Hot off the Arab press 454389

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East

Men take part in a protest demanding the government provide them with job opportunities in Tunisia, in April (photo credit: REUTERS)
Men take part in a protest demanding the government provide them with job opportunities in Tunisia, in April
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Tunisia: Between tourism and democracy
Al-Hayat, London, May 12
While the Arab Spring left many countries with unstable regimes and chaos in their streets, Tunisia has come out of its political upheavals with a stable and democratically elected government. Throughout the region, the government in Tunis provides a beacon of hope for a better future for all Arabs in the Middle East.
However, this sliver of hope must not be translated into complacency. Tunisia is facing some problems that, if left unattended, will risk the entire democratic nature of the country. More specifically, I am talking about the buildup of Islamic State base camps around the country’s borders, particularly in Libya.
I recently returned from a visit to Medenine, a region in the southeastern part of the country. The name came to the headlines several months ago, when Islamic State attacked several villages in the region and tried to extend its reach into Tunisia. Luckily, the local population, with the help of the Tunisian army, curbed the attack and protected the border. The prevention of this great catastrophe was achieved, to a great extent, by the people’s support of local authorities and opposition to radicalism. However, the region of Medenine has since been neglected. Citing security concerns, very few tourists now make their way to the region. Once bustling streets with shops and restaurants are dormant. Hotels have shut down, and their employees left unemployed. People seem desperate.
The government in Tunis must realize that this is a top priority on their agenda. Leaving the Tunisian population that lives along the borders without any financial and social assistance means handing it directly into the hands of Islamic State, which is already trying to recruit personnel in Tunis and is doing so with some success. The government must dedicate the necessary resources to rehabilitate the tourism industry in Medenine.
And we, too, can help: by supporting our Arab brothers and sisters and making Tunisia the next destination for our summer holiday. – Leena al-Khatib
Imperfect order is better than perfect anarchy
Al-Watan, Egypt, May 12
We can argue and debate over the performance of state authorities, but there is one thing we all agree upon: The strength of any county depends on the strength of its rule of law.
Recently, I have been hearing a lot of criticism against the Interior Ministry and its “iron fist” policy in upholding public order. Perhaps it would be useful to remind those who criticize our security forces so vehemently of what occurred in this country just several years ago. We all still recall January 2011, when a vacuum in political leadership brought upon us chaos and anarchy. Recall the streets of Cairo: thousands of looted shops, cars stolen from every street corner, walls blocking off main roads, and tens of thousands of Egyptians wounded in violent clashes with one another.
Have we forgotten all of this? Have we forgotten the millions of weapons that spread among the hands of our youth? Have we forgotten the barbed wire and walls that confined us to our homes for weeks? Have we forgotten the looting of the Egyptian Museum, the destruction of our most treasured artifacts, and the ransacking of government offices? Have we forgotten the sexual assaults on the streets? Have we forgotten that our economy has still not recovered from this horrible violence, and that tourists still refrain from visiting our country? I know that what I am writing might seem unpopular in post-revolution Egypt, but I stand behind my words: Imperfect order is better than perfect anarchy.
Opposition and demonstrations are an essential part of any respectable political system, but they must occur through the appropriate legal channels and in accordance with the spirit of the law. Public uproar is allowed in any democratic country, but no one should be held above the law.
To all of us who love this country so dearly, it hurts to see Egypt struggling. It is fine to point out errors in our political system and ask for them to be fixed, but it’s another to stand up against our authorities altogether. – Emad al-Din Adeeb
Iran’s peculiar alliance with the Houthis
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, May 10
It seems to be common wisdom that Iran chose to support the Houthi rebels in Yemen due to the two’s shared ethnic and religious identity, dating back to the early days of Shi’a. However, this is simply incorrect.
Tehran chose to support and cultivate the Houthis because they reside in proximity to the Saudi border, and arming them meant an Iranian presence in Saudi Arabia’s backyard.
I am saying this because few know that there are groups within Yemen that are surely closer – religiously, ethnically and socially – to the mullahs in Tehran.
Yet they did not receive Iran’s auspices whatsoever.
If history teaches us one thing, it is that Tehran has been consistently inconsistent: It cultivates whatever regional player best suits its strategic needs, regardless of ethnicity, sect or religion. In Lebanon, Iran backs Hezbollah, a Shi’ite movement. In the Gaza Strip, it funded the Sunni movement Hamas. In Azerbaijan it backed Christian militias in their fight against Shi’ites.
In Iraq, it backs Shi’ite political parties against Sunnis and Kurds. No consistent pattern; no consistent loyalty.
Iran has been exploiting sectarian tensions everywhere it possible can, in order to maximize its influence and power in the region. Today, it is directly responsible for thousands of deaths in Syria every day.
It is quite ironic that the country claiming to represent Shi’a Islam has acted against Shi’ites on so many different occasions. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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