I myself have been pleasantly surprised with the revolution in Tunisia. Even more so, with the ousting of Zenalabideen Ben Ali, the long-time dictator, who turned out to be a paper tiger.

This people’s uprising has proven to other Arabian nations that even the strongest dictatorship can be overthrown without organizing, without involving party structures, without weapons and, what is most important, without military overturns, which would give power to new dictatorial regimes. The wave of the Arabian tsunami has reached other Arabian countries, such as: Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Iraq, or even Saudi Arabia and Syria, to which western media paid little or no attention.

The experts said much about this Winter of Nations. Some of them spoke of political conditions and dominating dictatorial power systems. Some looked at economic issues. Others spoke of the corruption of the authorities or spotted the fingerprints of foreign organizations from Al Qaida to CIA. There were also those who saw this as yet another stage of the “Grand Chessboard” concept. This concept has been created by Prof. Zbigniew Brzezinski and presented at the end of the 20th century in the book titled “The Grand Chessboard.” In his book, Prof. Brzezinski presented his vision of the United States’ foreign policy in the 21st century. He proved that the American reason of state requires the US authorities to ensure control over the Eurasian region, i.e. from Kazakhstan to Morocco. This is because that territory contains more than 80 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas resources, as well as the most important routes for transporting those resources into the USA.

However, most of these views are merely theories and they have influenced the revolution only to some extent.

Apart from the stereotype of an Arab shown in Hollywood motion pictures and in western media, the history of the Arabs is full of events whose causes seemed to be prosaic.

This may also help to explain why the event of Mohammed Boazizi, a street vegetable vendor, being slapped in the face by a policewoman led to the overthrow of the dictators in Tunis and, subsequently, in Egypt, as the chain reaction continues.

The Arabs are very proud people. Traditional values and their moral code are extremely important to them. The values are simple but, at the same time, pretty complicated. One has to remember that the Arabs are, above all, the people of the desert and that their environment has had a major impact on forming their identity, as well as their system of values and beliefs. It should be reminded that an Arab values his/her dignity much more than his/her life.

In the golden days of the Muslim empire, the soldiers of the Eastern Roman Empire enslaved an Arab peasant woman living near the border. In an act of desperation, the woman called the Caliph of Al-Moutasem for help. When the message reached its addressee, the Caliph sent his troops, which drove the Romans away, liberated the city and freed the woman who was held captive there. That woman’s dignity was more important for the Caliph than any casualties, and the Caliph’s own dignity would not let him reject the request for help. His honour could not ignore the woman’s calls, regardless of the cost.

Another story took place in the 1920s. Due to the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, Syria got under the French “mandate.” France tried to divide the Syrian territory into smaller ethnic states, in accordance with the “divide and rule” principle. The society was greatly dissatisfied. This, however, was not the main reason why France lost its colony.

One of Syria’s national heroes of political struggle for independence, when repressed by French mandate authorities, found a shelter in the home of Druze tribal chief, the Sultan of Al-Atrash. When French soldiers found out about it, they attacked the residence. The soldiers entered and arrested the hero, thus violating the dignity of the chief and the unwritten rule of the home’s sanctity. The results came shortly after that. It led to the revolution which spread in the entire country and made Syria independent.

These are just some examples of big events resulting from the violation of the Arabs’ personal dignity or national feelings. There were also many smaller cases, also in Poland. Some years ago, a Palestinian owner of a restaurant killed a group of mobsters who tried to impose a tribute on him for the permission to run the restaurant. According to the Arabian way of thinking, the man’s dignity would have been violated, if he had given in and had paid the mobsters what they did not deserve.

Apparently, the Arabian regimes have forgotten the principle of human dignity, especially after the opposition has diminished or has completely disappeared. A typical citizen of such a country fought only to survive and to feed his family. He was no longer interested in politics. Throughout two or three decades, the Arabian nations remained completely dormant. The regimes gained power and violently suppressed any signs of resistance.

The way the regimes’ leaders and their families became disgustingly rich could not remain unpunished. Mohamed Boazizi, who immolated himself to express his protest in Tunisia, when he was slapped by a policewoman and when his goods were confiscated, was not an ordinary salesman. He had a degree in information science. The unemployment made him take such a job. Even this job was an object of intervention of security forces. It is not about someone getting rich, it is more about the fact that someone got rich, sacrificing the millions of people earning less than a dollar a day, as well as oppressing those people and constantly defiling their dignity.

There is an Arabian proverb which says: “Live with dignity or die!” Apparently, the Arabs have decided to act according to this proverb, making use of all their rights and following the example of their neighbours in the North, where the democratic system provides everyone with decent life and with dignity.

Maged Sahly

Tłumaczenie: Mateusz Pazdur