Arab Commission for Human Rights
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International NGO in special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations





Civil Society, Changing Reality and Freeing Minds -  Violette Daguerre *


Barak Hussein Obama assumed the job of the 44th US president. Until recently, no one could have predicted that he would succeed because his origin, color and environment are insurmountable obstacles in a country where racial discrimination is still vibrant and where the WASP component is securing a superiority, in spite of the alleged US role-model and democratization exported to the world.

However, the past sterile eight years brought in- both to the Americans and humanity- huge economic, political and moral disasters. Also, the alleged fighting of terrorism and preemptive wars weren't actually a fight against terrorism. They have rather stoked fronts of terrorism. Then came recently the financial tsunami that set a scene without which the US election winner wouldn't have achieved such a convenient win.

Ingredients of the characteristics of the person, fluctuations in the American scene and requirements of the stage all collaborated to bring in the recently witnessed mesh-up.

But, shall we see opportunism or originality in Obama's next steps inside the White House?, will he stick to his principles and election promises. Will he manage to take historical decisions whatever the consequences? Or will the inferiority complex- towards his Islamic and African origin- that surfaced in the election campaign, hunt him and prevent him from becoming like great men who made history?

Will he be only the first US black president only or a president also for the black poor and marginalized (the fact that some colored figures assume top positions should never make up forget that the black are four time more than the whites under poverty line in the United States of America, that they are two times more than the whites in jobless rolls and that this black community are paid only 60 % of salary given to the whites).

Will he pay attention to the Palestinian file as he is well aware that this file is the mother of all terrible problems facing the region and it has more or less an impact on the whole world in general and in his country in particular, or will his aides, topped by the dubbed Rambo (Rahm Emanuel), control over his decisions so that they are always to the interest of the Zionist occupation entity in occupied Palestinian territories?

Obama will not make miracles in an age that lacks prophets or saints to lead this turned-upside-down world, although many all over the world insist on seeing him as the new redeemer after Bush's sterile years. However definitely, he will never be shallow-minded or stupid like his processor who owes him his election win.

Obama's weak experience will not cover the symbolic significance of his win in the world's biggest country till the world starts to witness a return of multi-polarity.

Well, there is a key factor I want to highlight in these lines, as it played a decisive role in Barack Obama's win, other than interests of the US establishments (intelligence services, influential, economic, industrial and military bodies and lobbies specially Zionist lobbies...etc) that relies nowadays on a person who can make a parallel shock that may contribute to changing the image of the United States in the world and make the Americans still hope that they can trust their country and its ability to protect their interests. I see that this decisive factor is the civil society and its very effective role in campaigning for and backing any one from its ranks.

This civil society with its multiethnic, multiracial and multi-colored middle and poor classes- not the influential people in charge who make policies- are the ones who brought success the one who incarnates their hopes.

The lesson is that change can and should come from below, away from submitting to tricks of those who want to change from above or those who work in a balance of powers that they draw them closer to their interest allegedly in the name of the democratic game and election laws.

In Western countries, many powers do not necessarily respect human rights; their other face is distorted with arrogance and hegemony, the ABCs of the current domineering world order. Some of these countries don't secure the minimum required living condition or balance for all their citizens.

On the other hand, the Arab-West relations are not seemingly based on equality and mutual respect which are the bases for confidence building. Arab intellectual energies are sidelined when they constitute a serious partner or rival in a real partnership project.

But there is a difference between their case and ours. We can't compare between them and countries which lack even the circulation of power and lack change other than changes through rigging, violence, coups, hereditary transfer of rule or through renewing the ruling regime without consulting people.


Moving to the Arab civil society, the non- government vibrant and dynamic melting pot that includes Arabs and Kurds, Amazigh, Africans, blacks and white, Christians and Muslims, secularists and religious from all religions, all of them reject the domineering tyranny and corruption . They see themselves as a safety valve in every peaceful move towards a society that enjoys freedom and justice.

This society is still unprepared to create the same move through imposing change through democratic mechanisms. It is still divided due to aborting factors related to its structure, culture, kinds of production and its relations with the region and the world. Also adding to its division are viruses that came from abroad to weaken its immunity if they did not kill it.

One of these viruses is the financial aid programs offered to non-governmental organizations and societies. The conditions and agendas of these programs are put to serve their interests and interests of those they represent, not the targeted. For example, European financing programs are reluctant to fund any program around a European-Arab cooperation or dialogue, funding instead the Mediterranean European ones.

After the success in using the term "the Arab world", instead of MENA Middle East and North Africa, a fierce counter attack was launched, accusing of chauvinism any one using the term Arab and of extremism any one using the term Islamic.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on projects in this concept. Any party outside it has been sidelined. If a European country outside the EU or a Mediterranean Arab country is absent, no one cares while the presence of Israel is a binding condition for any European funding or support.

On the other side of Atlantic Ocean, Bush's administration has reviewed NGOs, excluding from any aid or financing any one dealing with a US terrorism-blacklisted society or party.

The process of subjugating the so called "artificial centers"(i.e. centers that emerge on the initiative of a person in a funded place and some employees whom the funding rescued from miserable unemployment and labor market crisis, working completely away from the social conflict, civil resistance or struggles and products of this society), spawned local brokers who promote the western product and mix up concepts.

There are human rights activists who are detained, dismissed from their jobs, added to travel-ban lists, hunted in the streets and find no defense under the claim that they have Islamic affiliations or Arab unionist tendencies, while there is another clique of persons- whose image is beautified- speaking in all places as if they are the only ones who represent "the besieged Arab civil society".

The European Commission does not respond to demands for lifting names of the Palestinian Islamic organizations from the terrorism blacklist or boycotting Israeli goods to stop settlement building as it is the biggest obstacle facing any serious and useful talks.

This list of forbidden items are well-known by financing centers. They may give some of them so as not to appear in a farcical image, but there persists this horrible image of the directed and conditioned financial injecting whose negative results started to surface in the Arab civil society.

These results include:

1- Giving priority to many professional centers in the financing market, while the meeting the actual societal needs is longer a priority.

2- The multiplicity of financed activities and the increase in quasi-freely distributed prints, giving the civil movement an overblown image which doesn't reflect its reality, its real abilities or the extent of its contact with people.

3- Moving the effect from the internal dimension of the absence of internal democracy to building profitable and elitist enterprises and moving away form people and their concerns and promoting imported agendas at the expense of objective agendas that have social cultural roots.

There is for example the huge financing of any Mediterranean of Euro-Mediterranean network or any activities that keep up with the future forum, while any conference that covers the Arab world and its problems or the Islamic world is being blockaded.

4- Turning these centers locked in a strategic subordination relation into promoters of foreign agendas because the source of living has become a factor of corruption for a big number of Arab civil society activists besieged between the hammer of national dictatorial regimes and the anvil of the northern financial penetration.

5- Moving the issue of financing from just a means for administration and growth into a purpose in itself has clearly led to reducing the agendas and ambitions adopted by some human rights agencies until this became part of a profitable mentality that turned civil societies and human rights organizations into a commodity, and turned the center into an economic establishment.

Unfortunately, like the good progressive organizations which were paying- half a century ago- the tax of bad formations, nowadays human rights movement is facing a similar situation.

Will the huge fall of the experience of the Neo-Conservatives lead to clearly differentiate between the one who turned into a godfather of the worst US administration since the US Declaration of Independence or a delegate of European domination agendas, or we are still not mature enough to do so?

We are required to move to effective and hard work between ranks of those who can change this bad Arab reality, not to remain motionless on the sidelines waiting for those of foreign interests to change in the way that serves their interests and in the time most suitable for them.

It is wrong- or naive- to rely on Obama or the West to create change in Arab societies because we should have our rights respected by those who don't believe in them and we must take these rights from those who think of them as against their interests. We should never beg for our rights as if we were waiting for our rights to be gifted for free from heaven.

Resistances in Iraq , Palestine , Lebanon , Somalia and Afghanistan and others have imposed a reality that the other was forced to deal with and learn from its lessons. These resistances have even contributed to changing the scales of power that- we see- are faltering and their repercussions will remain for a while for everyone to see.

Why do we mock at our capabilities and look down into our positions when civil resistance can build a different tomorrow?. Is isn't time to change they way through which we read and interpret events and changes and reconcile with our selves to get the other to respect us and lay down agendas which are parallel to the others' views?

When shall we keep up with time to make our present and our children's future with our hands unfettered and without the inferiority complex that hunts us everywhere?

The structural turmoil of allowing elites into the misery trade- of accepting opportunism, selling souls, through unclear visions and conceptual disagreement in strategies, the hollowness of substitute agendas, the lack of courage and critical reviews, depending on shallow data and seminars and tourism conferences- is reality in which we should achieve a watershed shift before it is too late.

*A Lebanese writer