Syrian refugees in Brazil

Syrian refugees in Brazil. (Foto AFP)

Syrian refugees in Brazil. (Foto AFP)

This is my column that was published in Arab News on Oct. 18, 2015:

By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh

IT isn’t a very well-known fact but Brazil has been taking in Syrian refugees since 2013 when the Brazilian government decided to issue them special visas that gave them refugee status in the country. In September, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced that her country was extending special visas for Syrian refugees for another two years. There are now roughly 2,000 Syrian refugees living in Brazil.
Many Syrian refugees have said in interviews that they chose going to Brazil legally with visas and on airline flights over risking their lives being smuggled to Europe via the Mediterranean. Even so, immigrating to Brazil is not that much cheaper than going to Europe. Ali, a new Syrian immigrant in Brazil, told BBC Brasil that he paid $10,000 to get to Brazil.
The two main problems that Syrian refugees face upon arriving in Brazil are the language barrier and the fact that the Brazilian government has no official program to help refugees settle once they arrive. I’ve read accounts of individual young male Syrians arriving at the airport in São Paulo and being overwhelmed by the different language here and not having any local contacts yet that can help them.
With a lack of Arabic-speaking staff at the airport, some new arrivals have spent days in the terminal until someone told them how to take the bus to the center of the city and where to find cheap hotel accommodation.
The language barrier is especially harmful to these Syrian immigrants as it stops them from finding good jobs. Some local charity groups, such as Caritas, as well as mosques in São Paulo have been providing language lessons to the refugees and helping them find at least temporary jobs. Some enterprising Syrians have set up their own small stalls on the streets to sell homemade Arabic pastries and sweets to make a little money.
Brazil is going through an economic crisis, with many Brazilians being laid-off of work, so this has not helped the work prospects of the new immigrants. I’ve read several reports in the Brazilian press that immigrants from Haiti, which were once flooding into the country at the rate of several hundred a month, are now leaving Brazil for greener pastures such as the United States.
To help cope with this situation the Brazilian government has allowed needy Syrian immigrants to be enrolled in their income transfer program called Bolsa Familia, which pays very poor Brazilians a small sum of money every month to stop them from starving. According to BBC Brasil, there are now 163 Syrian families receiving monthly payments of around $41 each. This may seem like peanuts, but this welfare program was designed to keep the poorest of the poor Brazilians from absolute poverty, and not for helping refugees. Sonia Rocha of the Institute of Work and Society Studies told BBC Brasil that she did not think the Syrian refugees should be included in the Bolsa Familia program because they need specific help from the Brazilian government.
“This just masks the problem,” she said. “We need proper mechanisms for refugees in our institutions.”
To help state governments and municipal officials deal with the influx of refugees from various countries, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice’s National Committee for Refugees last week released R$15 million in credit (around $4 million) for the assistance of refugees and immigrants.
Despite all of the problems, the positive side of this story is that Brazilians are very friendly and welcoming, and this helps immensely in the adaptation of Syrian immigrants to their new home. The children of these immigrants, once they are enrolled in Brazilian schools, quickly pick-up the Portuguese language and often end up being their parents’ interpreters when they deal with Brazilians.
Brazil is a continent-sized nation with a population of 203 million, rich in minerals, agriculture and rivers. This country could easily absorb up to 50,000 refugees, according to a paper written this month by Cecilia Baeza, a political science professor at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, who specializes in the Arab world. One problem they face that Baeza points out in her paper is the lack of support from the local population of Arab descent who are of Syrian and Lebanese origin, who because most of them are Christian therefore do not feel compelled to help the new immigrants who are mostly Muslim. “Some fear that the arrival of Muslim refugees would change the image of the diaspora, which is mainly Christian. Adolfo Numi, director of the Syrian Charitable Society in Chile, recently said in an interview: “We want to bring Syrian refugees to Chile, but even if we do discriminate by religion, we want the Syrian community in Chile to remain Christian in its majority…,’” writes Baeza.
Facing such discrimination, it is imperative that the Brazilian government and the local Muslim community in Brazil help these Syrian refugees much more. Most of these immigrants are educated and can contribute a lot to Brazil. There are many opportunities here despite the economic downturn, and what these refugees need is help with cheaper accommodation, since high rents are one of their main complaints; intensive Portuguese-language and Brazilian culture training and monthly cash payments for at least two years to help them buy food and other necessities.
Most of the Syrian and Lebanese immigrants to Brazil in the 20th century arrived here penniless but soon adapted to their new home and built successful businesses. Today, there are Brazilians of Arab origins in the highest echelons of the government and business community. There is no reason that this new wave of immigrants from the Syria cannot achieve the same heights. They just need a little helping hand to begin with, and the many opportunities offered by such a rich nation as Brazil will surely take care of the rest.

http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/822041

Russia extends agony of Syrian civil war

Russian SU 25 SM ground attack aircraft (ground) and MIG 29 jet fighters (taking off). (AFP photo)

Russian SU 25 SM ground attack aircraft (ground) and MIG 29 jet fighters (taking off). (AFP photo)

By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh

The formal entry of Russia into the Syrian civil war last week, with its bombing of rebel targets in Homs and Hama, places which by the way have no Daesh forces, is a bad omen for the region.  A visibly weakened Bashar al-Assad regime was having difficulty holding on to the smaller Syria that it still controlled and if not for Russian intervention in its favor, it may have been forced sooner rather than later to the bargaining table.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have been supporting various Syrian rebel groups that are fighting for a new Syria without Assad and all of his thuggish allies. Forty-four years of Assad family rule has been far too much for the Syrian people, who emboldened by the Arab Spring revolts in the Arab world in 2011, decided to peacefully protest against their government. The regime’s answer was violence, arrests, torture and “disappearances”. It is no wonder then that the opposition soon took up weapons to defend itself from the merciless attacks of government forces.

But if you listen to the Assad regime, you hear another story which sounds like a fairytale it is so ridiculous. On Friday, the regime’s favorite cheerleader Buthaina Shaaban appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight program to stupidly claim yet again that there was no civil war in Syria, and that in fact the Syrian government was fighting “terrorists” hell-bent on blowing up schools and hospitals, not fed-up civilians who have formed rebel militias to topple a regime that has held Syria in its blood-stained hands for far too long.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stressed the struggle to get rid of Assad in a speech to the United Nations on Oct. 1, lamenting that “the international community continues to be unable to save the Syrian people from the killing machine that is being operated by Bashar al-Assad. …Those whose hands are stained with the blood of the Syrian people have no place in a new Syria.”

The U.S. under the administration of President Barack Obama has been extremely reluctant to get too involved in the Syrian conflict, limiting itself to bombing Daesh targets in Syria and Iraq from the air, action that has yet to seriously affect Daesh’s capability to rule and hold on to its territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sensed this American hesitation as weakness and decided to step in by expanding an air base in Syria and stationing Russian bomber jets there. After their first bombing runs, in which they hit a rebel group that is funded by the Americans and killed 33 persons, the US government issued barely a peep in protest.

For sure the Russians are not rushing ground troops into Syria, having learned a hard lesson in the 1970s during their bloody occupation of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Iran is rushing more soldiers and commanders into Syria to bolster the Lebanese Hezbollah forces already there. This only adds to the sectarian dimension that the Syrian civil war has taken on.

With approximately 300,000 Syrians already dead in a civil war half-way into its fifth year, the beginning of an active Russian military intervention and more Iranian troops arriving, the prospects of a peace settlement seem remoter than ever. European Union members should be at the forefront of trying to resolve the Syrian civil war as soon as possible, given the huge numbers of refugees that is has been forced to deal with this summer coming from Syria.

While the U.S. and its allies took pains not to target Syrian government forces in their bombing raids of Daesh targets in Syria, the Russians have had no such compulsions. The long talked about no-fly zones over northern areas of Syria near the border with Turkey to provide safe-havens for rebel groups and civilians, were never undertaken by the US because of Obama’s hesitation and hand-wringing over how far to get involved in Syria.  For sure the many losses that Americans were subjected to in their 10-year occupation of Iraq are one of the main reasons that Obama and many other Americans were reluctant to okay no-fly zones in Syria. But if they had been implemented two years ago, the war would have taken a different turn for sure. Now, the rebels without any protection are going to be much more vulnerable to Syrian regime attacks thanks to the powerful Russian air cover and attacks that are bolstering the Assad regime.

It’s a shame really given that the US maintained no-fly zones over parts of Iraq for years before Saddam Hussein was overthrown in order to protect the Kurdish population. The Kingdom footed the bill then, and perhaps could have contributed to help maintain no-fly zones over Syria, but Obama did not have the guts to do so. His administration will be remembered for that, and not kindly.

Bold steps embolden nation

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, center, with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif, right, and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, center, with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif, right, and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman’s first 100 days in office have been marked by a series of bold decisions that have left Saudis pleasantly surprised at the measures taken after what seemed a long period over the last several years where the Kingdom just seemed to be coasting along on its reputation as the center of the Muslim world.
The unrelenting march of the Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, taking over the capital Sanaa last year and then forcing Yemeni President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia when they bombed his Aden office, moved King Salman to decide to intervene militarily in Yemen along with a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab and Muslim coalition of more than 10 nations. Critical to this decision no doubt was his son Prince Mohammad bin Salman, recently appointed the deputy crown prince, and our current defense minister. Only 30 years old, Prince Mohammad is known for his hard work and determination to get things done, and we are now seeing this in the campaign in Yemen to halt the advance of Houthi troops and reinstate the legitimate government of Hadi.

Our new Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif, a youthful 55 years old, brings years of experience as interior minister fighting the scourge of Al-Qaeda, having survived an attack on his life by this nefarious terrorist group. The crown prince while being tough on the terrorists of Al-Qaeda has also realized that many of its members are disaffected youth that have been led astray by the deviant, hateful and bloody ideology spouted by the group, and therefore started a de-radicalization program run by the Ministry of Interior aimed at re-educating captured members of the group and offering them a way back into Saudi society by giving them jobs and marriage possibilities. For sure, some of the program’s participants have relapsed and returned to the folds of Al-Qaeda, but that is to be expected, as no program is 100 percent effective when it comes to ideology and what really stays in a person’s mind and heart.
Other appointments by King Salman to his Cabinet have injected new blood into the highest echelon of the Saudi government, giving a much younger generation of Saudis the chance to have a say in how the country is governed. My good friend Adel Al-Toraifi, who is only 36, is now the culture and information minister. I was very glad to hear of his appointment, remembering our many conversations about Middle East politics over cups of coffee whenever he used to visit Jeddah from Riyadh. Likewise, it was exciting to hear of the appointment of Adel Al-Jubeir as our new minister of foreign affairs, who at 53 is only a few years older than me. I still remember working with him at the end of the 1980s when I helped cover a Saudi exhibition for Arab News in Washington and he was just starting his career at the Saudi Embassy there.
But perhaps most intriguing have been the recent sackings of several officials by the king after they misbehaved in public and their shenanigans were caught on video and quickly posted on social media on the Internet for all to see. In April the then health minister, Ahmed Khatib, was caught on video having a heated argument with a citizen who was complaining that his sick father was getting poor treatment at a private hospital. Khatib could be heard dismissing the man’s complaints. After the clip was posted online there were many angry reactions and King Salman sacked the minister. The crown prince decided to treat the father of the man in the video.
Later in April, King Salman banned Prince Mamdouh bin Abdulrahman from speaking to all media and from taking part in any sports activities after he made racist remarks on a live sports television program against a Saudi sports journalist, denigrating him for being of foreign descent. Online commentators praised the king for his action, saying that it showed that all Saudis should be treated the same and with respect. Indeed, in March King Salman stressed how all Saudis are the same in a speech he gave: “There are no differences among Saudi people or areas,” he said. “We are determined to address the roots of the divergences and the causes of divisions so that we can eliminate the categorization of the society in a way that harms national unity. All Saudis are equal in rights and duties,” he said.
This month the king replaced the head of royal protocol after the official was caught on camera slapping a photojournalist in the face at the airport in Riyadh when he was covering the arrival of Morocco’s King Mohammad VI. Happening just a few meters away from where King Salman was warmly greeting the Moroccan king, Mohammad Al-Tibaishi, the royal protocol official in question, was caught on camera slapping the journalist. While I know that journalists can be quite pushy and aggressive while trying to cover such important events, nothing ever justifies physical violence in such circumstances.
With all of these actions, King Salman is showing immense resolve to show the Kingdom’s determination to defend its strategic and national interests by intervening in Yemen and sacking Saudi officials who disrespect the Saudi people. This has given much pride and hope to the average Saudi citizen, who feels happy that the Saudi leadership is taking charge of our country’s destiny instead of allowing it to be too affected by foreign powers. We are a strong nation that can and should decide its own future. The time has come and all Saudis should rise to the challenge.
We’ve had too many years of complaining and expecting that others will solve our problems. We can do it ourselves, and we should be proud that we are able to do so.

http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/744761

Lessons for Brazil in Libya, Iran?

Brazil is insisting that it will not recognize the Transitional National Council of Libya until the accreditation committee of the United Nations General Assembly votes on the issue in late September in New York.

“We do not recognize governments but states,” declared Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota in a statement last week widely reported in the Brazilian media.

This despite the fact that the Libyan ambassador to Brazil, Salem al-Zubeidy, previously a die-hard Qaddafi supporter, declared his allegiance to the TNC on August 26, saying it was the will of the Libyan people to support the rebels.

A pro-rebel diplomat at the embassy in Brasília told the Folha de São Paulo newspaper that he did not believe the ambassador was sincere, dubbing him a turncoat. “Six months ago he was calling the rebels ‘rats’ and ‘al-Qaeda,’ and now he’s pro-council?” said Adel Swizy.

Pro-rebel Libyan diplomats and citizens living in Brazil took over the Libyan embassy a few weeks ago in the posh Lago Sul neighborhood of Brasília after scuffles with pro-Qaddafi diplomats and the son of the ambassador, who ended up with a bloody nose. Al-Zubeidy asked the Brazilian government for assistance, and Itamaraty, the Brazilian foreign ministry, sent in six diplomatic police. They tried to negotiate a settlement, but the pro-rebel Libyans insisted on staying in the villa from which the embassy operates, over which they had hoisted the rebel flag. The ambassador has been forced to work out of his residence.

A few weeks ago, in a last-ditch effort to support the Qaddafi regime, al-Zubeidy sponsored the trip of a delegation of leftist Brazilian politicians, journalists, and lawyers to visit war-torn Libya and observe the civil war first-hand. He took the step despite the fact that the embassy has been struggling to pay its Brazilian employees — funds stopped coming from Tripoli after international banking sanctions were imposed on Qaddafi and his government. In any event, the delegation never made it into Libya. They were stopped at the Tunisian border and warned by NATO that it was not safe for them to enter the country.

Many Brazilians have criticized the government for its reluctance to immediately recognize the rebel movement in Libya, noting that the administration of President Dilma Rousseff had indicated that it would place greater emphasis on human rights in Brazil’s foreign policy.

“This policy is overly cautious,” said David Fleischer, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Brasília, in an interview with Tehran Bureau. “The Libyan ambassador to Brazil has changed sides. We don’t know if Itamaraty will maintain his credentials or not. The U.N. Security Council has already authorized the liberation of Qaddafi government funds frozen in British banks to be transferred to the new Libyan government. In light of that fact, many governments have recognized the National Transitional Council. Itamaraty should quickly review its policy and not await the decision of the U.N. General Assembly regarding the representation of Libya at the U.N.”

To continue reading my article go the Tehran Bureau website.

How Bahrain has become a Saudi-Iranian battleground

Men in Bahrain protest against the government

By Rasheed Abualsamh

THE SIGHT of smiling Saudi soldiers flashing the V-sign of peace as they rolled into Bahrain in light-armored vehicles on March 14 must have surprised many Saudis and Bahrainis who probably had never dreamed they would witness such a scene in their lives.

But King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, the minority Sunni-ruler of Bahrain, who along with his family have been in power for the past 200 years, had called upon fellow member states of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for help in quelling the weeks-long often violent protests of the majority Shiites, which had now moved from Pearl Square to blocking the entrances to the financial district.

Bahrain has always been proud of its relative openness and ease of doing business. Having mobs of its own dissatisfied citizens turning the tiny island-state into something decidedly less than business-friendly was too much for some in the royal family. For behind the scenes a struggle was emerging between the more reform-minded Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and the hardline Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa. The arrival of GCC troops (the United Arab Emirates contributed 500 soldiers, as well as reinforcements from Qatar and Kuwait) and the subsequent violent removal of the protesters from the financial district left no doubt that the hardliners were winning.

“Bahrain is seen as Saudi Arabia’s backyard, and an overthrow of the Al-Khalifa would open the door more widely than before for Iranian influence,” said Christopher Davidson, reader in Middle East politics at Durham University in the UK, and the author of several books on the UAE. “More importantly, it’s a red line for autocratic Gulf regimes as much as a geopolitical red line: if the Al-Khalifa fall, it will break the ‘bubble of invincibility’ of Gulf sheikhs.”

The televised scenes of Shiite Bahraini protesters being shot at close range and in some cases being denied access to prompt medical care cast the conflict in a horrific way: The wealthy, Sunni elite versus the poorer and discriminated against Shiites who were asking for better jobs, a constitutional monarchy and a fully-elected parliament. At first the king made a few concessions by reshuffling his cabinet, promising new elections down the road and giving cash handouts to the people. But the Shiite opposition parties rejected these as not enough, and soon hardliners on both sides had dug in their heels. Even the Shiite opposition seemed split between the Wefaq party and Hassan Mushaima, who recently having been pardoned and let back into the country by the king, was calling for the monarchy to be abolished and a republic to be formed.

This radicalization of Shiite demands must have sent shock waves through Riyadh, Doha, Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, the capitals of Gulf countries with hereditary rulers that have never had to share much power with anyone.  Mushaima and five other opposition leaders were promptly arrested and jailed.

These sad events caused Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon to hold rallies to show their solidarity with their brethren in Bahrain, and to call for Saudi troops to be withdrawn. In Iran, 700 protesters threw stones at the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad on March 18, and in Tehran last week a radical cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, called on Bahraini Shiites to “resist against the enemy until you die or win.” Iran later withdrew its ambassador from Bahrain, and the island-state then expelled Iran’s charge d’affaires.  Finally on March 20, the king of Bahrain, clearly alluding to Iran, announced that his country had foiled a three-decades long plot by an unnamed foreign nation to destabilize his country when his army clamped down on the pro-democracy protesters.

Many observers have therefore cast the showdown in Bahrain as a proxy battle between Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran for influence in the region. With Shiites having come to power recently in Iraq and Lebanon, Bahrain has become a red-line in the sand for Iran’s expanding influence in the region that none of the Sunni-ruled Gulf states will allow to be crossed.

“Bahrain is seen as Saudi Arabia’s backyard, and an overthrow of the Al-Khalifa would open the door more widely than before for Iranian influence,” said Christopher Davidson, reader in Middle East politics at Durham University in the UK, and the author of several books on the UAE. “More importantly, it’s a red line for autocratic Gulf regimes as much as a geopolitical red line: if the Al-Khalifa fall, it will break the ‘bubble of invincibility’ of Gulf sheikhs.”

Toby Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East history at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and a specialist in Saudi affairs, stressed in an interview that it was the Gulf governments that were turning the Bahrain protests into a sectarian issue and not the protesters themselves.

“None of the Arab states in the Gulf want to see a close neighbor fall, particularly with the various sectarian elements at play. I want to be clear here, though, that I think it is the Arab Gulf Sunni governments and not the protesters in Bahrain or elsewhere that are playing the sectarian card. My sense, and I know many of them, is that the protesters are serious about democracy,” Jones said.

Of the six GCC states, Bahrain is the only one with a Shiite-majority population.

Yet despite the inflammatory rhetoric coming out of Tehran, several analysts believe that Iran is being cautious in how it gets involved in the Bahrain conflict, aware that it has many domestic problems to deal with, and also because it is wary of getting into a direct conflict with Saudi Arabia or the United States.

“Despite what the Bahraini king has said, there is no conclusive evidence that Iran is arming, or is even the main factor behind the opposition. Iran’s anti-Khalifa rhetoric has, however, intensified and that is to be expected. In a moment when the Shiites in the Middle East are visibly angered by the Saudi intervention against their brethren, it is hardly an option for Tehran – the self-declared protector of the Shiites in the world – to remain silent. That said, I still see no evidence that Iran is logistically the critical force behind this unrest in Bahrain,” said Alex Vatanka, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington and an expert on Iranian politics.

“One major reason why Iran would not do so is because such a move would bring it closer to a conflict with the US than has ever been the case in recent years. The US will not sit idle with its 5th Fleet in Bahrain and let Iran run a pro-Tehran armed campaign. As with Iraq, Iran might help local Shiite forces in the future but we have not reached that stage yet,” added Vatanka.

Saudi authorities have been alarmed at the possible spread of unrest from Bahrain to its minority Shiite population, which is just 22 kilometers away over the causeway that links the two countries, in the oil-producing Eastern province. Shiites have already held protests calling for the recall of Saudi troops in Bahrain, but the message coming from prominent Shiite Saudis so far has been one of restraint and dialogue.

The Saudi Shiite religious leader Sheikh Hassan Al-Saffar released a statement on his website denouncing the violence in Bahrain and calling for a political solution and national reconciliation.

Nevertheless, the ironic fact remains that the arrival of Saudi and other GCC troops in Bahrain has led both sides to dig in their heels and has left much less room for compromise. How long will these foreign troops remain in Bahrain is also not sure, with some analysts predicting their stay could be open-ended, as the opposition could claim victory if they went home early.

“Saudi Arabia’s and the GCC’s exit strategy is not clear. Nor is it clear how Bahrain will define victory. It is likely that the departure in the next few weeks or even months would be perceived as an opening by Bahrain’s opposition. The Saudis and the Bahrainis know this, so my intuition is that the GCC forces will remain for some time,” said Jones.

“The Al-Khalifa are not interested in dialogue, as any concession to the protesters will be viewed as a sign of weakness. Moreover, the Al-Saud and other Gulf sheikhs will also be reluctant for the Al-Khalifa to reduce themselves to dialogue,” said Davidson.

Jones, the Rutgers professor, agrees, saying that the violence unleashed on the protesters in Bahrain changed the whole equation.

“Neither side has shown a willingness to budge. The opposition’s intransigence is a direct result of how the Bahrain regime managed the uprising and especially its resort to violence. There was a time when there was more room for compromise. Al-Wefaq seems prepared to concede some ground on this point, but whether Mushaima, Haqq and others will do the same is an important question,” said Jones.

The Obama administration has been caught in a juggling act, publicly supporting the popular uprising in Libya, and leading the Allied military attacks on the Qaddafi regime, while remaining solidly committed to supporting the Al-Khalifa and Al-Saud families.

“The US has given private assurances to the Bahrainis that they want the Al-Khalifa to remain in power, making very clear that while they would not publicly support a crackdown (and have denounced its ferocity), they also would not walk away from the Al-Khalifa in the short term,” explained Jones.  “But the US has also demonstrated a double standard in how it is defining ‘just’ outcomes—by cracking down on Libya’s Qaddafi but turning a blind eye to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the US continues to project a muddled set of values to the rest of the region and the world.”

The ball is now firmly in the court of the Al-Khalifa. Do they really want to share more power with their citizens? In the past they have said they do, but more often than not that has turned out to be empty rhetoric.

“In the first two weeks of the demonstrations, the major demand of the protesters was the restoration of the 1973 Constitution which allows for a semi-constitutional monarchy. I think the feeling of betrayal on the part of the people was the major motive behind the protests. A decade ago, the king had promised a gradual transition to democracy. In reality he has grabbed all the powers and stripped the elected council from having any meaningful powers.,” said Tawfiq Alsaif, a leading Saudi Shiite intellectual in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

What began as an Arab winter of discontent in Tunisia and Egypt, now seems to be turning into a spring of discontent in Libya and Bahrain, which may well extend into the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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