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Many ways for justice in Arab countries
– by Peter Hauff
© Jens Schicke/FES
Western politicians lost a lot of trust during the riots and revolutions that are shaking the Arab world. In the eyes of Arab youth, they sided for too long with autocrats and oppressive regimes. “Europe contributed nothing to the Arab Spring,” says Michael Meyer-Resende, the director of Democracy Reporting International, a non-profit organisation based in Berlin. “If you compare EU statements on the Arab Spring and Belarus, you see double standards.” (Please note interview with Ralf Melzer)
Caravans of justice
After the first protests erupted in Tunisia on 14 January, many countries across the Arab world witnessed popular movements in one form or another. Everywhere, the call was for justice, but not necessarily democracy. But are justice and democracy the same? That question was addressed in November at a panel discussion hosted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin. Apart from experts on democracy-building, speakers included Habib Guiza, the general secretary of Tunisia’s independent new trade union, the CGTT. He says the strongest driving force for change in Tunisia was the well educated, but unemployed youth: “We knew for years that the problems of youngsters with no prospects would eventually break the government’s back.”
Several young Arab activists said in Berlin they now have a chance to find their own way to a system that promises more justice. They agreed that political opponents and Islamist forces cannot simply be made illegal, even though they are aware of the risk of religious parties merely exploiting people’s fears and dreams to gain power. But many young democrats believe politics, not repressive institutions, is the right way to fight intolerance.