Iran, Tunisia, Egypt… What’s next? Time up for dictators?
In the last three years, from 2009 to 2011, several uprisings against dictatorships around the world have happened [namely: Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Niger, Thailand and Sudan] with different outcomes. But this does not change the fact that it seems that the people living under dictatorship and totalitarian regimes are fed up. While some of these oppressive governments have been supported by the Western countries, these changes show that apparently there is no room for dictators in the new century. The course of history is determining a new direction for countries suppressed fiercely in the past century. We have to wait and see if the people will be successful in establishing new democracies, or if the Western countries will take these changes seriously or still ignore them and try to continue working with and supporting the dictators.
In all these countries, the ruler controls all the media outlets, there is no freedom of speech, elections are controlled by the same people who are eventually elected, and any kind of opposition is suppressed. How else, the people can show their contempt for the rulers and their desire for freedom and democracy? Their only way is to protest in the streets, which is usually brutally suppressed by the rulers and the free countries just frown upon the brutality. What is going to happen to these people? Who is going to support them? How are they supposed to achieve their freedom, when even by sacrificing their lives, nothing changes?
In June 2009, after the widespread fraud in Iran’s presidential election during which the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was re-selected (not elected) as the president of Iran, large street protests started and lasted for several months. He claimed that he had received 63% of the votes, whereas the people believed that his main rival, Mir Hussein Mousavi was actually the person who had received 63% of the votes.
Iran has been ruled by the totalitarian Islamic regime since 1979. At the beginning of the protests, people only wanted the ballots to be recounted, as almost all were sure that their votes had been rigged. The regime ignored all the complaints from the competing presidential candidates and on June 19, the Supreme Leader publicly announce that those who continue the protests, would be responsible for the consequences, which turned out to be murder, torture, rape and imprisonment. The protests continued, during which, hundreds were shot by the plainclothes police and militia, several were ran over by the police cars, and tens died afterward from the injuries caused by the anti-riot police and the Basij’s batons. More than four thousand dissidents and protesters were arrested, tens of which died in detention centres under torture, and there were documented reports of prisoners being raped during interrogations. The government started blaming all the turmoil on the West and Israel, and did not acknowledge the fact that by their latest activities, they had turned the demand for recounting the votes into a widespread hatred towards the whole regime. Now people were not looking for their votes anymore and were targeting the Supreme Leader, as the unifying symbol of the regime. The Islamic Republic did not back off. They crushed the protests with all their might and ignored all the pledges from various international bodies for observing human rights.
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali became the President of Tunisia on 7 November, 1987, and was in power for 23 years, until 2011. In October 2009, the latest presidential elections in Tunisia were held and a Human Rights Watch report called it “an atmosphere of repression”. Ben Ali faced three candidates, two of whom said they actually supported the incumbent. No independent observer was allowed to monitor the vote, and Ben Ali won a landslide victory, with 89.62%. His opponent, Mohamed Bouchiha, received 5.01%. The candidate who was most critical of the regime, Ahmed Ibrahim, of the Ettajdid party, received only 1.57% after a campaign in which he was not allowed to put posters up or hold any kind of meeting.
In January 2011, though, the people’s protests showed that Ben Ali did not enjoy the support of nearly 90% of the voters. The demonstrations and riots were reported to have started over unemployment, food inflation, corruption, freedom of speech and poor living conditions. The protests led to the ousting of Ben Ali, who stepped down from the presidency and fled Tunisia on 14 January 2011 after 23 years in power.
Following the assassination of President Sadat in 1981, Hosni Mubarak became the President of the Arabic Republic of Egypt, and the Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP). He has now been in power for 29 consecutive years.Mubarak has been re-elected by majority votes in a referendum for successive terms on four occasions: in 1987, 1993, 1999. No one could run against the President due to a restriction in the Egyptian constitution in which the People’s Assembly played the main role in electing the President of the Republic. After increased domestic and international pressure for democratic reform in Egypt, in 2005 the constitution was amended and it allowed multi-candidate presidential elections. Previously, Mubarak secured his position by having himself nominated by parliament, then confirmed without opposition in a referendum. However, in the September 2005 elections, the electoral institutions, and security apparatus remain under the control of the President. The official state media, including the three government newspapers and state television also express views identical to the official line taken by Mubarak. On 28 July 2005, Mubarak announced his candidacy, as he had been widely expected to do. The election which was scheduled for 7 September 2005 involved mass rigging activities, according to civil organizations that observed the elections. Reports have shown that Mubarak’s party used government vehicles to take public employees to vote for him. Votes were bought for Mubarak in poor suburbs and rural areas. It was also reported that thousands of illegal votes were allowed for Mubarak from citizens who were not registered to vote. On 8 September 2005, Dr. Ayman Nour, a dissident and candidate for the Al-Ghad party – Tomorrow party, contested the election results, and demanded a repeat of the election. In a move widely seen as political persecution, Nour was convicted of forgery and sentenced to five years at hard labor on 24 December 2005.
Then, shortly after the uprising in Tunisia, the street protests started in Egypt. Thousands of people poured into streets, demanding Mubarak to abandon his position as the president. As there protests are still ongoing, we will have to wait and see the outcome. But whatever the outcome, this does not change the fact that Mubarak is not as popular as he believed.
Ali Abdullah Saleh became the first elected President in reunified Yemen in 1999 (though he had been President of unified Yemen since 1990 and President of North Yemen since 1978). He was re-elected to office in September 2006. Saleh’s victory was marked by an election that was accompanied by violence, violations of press freedoms and allegations of fraud.
In the past few days, after the Tunisia incidents, thousands of students and opposition activists demonstrated at Sana’a University, calling, very directly, for President Ali Abdullah Salih to go, alluding to events in Tunisia.
Jordan’s most executive power is the King. The King traditionally has held substantial power, and although the parliament can control his decisions, but it has rarely happened. The Hashemite dynasty has ruled over Transjordan and Jordan for 90 years.
King Abdullah II, witnessed the uprising of his people in January 2011. Bread and freedom” was one of the slogans, along with calls for the government to resign. Complaining about the king is still taboo in Jordan, so the protests focused on his ministers, even though it is the king who actually pulls the strings.
President Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev came to power in 2005, as the acting President after the downfall of President Akayev. Despite initial hopes, Bakiyev’s term in office was marred by the murder of several prominent politicians, prison riots, economic ills and battles for control of lucrative businesses. In 2006, Bakiyev faced a political crisis as thousands of people participated in a series of protests in Bishkek. He was accused of not following through with his promises to limit presidential power, give more authority to parliament and the prime minister, and eradicate corruption and crime.
Finally, in April 2010, after bloody riots in the capital overturned the government, Bakiyev reportedly fled to the southern city of Osh.
President Mamadou Tandja held the power in Nigeria since 1990. Following a constitutional crisis in 2009, which was caused by Tandja’s efforts to remain in office beyond the originally scheduled end of his term, he was ousted by the military in a coup d’etat in February 2010.
The country is a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king is officially titled Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths.
As of April 2010, a set of new violent protests by the Red Shirt opposition movement, possibly backed financially by fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have resulted in 87 deaths (mostly civilian and some military) and 1,378 injured.
The Darfur Conflict is an ongoing civil war centered on the Darfur region of Sudan. It began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) groups in Darfur took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing or committing genocide against non-arab Sudanese in favor of Sudanese Arabs. One side of the conflict is composed mainly of the official Sudanese military and police, and the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group recruited mostly from the Arab Abbala tribes of the northern Rizeigat region in Sudan; these tribes are mainly camel-herding nomads. The other combatants are made up of rebel groups, notably the SLM/A and the JEM, recruited primarily from the non-Arab Muslim Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups. Although the Sudanese government publicly denies that it supports the Janjaweed, it has been providing financial assistance and weapons to the militia and has been organizing joint attacks targeting civilians.
Under international pressure, a referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 January to 15 January 2011, on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).
As of 23 January 2011, preliminary results indicated a landslide of 98.8% voting in favor of independence.