Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

DARFUR: Rami Khouri on "A troubled Arab citizenry's silent acquiescence in violence and passivity..."

Expand Messages
  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, Rami Khouri is executive editor of THE DAILY STAR, Lebanon s leading English language newspaper and a leading commentator in the Arab World. As the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2 4:18 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      Friends,

      Rami Khouri is executive editor of THE DAILY STAR, Lebanon's leading English
      language newspaper and a leading commentator in the Arab World. As the
      genocide in Darfur continues, I am reproducing an article by Rami Khouri
      from 2004, where he attempts to answer the question on everyone's lips: Why
      is the Arab world silent as Darfurians die?

      The question was again asked by Fatema Abdul Rasul who wrote angrily in
      Khouri's newspaper last month: "For the entire Muslim and Arab world to
      remain silent when thousands of people in Darfur continue to be killed is
      shameful and hypocritical."

      Khouri feels that "Most ordinary Arab citizens do not speak out against the
      atrocities in Sudan because their modern history has taught them that they
      have neither the right nor the ability to impact on the policies of their
      own government, let alone other Arab governments. The Arab citizenry
      collectively has been numbed into a sad state of helplessness and docility
      in the face of government policies. We watch Darfur today like we watched
      atrocities in decades past - as pained but powerless spectators."

      Read and reflect.

      Tarek
      ---------------
      August 11, 2004

      Darfur's ugly resonance in the Arab world

      By Rami G. Khouri
      Daily Star, Beirut
      http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/sudan/RamiKhouriDarfur.htm

      The relative silence of the Arab world has been one of the striking
      dimensions of the tragic events in the Darfur region of western Sudan in the
      past 18 months. Up to 50,000 people may have died and over a million have
      been made refugees there, as a result of attacks by Arab militias. The
      international consensus was reflected in the recent UN Security Council
      resolution giving the Sudanese government one month to disarm the militias
      and restore security. Human rights groups and governments in the West have
      described events in Darfur as "ethnic cleansing" and even "genocide," while
      the Sudanese government rejects these accusations and claims that no more
      than 5,000 people have died in the region.

      Based on documentation by credible international human rights groups and the
      UN itself, the world finally moved to stop the human suffering in Darfur
      when the United States and the UN took the lead to act in June. Throughout
      the past 18 months, as the tragedy has unfolded in Darfur, the Arab world
      has been conspicuously absent from the debate. While a few voices in the
      region have spoken out for decisive diplomacy to restore security and calm
      in Darfur, many other voices in the media and among government officials
      have taken a much more relaxed stance, even accusing the US of meddling in
      the region to secure future oil interests.

      The Arab silence on this issue probably is not specific to Darfur or Sudan,
      but rather reflects a wider malaise that has long plagued our region: Arab
      governments tend to stay out of each other's way when any one of them is
      accused of wrongdoing, and most Arab citizens have been numbed into
      helplessness in the face of public atrocities or criminal activity in their
      societies.

      The modern history of the Arab world over the past 50 years has been defined
      by two broad trajectories that are intimately related: the concentration of
      economic and military power in the hands of small numbers of people who form
      the governing power elites, and that governing elite's steady provision of
      basic services and job opportunities to the citizenry.

      As the average citizen experiences a relatively consistent improvement in
      basic life conditions (water, electricity, telephones, hospitals, schools,
      jobs) he or she tends to leave the government alone in its conduct of other
      political policies - including violent actions against one's own citizens.

      This basic governing contract explains much of the silence and acquiescence
      by otherwise decent Arabs in the face of atrocities or criminal activity
      carried out by fellow citizens, or even by their own government. Darfur in
      Sudan is only the latest in a string of violent domestic episodes within
      Arab countries that have been largely ignored by other Arab countries. The
      long and depressing list includes rebellions, civil wars, repression and
      other forms of violence in key Arab countries like Algeria, Lebanon, Syria,
      Yemen, Sudan, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.

      Because most Arab governments use violence as a policy instrument -
      legitimately to secure public order, they would argue - Arab governments
      turn a blind eye to the violence practiced by their fellow governors. This
      is a strange sort of professional courtesy among fellow autocrats and
      security state managers who rationalize it by saying that Arab states do not
      interfere in the domestic affairs of other states.

      Therefore, Colin Powell and Kofi Annan visit Darfur and call world attention
      to its plight before Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa or any Arab
      foreign minister considers making the same trip.

      Most ordinary Arab citizens do not speak out against the atrocities in Sudan
      because their modern history has taught them that they have neither the
      right nor the ability to impact on the policies of their own government, let
      alone other Arab governments. The Arab citizenry collectively has been
      numbed into a sad state of helplessness and docility in the face of
      government policies. We watch Darfur today like we watched atrocities in
      decades past - as pained but powerless spectators.

      Darfur troubles us all, but moves few to action in the Arab world. Darfur is
      very far away for most Arab citizens, and pains closer to home are more
      urgent - whether the pain of inequity, corruption and economic stress in
      one's own country, the impact of Israeli occupation policies in Palestine
      and neighboring states, or the American war machine in Iraq. We grieve in
      our hearts for the suffering of Sudanese nationals in Darfur, but as
      individual Arab citizens we can do little to change facts in faraway lands -
      because we can do equally little to change realities in our own
      neighborhoods in Beirut, Amman, Rabat, Damascus, Riyadh or Cairo.

      The more troubling consequence is that small groups of bombers and
      terrorists have exploited this state of Arab helplessness, seeking public
      support for their militancy. Thus large numbers of ordinary, decent Arab
      citizens instinctively reject the atrocities against fellow Arabs in Darfur,
      but do not speak out or act to stop them; and equally large numbers of
      Arabs - majorities in troubled lands, the polls tell us - similarly do not
      speak out when Arab terrorists bomb Arab, American or other targets.

      A troubled Arab citizenry's silent acquiescence in violence and passivity in
      the face of homegrown atrocity, is today the single most important,
      widespread symptom of the malaise that plagues this region. It would be a
      terrible mistake to misdiagnose the Arab silence on Darfur as reflecting
      some Arab, Islamic or Middle Eastern cultural acceptance of violence. This
      is, rather, a troubling sign of Arab mass dehumanization and political
      pacification at the public level, which are largely our own fault due to our
      acceptance of poor governance and distorted Arab power structures over a
      period of decades.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.