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Arab Spring 2013: the struggle against imperialism continues

Yusur Al Bahrani

January 4, 2013

Economic and political interests drive Western governments’ actions. According to the US Department of State: ”Saudi Arabia is one of the leading sources of imported oil for the United States, providing more than one million barrels of oil a day to the US market. The US is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is the largest market for US exports in the Middle East.” Real victory to the revolutionaries in the Arab region means a loss to the imperialists, as the people will oust their allies.
This began with the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, where mass protests produced mass strikes that ousted Western-backed dictators in early 2011. But the regimes continued the same policies, leading to a second phase of the ongoing revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, part of a historic pattern of permanent revolution. But the Arab Spring includes all the revolutions, uprisings and pro-democracy movements happening in the Arab countries. What most mainstream media outlets ignore is the depth of those movements and the challenges they face from dictatorships, capitalism and Western imperialism. Many of the movements have been globally ignored, as those pro-democracy activists are in a battle against Western-backed authoritarian regimes. 
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the name given to the country under the rule of Al-Saud monarchy since more than three centuries. There have been several pro-democracy movements demanding reforms to the authoritarian fundamentalist pro-Western Saudi regime. For instance, women activists have been fighting for their rights for decades. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to travel, work or even study without the permission of a male guardian. They are also banned from driving cars by a fundamentalist religious verdict. In all cases, feminist movements in Saudi Arabia have been demanding reforms to the current regime.
There have also been mass protests in several parts of Saudi Arabia, especially in the Eastern Province of Qatif, against the current class system in which only the royals and their loyalists have the privilege from the rich country’s resources. Systematic state oppression (arbitrary arrests, torture, targeting and killing protestors) have not defeated the revolutionaries, but united the people of Qatif under the banner of the revolution against the monarchy. The demands shifted from reforms to the fall of the regime. Tens of thousands of protestors in Qatif spent their New Year Eve chanting “the people demand the fall of the regime” and “down with Al-Saud” during the funeral of Ahmed Al Mater who was shot by the regime’s forces.
The students’ movements became more active in several Saudi universities across the country. Many female students in several universities have protested against the deteriorating conditions in the universities and the discrimination they face.
As to the political prisoners, many of their families have been protesting in several cities including Qatif, Riyadh and Qassim. The monarchy has been struggling to view the protestors as followers of the Shia ideology, but with the increasing number of protestors from the Sunni majority cities such as Riyadh and Qassim, all activists proved that the majority of the Saudi population whether Shia or Sunni are suffering from oppression, repression, bad economic conditions and discrimination.
Despite the government’s oppression, the revolutionaries won victories in the past year. They won the support of the people who have filled the streets demanding either reforms or the fall of the regime. Being aware of the strength of the opposition, the Saudi government decided to search for other victories in other places in the region to strengthen the grip of the monarchy. Therefore, the Western-backed monarchy has been intervening in other countries to combat the revolutionaries whether directly or indirectly.
The small island of Bahrain is the home to United States Fifth Fleet. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are close neighbors and separated by a bridge. Bahrain has been under the rule of Al-Khalifa oppressive monarchy since more than two centuries and the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, has been in his position for more than four decades. When pro-democracy protestors occupied Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, the regime called on other Gulf countries to send troops to attack the peaceful protestors. Only Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates sent troops to Bahrain, with most of the troops being Saudi. Saudi troops have still not completely left Bahrain.
Chilling violations including killing and detaining children have happened in Bahrain in the past two years. According to Amnesty International, an increasing number of children between the age of 15 and 18 have been held in adult prisons in the past few months. The government of Bahrain and its Western allies such as United States and United Kingdom have been hiding behind the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, which was released in November 2011 with recommendations to end and investigate human rights violations. More than a year after the BICI report, the recommendations have not been implemented. The government continues its crackdown on activists, protestors and ordinary people; many of those who were dismissed from their jobs for participating in the protests have not returned back to work; students who were dismissed from their universities due to their political activism have not returned back. Those students who had their grants suspended for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations can’t go back to universities and many of them can’t afford the high tuition fees. The government of Bahrain has also stripped 31 opposition figures of their Bahraini nationality. It is now very clear that the Western-backed government of Bahrain is not committed to reforms.
Earlier last year, the Bahraini and the Saudi monarchies were considering a union. The union was not formed, but the plan of forming it is still in the air. The union will do nothing but strengthen and protect the Western interests in the region including the US Fifth Fleet and the oppressive states of Al-Saud and Al-Khalifa.
Just like other pro-democracy activists and protestors, the Syrian demonstrators have been demanding an end to dictatorship, oppression and repression. Protestors have been received by a brutal oppressive state. At the same time, imperialists are struggling for a so called “humanitarian intervention.”  
The Egyptian revolution began after five years of strike waves and culminated in mass strikes, including at the Suez Canal, that forced out Mubarak. The Syrian revolution has not had the same tradition and organization of strikes, so the regime has tried to win a battle of attrition and promote sectarianism; according to United Nations human rights office, the death toll in Syria could be more than 60,000; this has included extremist militants claiming to fight Assad’s regime who have targeted many of the leftist and secular activists; at the same time, the repressive state has also been targeting those activists.
Both Assad and the West are trying to reduce the revolution to a military battle against a regime, like in Libya, rather than a broader fight for social and economic change. The West has not intervened directly like it did in Libya, but it is intervening indirectly. The West now officially recognizes the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and more arms and financial support is provided by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Saudi and Qatari intervention is an indirect Western intervention. The Western-backed Saudi intervention (whether by the media coverage of Salafist television channel or financial help) is doing nothing except escalating the sectarian driven conflict in Syria. Qatar has been hypocritically supporting the Free Syrian Army while oppressing any opposition voice to the Qatari monarchy. For instance, the Qatari poet Mohamed Ibn Al-Dheeb has been charged for “inciting to overthrow the ruling system,” and “insulting the Amir.” The authoritarian monarchies that pretend to support the Syrian rebels have very dark records of human rights violations and oppression.  
For the Syrian revolution to overcome dictatorship, oppression and imperialism it has to deepend the social and economic fight against Assad and find real solidarity from activists around the world rather than imperialist intervention that sheds more blood.
Protestors in Yemen took to the streets in an uprising against the autocratic rule of the ex-President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh who was backed by the West. The uprising resulted in thousands of deaths and causalities. Saleh was ousted, but the state was still run by his loyalists: in February 2012 Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the country’s former vice president became the president.
In its claim of “war against terror,” the United States has escalated the number of drone attacks in Yemen. US airstrikes have killed many civilians in Yemen, and the Yemeni government has not been critical of any of the American interventions or strategies. The Times cited a US intelligence source saying, “some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions.”
Ignored by the mainstream media, the protestors who took to the streets against Saleh continue to struggle for a Yemen without dictatorship, poverty, famine, militants and Western direct and indirect military intervention. 
The fight against Western-backed regimes is a very brutal battle. Protestors in many Arab countries including the ones mentioned above and others are increasing in number. While imperialists, and the ruling class in the Arab region are united, revolutionaries around the world have to form a united front too. It is good to have this as our New Year resolution for 2013— to support the pro-democracy movements in the Arab region while demanding an end to the direct and indirect imperialist intervention.

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