The results of a number of security solutions to national and international issues will not last long despite their current effectiveness. While some regimes have managed to suppress their opponents using state terrorism and weapons, this does not imply that they have ensured that their opponents will never return to the political scene, nor does it mean that they have achieved a legitimate and concrete victory. It is a well known fact that former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad resorted to using extreme brutality to suppress his Islamist opponents in the 1980s, most infamously the Hama massacre that resulted in the death of 40,000 people and the complete destruction of the city, as well as other cities like Hama that also attempted to rise up against the regime at that time.
The lack of the modern communications tools we have today played a role in enabling the regime to enforce a media blackout over Hama, which facilitated the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. In addition, the regime implemented a new law that criminalised any affiliations with the movement and sentenced all of its members to death. Following those events, the regime maintained its strong rule without any interruptions for over thirty years. Hama’s survivors were not able to speak of the massacres they had witnessed at the hands of the regime for fear that they would be silenced permanently.
The generals in Algeria followed in the footsteps of the Syrian regime by fighting Islamist forces for 10 years, a period known as the “Black Decade”. The government has since managed to eradicate such groups and the deep-rooted state apparatus has remained firmly in power. In fact, it has grown more powerful behind a democratic façade. It is clear that the current regimes in Egypt, Syria and Iraq seek to repeat the past Algerian and Syrian experiences because they believe in the false notion that history repeats itself and that these two “security solutions” were successful. They are truly idiotic if they believe that history really does repeat itself. Karl Marx once said: “History repeats itself the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a farce.” If only those who seek to repeat history in Syria, Egypt and Iraq would take a closer look at Marx’s quote, they would realise that that they have indeed entered into a farce, one that cannot be hidden from the public gaze. They would also realise that the massacres in Algeria and Syria were two of the biggest failures that have paved the way for the unprecedented tragedy in Syria today, which is easily among the worst in modern and ancient history.
The Brotherhood that fought against Hafez Al-Assad now looks weak when compared to the forces facing Bashar Al-Assad, Nuri Al-Maliki and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. As for Algeria, although it is now relatively calm it is uncertain whether conditions will remain this way for much longer because all of the catalysts for the outbreak of the revolutions in other parts of the Arab world are now present in Algeria in a potentially more dangerous form. Thus, no one must assume that the Algerian government was successful in eliminating its opponents by using fascist brutality and force.
Perhaps the Egyptian regime believes that it is capable of reviving 20th century conditions where governments were able to rule with an iron fist over what they considered to be terrorist organisations. However, the situation is completely different and it now faces organisations such as Takfir wal Hijra, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Najoun min Al-Nar (“Saved from Hell”), an Islamist group founded in 1965 that is loyal to Sayyid Qutb, as well as Islamic Jihad. Whether the Egyptian regime agrees with the Muslim Brotherhood or not, it is a group that is far removed from the extremist groups mentioned above. Furthermore, Egyptian governments since Nasser have tried to weed out the Muslim Brotherhood from Egyptian society and have failed. The truth is that the movement has deep-roots in Egyptian society, unlike other Islamic groups; it also won the first democratic election in Egyptian history. As such, it is impossible for the government to deal with the Brotherhood in the same manner that it has dealt with other groups because such actions could never be justified. Fabricating a bombing here or a crisis there will never serve as a legitimate reason to eliminate the movement nor will it ever justify its demonisation or criminalisation. The decision to eradicate rather than include the Brotherhood is likely to affect everything and everyone in the country. The Egyptians are in dire need of a national consensus and reconciliation because they have reached a dangerously unprecedented level of polarisation in society.
I do not understand why Egypt did not learn from the tragedy that befell Iraq after an exclusionary political system based on marginalising Islamic opponents led to the state’s failure. For the past ten years, not a week has gone by in Iraq without a suicide bomb or other terrorist atrocity. It seems as though other Arab countries do not wish to learn from the Iraqi experience and it is evident that Nouri Al-Maliki himself does not want to learn his lesson regardless of his country’s failed economic policies and exclusionary politics. Instead of inviting other factions to engage with the political system, Al-Maliki seems to believe that he can eliminate his opponents (and thus the terrorist acts) by using tanks and air power. He does not seem to understand that political prosperity and security cannot be achieved by ruling with an iron fist; you have to include everyone in the decision-making process. In the age of Arab revolutions, it appears to be sufficient for Al-Maliki and other Arab tyrants to transform the lives of their people into a living hell even if a mere five per cent of them are opposed to the government. The people in the Arab world are no longer willing to accept security solutions like those imposed in Syria and Algeria. On the contrary, they are now willing to respond and fight back even if it means that all of their political leaders will be thrown into jail. He who thinks that throwing his opponent in jail is a solution to a political problem is truly foolish.
It is unfortunate that the Egyptian regime is coordinating with the Syrian government after all that has happened in Syria. The Syrian uprising began as a peaceful and popular protest movement and the neo-fascist regime’s reactions have transformed it into one of the biggest disasters ever to befall the Syrian people. Why does Egypt not learn from the events that have unfolded in Syria rather than align itself with the regime that led Syria to a state of collapse and ruin?
The events of the last decade show us that all decisions pertaining to security have been disasters in every sense of the word, and have brought us nothing but terrorism. The unfortunate reality is that no one learns from their own or others’ mistakes and the disasters that have already taken place. The magnitude and frequency of outrageous errors committed by our governments towards opposition groups lead us to ask if there is some plan or absurd plot between the dictatorships in our countries and outside players to convert our countries into failed states; is there a plan that seeks to “Somalise” or “Afghanise” our countries so that they become unstable for decades? Important questions; they need urgent answers.
The author is a presenter at al Jazeera TV in Qatar. This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Al-Sharq newspaper on 29 December, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.