Tunisia and Egypt – time to dream a little

Posted by on Feb 1, 2011 in Everything Else, Gender equality, World Cup | 0 comments

Egypt Demonstration 1

Image by rpmaxwell via Flickr

In order to create change in our world we must have visions, be optimists and believe in the seemingly impossible.

Creating peace and democracy in the Middle East has been a riddle that has stymied many of the brightest thinkers of our times. We deal with dictatorships that ignore basic human rights since it’s in our best interests. Oil and the Cold War were two big deciding factors for these alliances.

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, however, we have added the fear of countries falling into the hands of fanatical religious leaders that are not only hostile to the Western world but repressive to their own population.

And our response as the West has been cowardly. It took courageous activists in Tunisia and Egypt to do what we seem to have stopped believing in: taking their countries out of the hands of their corrupt dictators without falling into the even worse leadership of religious extremists.

Demonstration Against Authoritarian Government...

Image by Frame Maker via Flickr

There is an incredible amount of solidarity within the Arab World. Even though Egypt is temporarily cut off from the Internet the rest of the region is still online. There is a meaningful possibility now that other autocratic governments will be ousted by this awakening of the populace as well, and that’s an amazing change to contemplate.

What can we do?

Right now we need to acknowledge that this is their battle to fight. The alliances with our old “friends” are now useless, and these citizens are frankly quite wary of our long tradition of protecting our own interests in the region.

We can show love and support on an individual level without asking for anything in return but forgiveness for our long silence and inaction on behalf of individual freedom. We need to join Facebook groups and generally show these people that they are not alone in their fight. While we’re at it, we must also seek empathy and understanding for the ordinary people of Israel, people who want nothing but peace and a land to call their own.

What I can do is to allow myself to dream a little, to imagine a world where the people create the nations that they want to live within:

* A free Arab world with equitable distribution of the tremendous wealth in the region?
* Free elections leading to democratic leaderships?
* Religion being something people can chose to practice or not?
* Women being able to chose whom they are going to marry?
* Women being able to chose who they want to socialize with?
* Women being able to chose their own style of clothing?
* Women being protected from sexual assault, including by their husbands?
* Women being allowed to vote, travel alone, leave the house and return at time of their own choice?

Yes I am clearly dreaming. This wish list will not become reality by tomorrow. But we could see some major steps in the right direction if the newly formed governments take a pledge to support individual freedoms and are held accountable by the global community.

The uprise in Egypt was driven by economic issues and there are too many countries outside the region that also deal with huge inequalities between rich and poor. Might this be a wakeup call that stretches far beyond North Africa and the Middle East? Amnesty International is worried about the violence in Egypt but they see the huge long-term potential for positive change. If we all dream just a little…

And let’s not forget that FIFA just decided that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar, a nation separated from Egypt by the Saudi peninsula. I was outraged that my beloved soccer tournament would be held in a dictatorship without any soccer tradition, but now I’m thinking that the entire region could be totally different ten years from now. I wish the event could be held next year!

Soccer has tremendous power if it’s channeled the right way: This is something we at Ubuntu Now believe in strongly. It initiates conversations, it brings people together, it breaks down barriers, and it shines a powerful global spotlight on a region. And despite the violence of some idiots soccer unquestionably can increase our understanding of each other, which ultimately is the only way we can create a more peaceful planet.

This is just my personal take on the situation. I’ve been sitting here and doing nothing but staring at my screen all day long and posting comments on Twitter and Facebook. Finally my dear friend and fellow board member Dave Taylor woke me up with the question “should we write about what’s going on in Egypt”? If you don’t wake up by yourself I hope you’ll have a friend like Dave that challenges you to do so.

Note: It is nearly impossible to write about this topic without touching on religion and politics. These are very sensitive issues and I do not want to offend anyone. Your beliefs are different from mine. Please respect this as a very personal post that does not necessarily represent the opinion of the other Ubuntu Now team members in all its aspects.

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