On Friday 16, I was honored to attend a public lecture in a small library in Amsterdam where Abdel Bari Atwan, named by Middle East Magazine as one of the 50 most ‘most influential Arabs’, was speaking on the eve of the one year commemoration of the Arab Spring.
Atwan is editor-in chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. He discussed the Arab spring and the future of the Middle East and North Africa beyond the ‘revolution’.
Some of my favorite quotes from the meeting:
“We Arab people were suffered double humiliation. That brought about by imperialism and another by own very own corrupt government.”
I found this quote very meaningful for not only the Arab world but also of Africa. All year long many people have been watching closely to see if there will be a sort of African spring. And every time some friends asked me when is the African Spring, I replied, we won’t have a spring, ours will be the African Harmattan! None the less there has been inspiration from the north of the continent spreading south. In many ways our realities are close to those of the MENA countries and we can only wait and see what changes and how long will they take on the African continent. Just like Atwan said “whoever knew or predicted that the Arab people would depose four dictators in just one year?”
I have very passionate Yemeni friends and Atwan said he respected the struggle of Yemen, knowing how many guns are in the hands of so many people that the country has not moved to a civil war. He applauded the choice of non-violence of the people of Yemen even when they had access to arms. And he told us a famous saying about the difficulty of ruling Yemen with its tribes system that i loved.
“Riding a lion is smoother than ruling Yemen”
Then came Atwan’s passionate talk on the events in Libya and how he disagreed with the NATO military intervention. Even though he was glad that the killing of Muammar Gaddafi has been called a crime against humanity, he decried the west for allowing impunity of rebels turned government of NTC.
I was interested in the fact the the ICC had backed off the Libya case and of recent the prosecutor had indicated that Libya’s new rulers were capable of prosecuting Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Personally i found this ridiculous, how could the killers of his father offer him a fair trial in a country has no justice system. Having spent the earlier week hearing people decry the ICC being an African court, here i was with a situation which clearly an outside court could have done better.
When I asked Atwan about this he went beyond the case of Saif to talk about his recent trip to Tripoli and how many African countries and the were silent about crimes being committed about African people, both Libyans and immigrants.
There are at least 7000 black people in Libya being tortured and living in the most inhumane conditions all these atrocities being presided over by the new regime.Yet we see no human rights papers about them. Nothing from western governments who supposed intervened on human rights grounds. I will not be surprised if we soon hear that Saif has been executed. The West is keeping a blind eye to crimes committed by rebels because of they always put their interests above anything else.
And that was from a Palestinian man who lived in as a refugee in Jordan, managed to study in Egypt and later run one of the most respected Arab media outlets from London since 1989.
Atwan said for the future of the entire region, one must not put their eyes off Egypt. He said is Egypt becomes more islamist, chances are that most of the other countries will follow suit.