— On what drives the Bahrain opposition
Squares are famously potent political theatres. This year is a second showing for Ukraine’s revolution, and a third for Egypt’s. Western TV viewers have cheered them all on. We thrill to see young people hurling rocks at power. Fire, smoke, bloodstained flags, broken heads, water, gas and sinister paramilitaries are Les Misérables for slow learners. We can sit with a front seat in the auditorium of history. It beats polling booths any day.
The lesson of Egypt for Ukraine is that defiant crowds may destroy an old regime – but they seldom build a new one.
Tahrir and Maidan squares thus join Istanbul’s Taksim, Tehran’s Azadi, Beijing’s Tiananmen, Prague’s Wenceslaus, Athens’s Syntagma, London’s Trafalgar and a dozen other urban spaces the world over as icons of modern revolutionary politics. Their furniture is the barricade, their tipple the Molotov cocktail, their tonic the tear gas canister. They gather people in their thousands to sacred forums and invite the world to witness the latest trial of strength with a supposedly oppressive regime. Sometimes they even win.
"I would like to ask: does anyone know the opening times of the Kasr el-Eini crossing?" Hanan Hagag, a journalist, quipped on her Facebook page, likening the barrier to Egypt’s heavily guarded border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
The sentiment points to the turmoil still facing Egypt. Street protests that often turn violent and militant attacks have become commonplace since Mursi was removed after mass protests against his rule in Tahrir and elsewhere.
While other arteries into Tahrir are generally open to traffic, security forces do close them off from time to time using barbed wire coils, typically ahead of anticipated protests.
But because of its look of permanence, the imposing metal gate across Kasr el-Eini is especially offensive to democracy advocates in the Arab world’s largest country.
The Kasr el-Eini entrance is the nearest on Tahrir to public buildings including parliament and government offices.
“They were talking about turning Tahrir into a museum, a place of celebration,” said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the liberal Dustour Party. “Instead they are installing these ugly iron gates and trying to prevent and ban demonstrations in Tahrir Square itself.”
Ruweida Omar, a rights activist, said: “We had hope that one day the concrete barriers would be removed. The iron barricade has taken away that hope. When I saw the gate, I really thought that we were living under siege.”
— Human Rights Watch’s Egypt Director Heba Morayef states on the controversial protest law and ongoing demonstration crackdowns in Egypt under the interim government. Huge and alarming.
So much for a winter of discontent. The etiolated state of the British left in 2013 gives us no right to expect any such climax. All the seasonal metaphors – red-hot autumns, summers of rage, even democratic springs – have eluded us.
Why is the landscape so bleak? In 2011, things looked different. The election of a Tory-led government in the UK and a spate of Tea Party Republicans in the US initiated a sequence of austerity programmes – prompting direct conflicts between governments and organised workers. And this seemed to fuse with a heterogeneous series of global struggles, from Middle East revolutions to strike action in Greece to the indignados in Spain and the Occupy movement.
The way the United States government works and how they prioritize is far, far more prevalent now in the light of the government shutdown than in any other time of recent history.
With the U.S. pursuing intrusive surveillance and covert or clandestine actions among other doings that violate both civil liberties and international laws, one can see the government is continuing to invest much more money on these programs than on others by looking at the budget changes in the government shutdown now in its tenth day. Anyone can see that pay for hundreds of thousands were ceased, educational programs were halted and health, nutritional and food-safety programs also were suspended. Pre-government shutdown, the wrongs of the government were not as seen by many but they are now more visible and people are hurting.
The United States is a representative democracy, which means that this was all done under the people’s government. Is the current gov’t representative? Are they serving the needs of the nation? And any democracy that abides by the definition of a democracy has the power placed in the people’s hands. Democracy instills people power. Why isn’t there any noise being made?
Can we just look at this as a good thing out of the government shutdown?
People power; remember the people always have the power. The United States is a democracy and that means the power is in the people’s hands. Please, just remember that. People power.
Bahraini activist Zainab al-Khawaja known as @angryarabiya sends an audio message from prison.
In Arabic, she recites a poem favored by father who is also another activist in custody in Bahrain and then dedicated the message “to the brave people of Bahrain who I miss greatly, and to all freedom-loving people of the world.” She translates the poem into English, “If one day, the people desire to live, then fate will answer their calls, and the night will begin to fade away, and their chains to break and fall.”
— Dan Froomkin of Al Jazeera America says on the media coverage of the U.S. government shutdown in a democracy, saying “we need journalists to hold politicians accountable for extremist actions, not to enable them.”