, Salem, MA


December 10, 2012

Column: Growing wary of Arab Spring's results

Russia is apparently moderating its stance on Syria. So far, President Vladimir Putin has supported Bashar Assad’s dictatorial regime through two years of civil war that has cost the lives of 40,000 Syrians and created millions of refugees both inside and outside Syria’s borders.

One might ask why. The obvious and first answer is money; Russia has been Syria’s main arms supplier for decades. But the second is more complex and justifiable: The Russians fear that the government replacing the Assad regime could be even worse.

A dangerous pattern is emerging. Islamic countries more often than not replace tyrants with religious dictators who can become even more despotic than their predecessors. Look at Iran. Unfortunately, look at Egypt. What we now see emerging there is a theocracy that appears headed in the direction of becoming more oppressive than the autocracy it rebelled against.

Westerners naively believed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi would back down after public protests against his outrageous, undemocratic power grab. As Eric Trager wrote in The New Republic: From Western journalists’ “vantage point, criticism of Morsi’s move from within his own government, threats of judicial strikes, and the sheer magnitude of popular anger could force Morsi, in the words of The New York Times, ‘to engage in the kind of give-and-take that democratic government requires.’”

So much for that, eh? Western media almost uniformly cheered on Egypt’s second-ever election (in which there were two candidates) that took place in June. I sat by watching anxiously. Unfortunately, my negative expectations were borne out.

First, by assuming total power in his latest move, Morsi has undone the outcome of the hard-fought revolution. Second, since Morsi took power, the status of women in Egypt — my particular area of interest — has been nothing but downgraded. The supposed democratic government appointed no women to the committee that drew up the new draft constitution in Egypt. In Parliament, the percentage of female legislators dropped to 2 percent from 12 percent after quotas were abolished.

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