Written by Dr. Ashraf Ramelah
In late December 2010, the Tunisia uprising was sparked by a tragic public suicide-burning of a twenty-something street vender in an act of civil disobedience. Instantaneously, media commentary like wildfire around the world labeled this event “Arab Spring,” branding it the beginning of a struggle for democracy in the region. Correspondents in the tumultuous Middle East barraged the airwaves with the fast impression that this dreadful incident had value in leading to freedom in that part of the planet, and the image of this terrifying catalyst went viral.
The public gripped on to the horrifying image and romantic notion of the throes of youth in revolt projected daily, accepting it without question as the inclusive narrative.
Desperation in a street of an Arab-Muslim city, by no means novel, was now predicted to be the trigger for a wave of revolutions to come which in reality would have nothing to do with gaining freedom.
Extreme behavior, in this case burning flesh, reflected Tunisia’s saturation of agents working the streets and fomenting rebellion to finally override its movement for change. In shadows surrounding the world’s focus, parallel truths worth telling were never explored. This led the West to wrongly interpret the character of the protests upending dictators. The media unfolded details and shaped them with the bias used to minimize Gaza’s rocket launches into Israel and spotlight Israeli retaliation as insensitive aggression.
Within a few days after the Tunisian set himself ablaze hordes of pro-democracy youths gathered in the streets. The first state to mimic Tunisia was Egypt, thirty-seven days later. Three weeks after that, Mubarak toppled, opening the door to worse conditions for those seeking freedom. The dominos affect was now underway, and in short order revolutionary fervor flared in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Algeria. Most of these countries at the time of the upheavals reveal the Muslim Brotherhood political apparatus was operating on the ground -- recruiting, smuggling arms, increasing personal wealth -- and waiting in the wings for such an opportunity to grab as this.
With eleven million people, Tunisia was geographically a perfect testing ground – a type of pilot program for a Muslim Brotherhood lurking behind naïve Arab-Muslim rebels enraged with dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Al, and his regime. The Brotherhood-backed Renaissance Party in Tunisia fueled the dissent. The Muslim Brotherhood political arm directed the outcome toward themselves as beneficiary of power and became the sole choice for Tunisians in open “democratic” elections.
As the first power-play of an encompassing shift (away from democracy) in the region was now underway here, the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps merely a tool, prepared to take over a youth movement snowballing by cyberspace communiqués. Soon after, more uprisings sprung up to protest other Middle East dictators. The real story is now evident in Egypt where the controlling Muslim Brotherhood is fully exposed as an enemy of the people (the genuine opposition) and their pursuit of democracy, which they rode to power.
Now Tunisia, since December 18, 2010, and Yemen, since January 27, 2011, have Islamic Shariah-leaning governments -- franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood and a trademark of Brotherhood takeovers. Rule by the Muslim Brotherhood has been made to appear moderate and pro-democracy in relation to the Salafi and Wahabi factions.
Fighting tribes and Brotherhood jihadist factions pushed Libya’s uprising against dictator Gadhafi which hit the news in February 2011, less than one month of the Yemen rebellion. In Libya, success for the Muslim Brotherhood required an intervention by the international community (Sarkozy suddenly sensitized to the poor oppressed Libyans) conducted by NATO to crush Gadhafi. The result was “democratic” elections bringing about the “imposed” will of the Muslim Brotherhood (with rigged elections like Egypt) and the power grab of Brotherhood member, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council.
Timing was important for the Arab Spring jihadist surge orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, assisted, in this case, by NATO aiding the rebellion. Libyan citizens suffered persecution under Gadhafi’s regime for more than forty years before this blueprint of the “Arab Spring” was executed. Bear in mind that wacky Gadhafi -- friend to world leaders such as Berlusconi, Sarkozy and Trump -- had been welcomed by taxpayers in the West with security details for his absurd overnight stays in Italy, France and the US not long before NATO attacked him in March 2011. Gadhafi pitched his personal portable guest quarters (a tent) in the public gardens of Rome, Paris and New York, less than seven months of the West’s unexpected reversal of Gadhafi’s good fortune.
Meanwhile, in mid-March 2011, it was now Syria’s turn with one significant difference. Freedom-loving words and videos of struggles elsewhere did not spur their activity. Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood struck directly against Assad’s military and seeks today to grab control of the state from Bashar Al Assad with no pretense of democracy or freedom movement to ride. Although Assad is backed by Russia, secularists, afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood gaining power, passively support Assad getting caught in the cross fires of this battle. The bloodbaths of Syria illustrate this end with Brotherhood-backed forces ravaging villages as Christians flee Syria over the borders into Lebanon.
Now the Muslim Brotherhood, jihadists with intentions frighteningly clear, has solid control of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya. Despite negative outcomes for human rights and democratic freedom in Arab Spring countries resulting from the upheavals, the West (US) undercuts the lesser evil with promised help to the anti-Assad fighters, and the Brotherhood may soon gain Syria as well.
This perfect scenario spells regional success for the Muslim Brotherhood which openly scorns the existence of the Jewish state. Now they are at the helm of countries militarily surrounding Israel and strategically critical to “liberate the land of Palestine.” Assuming Assad falls, Lebanon, now dealing with Iran’s Hezbollah, and Jordan could be next.
The Muslim Brotherhood receives economic and military support from states outside the Arab Spring-state conflicts in order to hasten the common goal of Muslim Brotherhood control. Saudi Arabia, center of Sunni ideology and exporter of jihadist terror, often a safe haven for Brotherhood members, functions here as a silent partner. Qatar, along with the Saudis, is the main source of financing for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Magreb is the exception that illustrates the true motives of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Outside strategic interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Magreb suffered none of their interference and remains relatively stable today gaining from the unhindered freedom protests. Morocco and Algeria, two states aroused into protests at the onset of the “Arab Spring,” experienced no hijacking of its uprisings and had few Muslim Brotherhood representatives within the Moroccan and Algerian governments.
Moroccan freedom fighters rising up on February 20, 2011 ended with a level of success by June 17 that year, forcing King Mohammed VI to announce a proposal for constitutional reform. The King relinquished a portion of his authority to the office of the Prime Minister and the Parliament. In another major victory, Berber was made the official language along with Arabic.
Near the time of Tunisia’s incident, Algerians demonstrated in the streets over food prices and unemployment which resulted in the death of two protesters and ended by forcing the government to reduce prices of basic foodstuffs. The upheaval continued into May 2012 followed by a Parliamentary election devoid of Brotherhood tampering with an outcome relatively promising for the people. The National Liberation Front (FLN), a mix of secular and moderate Muslim candidates, won the majority of seats (220 out of 463). Their party ally, the National Democratic Rally, won 68 seats, and finally, the Islamist alliance of parties (with Muslim Brotherhood elements) won the fewest number of seats at 48.
Now there are two options. NATO and the US can intervene in Egypt, as in Libya, but this time for the cause of the legitimate freedom-fighting opposition seeking to establish democracy against the Morsi Brotherhood-backed regime. This would give the people of Egypt real hope for universal human rights and true democracy. On the other hand, the US can intervene in Syria (already promised by Secretary of State John Kerry) to aid the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood overthrow of the President and facilitate Muslim Brotherhood control of the region vital for surrounding Israel.
Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization, and board member of Stop Islamization of Nations (SION).