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corruption and cockroaches: dictators who refuse to give up

on February 28, 2011

 This article was originally written for Dunia magazine


Have you ever thought about the eternal conflict between human beings and cockroaches? As for me, finding a logical explanation has always been somewhat of a challenge. Unfortunately, cockroaches can’t speak for themselves, leaving me to myself to figure this out. Is it the tentacles, or maybe the long brownish crisp wings, mellow brown body, or wide horrible eyes? How can we justify holding up flip-flops, running after these small, vulnerable cockroaches each time they creep into a room?

Oddly enough, in no other situation than at the mere sight of a cockroach do you find such a fascinatingly similar human reaction. Suddenly, everyone becomes alert, as eyewitnesses follow the movement of the intruding insect across the room, some even add more excitation to the moment by screaming and leaping onto furniture, while others head straight for the closest flip-flop or shoe and others for that can of insecticide – all in a bid to get this evil cockroach!

I must admit that the drama surrounding the presence a cockroach thrills the hell out of me, the most unforgettable part: the screaming, diving and utter panic that ensues. In fact, cockroaches will remain hateful forever. Much more about them than their distortion of beauty makes us ready to send them straight to hell.

Ironically, Arab leaders have contributed in spreading corruption in a way that makes them no better than cockroaches. Three weeks ago, I would not have said so. I used to respect our leaders and presidents for their war glories and the reforms they made at the beginning of their rule. Unfortunately, the beautiful image has turned brown, just like cockroaches. The seeds of power have corrupted and distorted these power mongers; selfishly, they have each averaged over 30 years clinging to presidential seats, planning to hand over power to their sons. It is this disgusting game of politics that we have all had enough of.

Today, we are talking about times of Arabic revolutions. I have been watching the Arab world bring down its former regimes, in hopes of reclaiming freedom; I have seen the blood of each of these countries’ sons shed to irrigate its soils as a new page turns.

I am Egyptian by nationality, but today, I am all Arabs – I am Libyan, Bahraini, Tunisian, Algerian; my heart aches for every wounded one, every murdered soul. Tears silently rise to my eyes whenever I see someone knocked to the ground; imagining he could have been my brother, my son.

These past weeks, we have watched the same scenes replay over and over again, the only difference being in the names of the countries. As they begin to sense unrest, the heads of these regimes come out promising reform. They try to instill fear by pointing out the dangers involved in various religious parties’ ambitions to get into power, the message always the same: “if you didn’t cope with the regime now, a repressive religious regime will take over and rule you ruthlessly.” The absence of security forces for the protection of the masses continues to be a major element in the regime’s defense plan to make people further succumb to the repressive system seeking to hold onto power.

The people have figured these plots out, they now see through the political rhetoric, understanding that these promises of reform are empty and what is sure to follow is more corruption and oppression. The desire for change drives these patriots on, regardless of whether the future brings more conflicts and fractions amongst them. Undeterred, with one voice, the words “choice”, “freedom” and “people’s power” are firmly back in the dictionaries of these countries.

Egypt has set the example of optimum organization and civility where millions marched against their government and its corruption. They fought back by creating check points and shielding each other. After Mubarak stepped down, the picture became even better of these patriots cleaning liberty square after the revolution.

From Egypt, the heightened revolution fever spread to Bahrain, Algeria and Libya. The most prominent of which is now in Libya, where Gadafi has and continues to show the world what a brutal dictator he is, prepared to once again kill massively before his time is over.

While I watch the Libyan savage Ghadafi, murder his people and forsake the sons of his country, I can only say that some Arab leaders are even worse than cockroaches and deserve even more humiliation than a slap across the face with a flip-flop. What is truly remarkable is that these suppressed citizens have banded together to fight a bigger enemy than a cockroach, and in the process, they have conquered their own fear.


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