The evil Pied Pipers of the Arab world

Had the Arab leaders made their people partners and stakeholders in their own countries, we would not see ISIS take hold

Khaled Almaeena
Khaled Almaeena
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Damascus and Baghdad. Once they were the seats of learning and cradles of civilization. Today darkness has fallen over these cities and in fact almost all the area that constitutes the Arab world is engulfed in darkness, chaos and confusion. Mercy has given way to oppression and bloodletting. Pictures of bands of roaming youth led by hideous looking individuals flash across television screens and all forms of social media. The senseless killings continue and human life has become cheap.

It is difficult to explain our present situation and the reasons behind it. Many believe that we are suffering from the ramifications of the so-called “Arab Spring.” However, a better way to describe it would be the “Autumn of the despots” and not the “Arab Spring.” There are despots with vested interests in the Arab world who want to hold on to power through any means - be it direct or through a proxy. They have held on for so long that it is difficult for them to let go.

Had the Arab leaders made their people partners and stakeholders in their own countries, we would not have bloodthirsty groups like ISIS and al-Nusra

Khaled Almaeena

And what did these people do? They came to power riding on tanks, wiping out the nascent civil society and culture that existed in the 1940s and 1950s. They established totalitarian systems that focused only on a ruthless consolidation of power. They neglected economic development, resisted building institutions and refused to establish civil societies. State coffers were spent mainly on the military and intelligence services and their cronies. Thousands of their own citizens were imprisoned, tortured and killed.

While the world changed, Arab leaders refused to move on

While the world changed and totalitarian systems, such as in the Soviet Union, crumbled and were modified, as in Communist China, Arab dictators refused to budge. They did not want to accept the reality of changes across the world. The people could not tolerate the regimentation imposed. They wanted a voice and aspired for freedom. Advanced information technology enabled them to push their yearning goals toward the forefront. They did not want to revolt but wanted a life of dignity, economic well-being and a good future for their children. They did not want to be led into conflicts and senseless wars. Unfortunately, none of the Arab aspirations were met and as a result the Arab region continues to face a nightmarish turmoil that seems to have no end.

Had the Arab leaders made their people partners and stakeholders in their own countries, we would not be having bloodthirsty groups like ISIS and al-Nusra and a host of other characters including the self-appointed “Caliph” who like the Pied Piper of Hamelin is leading innocent and vulnerable young people on a path of death and destruction.

These groups do not represent the aspirations of Arabs and they are not supported by the majority of people who want change and development. In fact, they are much worse than the dictators that the Arabs wanted to be rid of. They are a source of evil and ruin and they should not be allowed to hijack the Arab movement toward democracy and people participation.

It is high time that sane voices across the Middle East get together and come up with solutions to put a stop to these mercenaries who will only lead the region into further darkness. The time to act is now, before it is too late.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 6, 2014.


Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

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