From Libya to Bahrain, Mideast autocracy under fire
After Egypt set Arab imaginations alight, autocrats from Qaddafi to the Khalifa dynasty face an assault unparalleled since the post-World War II revolutions that brought independence.
(Page 3 of 3)
In neighboring Algeria, which has promised to repeal a 19-year-old state of emergency in response to protests, the military chose a civil war after the ruling party canceled elections that the Islamic Salvation Front looked set to win in 1991. There is no guarantee they won't choose that route again.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Yemen, the region's poorest country, also lacks a unified political opposition. There, protests have remained small although they've taken on a harsher antigovernment tone since Mubarak's ouster. The use of social-networking websites – so crucial to starting protests in Egypt and Tunisia – is limited, and the young student protesters have yet to connect with the general population.
"The situation here is totally different from Egypt. Here in Yemen there are very few that use technology like Facebook, Twitter," says Hamid al-Shamy, an English literature student at Sanaa University. But that hasn't stopped hope from spreading. "I don't love politics. But the situation here causes me to go out," he says. "What happened in Egypt and Tunisia made me think this could happen in Yemen. Here we needed it more."
Jordan is not Egypt, but Syria may be
Jordan, the only Arab nation apart from Egypt that has made peace with Israel, seems a less likely candidate for fast change. King Abdullah II still has a fair degree of legitimacy in the eyes of important sectors of his public,
"We all know that Jordan is not Tunisia and it's not Egypt," says Nimer al-Assaf, deputy general secretary of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. "Our regime here is not like any other regime in the Arab countries ... [it] has never been an aggressive or bloody regime at all." In recent discussions between Islamic party leaders and the king, he adds, the protests in Egypt and Tunisia didn't even come up.
In Syria, with a far more ruthless regime than the Jordanian Hashemites, there is optimism – but also caution.
"The similarities between Syria and Egypt are very frightening and so we can't fail to take lessons," says a Syrian democracy activist who asked not to be identified out of fear of regime retaliation. "The propaganda – including the positioning of foreign policy as resistance [against the West] – is better here and [the] regime is keener to keep control. Poverty is also not yet at the levels of Egypt. But give it two years and we might be ready for something similar."
Laura Kasinof in Sanaa, Yemen; Nicholas Seeley in Amman, Jordan; and a correspondent in Syria, who could not be named for security reasons, contributed reporting.