists, leftists or honest unionists - whom Zine a-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime detained or displaced. It’s not necessary that those people win even though they are the most worthy of victory as they are the ones who struggled for this historical moment. The democratic victory of any political party during these elections is a success to Tunisia itself as it marks the peaceful devolution of power as long as the winning party commits to the Arab Spring’s rules, and which are mainly “liberal democracy,” and as long as it doesn’t exploit its victory to cancel or humiliate others or to manipulate elections to guarantee it stays in power, like Ben Ali and those like him have done.

This brings about a new definition I have formulated to specify who’s “extremist” and who’s “moderate” in our Arab world. He who accepts liberal democracy and its tools, such as elections, freedom of opinion and freedom of speech, and accepts their results and adheres to the peaceful devolution of power and respects the rights of the losing party is a moderate while he who rejects the above is an extremist.

If we are to apply this definition in Syria or Libya, we can specify which party deserves support and cooperation and which party must be declared extremist to outcast it and exert pressure on it so it submits and alters its approach. The party which rejects democracy is forecasting the road to tyranny. Examples of these parties are the ISIS organization, the al-Nusra Front and even the Islamic Front - which is viewed as moderate and which received plenty of aid from regional countries. Without democracy and its requirements, the fate of countries like Syria or Libya will be war until one category wins over the other. We thus return to the doctrine of the “conqueror” whom people didn’t choose but were forced to accept.

Tunisians will chant “We die for the sake of our land” as they celebrate freedom and their patriotic achievement. However, death for them is an exception. It’s the sacrifice which few dozens of them made since they sparked the Arab Spring in December 2010. Others whom this spark has reached don’t perceive death as such. To them, death has become a rule - death in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands has become the norm. Why is the situation different in Tunisia? This is firstly thanks to God and secondly thanks to resorting to honest democracy. Long live Tunisia.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on October 25, 2014.

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Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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