From Saddam’s Trial to Syrian Suicide: Accountability comes to the Arab World (Mona Eltahawy, 20/10/2005, Asharq Alawsat)

Are we seeing the start of an Arab Autumn?

On Oct. 18 former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein takes the stand on charges of premeditated murder, torture and forced expulsion and disappearances when he goes on trial for a 1982 massacre of Shiites. A week later, the U.N. investigator’s report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is due before the Security Council.

The sight of Iraqis and Palestinians voting earlier this year and of the Lebanese who turned out in their thousands to protest Hariri’s assassination was called an Arab Spring for spurring talk of change in the Arab world.

With Saddam Hussein standing before prosecutors and the names of the rich and the powerful of Syria and Lebanon on the pages of the Mehlis report, October could be the start of an Arab Autumn, in which we shed the old and prepare for the new.

Accountability is a rare commodity in the Arab world. We are so unused to seeing officials held accountable that the sight of Saddam answering charges may prove cathartic for people across the entire Arab world, not just in Iraq.

I can almost guarantee there will be calls for a fair trial from countries where such a thing is a luxury. And for those who insist on complaining about the “humiliation” enacted upon Saddam, that is exactly the point.

“This is the least which can be done to settle all the pain he and his regime have caused an entire nation,” lamented an Iraqi friend whose family fled Saddam’s Iraq when he was a child. “Imagine – all the resources both human and natural – all were used for him and his family’s own pleasure.

“I’m against the death penalty but I’m willing to make an exception in this case,” he said. “I hope his trial, conviction and hanging will be in public. Just to remind other dictators and blood thirsty tyrants of the awful end they might face. […]

Autumn is the season when gardeners plant the seeds for spring. Accountability is the seed we’re planting this autumn in the Arab world. Let’s hope it bears fresh and vibrant blossoms.

And Saddam and Assad can fertilize the soil.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: