The date is December 17th, 2010 and the setting is Tunisia. Mohamed Bouazizi, a humble 26 year old vegetable seller is carrying on with his daily business. One of the municipal officials and her aides decide to confiscate his belongings as well as humiliate him publicly. It is important to note that this single event was not the catalyst, but it was the culmination of many abuses of Ben Ali’s regime. Bouazizi’s retaliation was amongst the most symbolic acts of protests in the 20th century, to light himself on fire, an act that would claim his life. Such an act is reminiscent of Tibetan Monks protesting the Chinese government or even the great Carthaginian Commander Hannibal who poisoned himself as a last act of defiance against the Romans. Unbeknownst to Bouazizi, this act would trigger waves of protest across the surrounding nations, the likes of which would topple regimes, including his own.
Fast forward to August 9th, 2014. This time, the location of the event is across the world in the American town of Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown, a young black man, is walking in the middle of the road and is confronted by officer Darren Wilson. An unarmed Brown is shot and killed, his body left on the ground for hours before it is removed. This event was not the first of its kind and certainly not the last. Years earlier, unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin is shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Florida. More recently, an older black man and Coast Guard veteran was shot in the back several times and killed while trying to flee from a police officer. The victim’s name was Walter Scott and the perpetrator was Michael Slager, an officer from North Charleston, South Carolina.
In examining the cases of Bouazizi and Michael Brown, along with many similar cases from both regions, it becomes evident that the two events share a common factor. This is that those charged with protecting their respective constituents have engaged in unfair and illegal abuses against those very individuals. Why compare two parts of the world that have been at odds for much of recent history? This comparison reveals that even in two areas that consider themselves radically different from one another, similar problems would reveal otherwise. The fact of the matter is that there may be truth in the fact that the international community is more linked than may be immediately visible. The common denominator here is police brutality and abuse of power, which is unchecked by governments. This is an issue that must be confronted internationally whether it be in America, Tunisia, or other areas such as Hong Kong or Russia. The belief that this issue is specific to one location is a very dangerous misconception and when it begins to be viewed as a global problem, it can be unilaterally targeted and solved. Until this is done, it is likely that the international community will continue to live in fear of the very people that are tasked with protecting them.
As the Islamic State continues their campaign of terror in the Middle East, the Palestinians have found themselves to be victims yet again. In fact, these individuals have found themselves in between a rock and a hard place with nobody to defend them as they are a stateless people.
On April 1st, Islamic State forces entered the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus for the first time. Since the fighting broke out three years ago, the camp has been reduced from 200,000 to only 15,000 residents. Putting aside the identity of the camp’s inhabitants, this is a serious issue. Furthermore, this issue can be generalized to represent the struggle of minorities within the war-torn nation.
This situation is representative of the overall issue that is not just the Islamic State, but how the international community has reacted to their campaign. If one is to recall, the Iraqi Kurds were in a tough place not too long ago and it took too long to provide them the support they desperately needed. As the West continues to back Syrian Rebels, one reason ISIS came to power as fast as they did, the minorities that were under Assad’s protection are the ones getting hurt.
The main takeaway from this is that the West must allow the minorities to defend themselves by first discontinuing arms to the rebels, who have demonstrated a disregard for casualties that is truly comparable to the Assad regime. The second lesson is that the minorities need to be given proper resources so that they may defend themselves and protect their land. This is the ultimate indication of the trouble that international tampering into the community has caused. These nations and people must be left to resolve this issue, which was not entirely caused by them in the first place, so that they may finally have peace and stability.
The Gulf State of Yemen has been in turmoil and plagued by civil war since the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh abdicated office in 2012. On one side is the Sunni-backed regime and on the other is the Shiite Houthi Militia.
Recently in the news, the Houthis have been making advances, which threaten to undermine the existing status quo of a regime that has maintained power through corruption and power sharing. Their control of the nation’s capitol, Sana’a, have forced the sitting president (And Rabbu Mansour Hadi) to flee the nation. Their presence has been interpreted as a means for Iran to further its influence in the region. Given that this in the sphere of influence of the Saudis as well as the rest of the Gulf States, the Sunni regimes have decided to involve themselves, also. Furthermore, a threat to Saudi power is taken seriously by the United States have oil interests to protect in the region. Alternatively, any advance of Shi’a power is viewed as beneficiary to Iran, which both Israel and the United States consider the biggest threat to their power. The result of elevating tensions caused by these events has resulted in several heavy airstrikes of Houthi military bases as well as the capitol. The Saudi defense minister has also vowed to continue the strikes in order to weaken the militants. While the Gulf Cooperation Council is entering this struggle, the United States is providing support and encouragement at a distance as Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that the White House plans to provide further logistical and intelligence support. If this was not a proxy war before, it certainly is becoming one now. A side effect of these bombings is the unlikely support that the Houthis have found within the country. Former President Saleh has pledged his support for their cause as areas still loyal to him were also struck. This partnership is a surprise given that Saleh fought the Houthis for a long duration throughout his presidency. Whether or not this partnership will be of any use to the militants is still to be decided, but it certainly lends the support of those loyal to Saleh. Ultimately, if this becomes a proxy war, then much more will be at stake than the control of the Yemeni government. The Islamic State declaring their involvement in causing further chaos through recent suicide bombings will not help the situation either.
Benjamin Netanyahu or “Bibi” is up for reelection and there are three reasons why he is the wrong choice.
The first reason is his stance on Iran. It cannot be argued that this position reflects that of the Jewish population, as he stated that in a recent speech. This same reasoning applies to his other positions, also. Moving back to the subject of Iran, the antagonistic view towards Iran is largely unnecessary. In 1996, Netanyahu stated that Iran was close to building their own nuclear weapon. Fast forward almost twenty years and he is repeating the same message. Common sense would lead the intelligent individual to draw one simple conclusion, Mr. Netanyahu is absolutely full of it. Iran’s connection with Hezbollah is a fair cause of concern. Iran has also provided rhetoric that may suggest hostile feeling towards them. Regardless, nations do not have to be friendly with one another to make peace and have diplomatic relations. Netanyahu’s hostility towards Iran has led him to alienate the United States as well.
This leads to the second issue, which is his uncanny ability to alienate his allies. The recent war in Gaza has turned many nations away from continuing support for some of Israel’s domestic policies. More importantly, however, is the prime minister’s disregard for the United States’ leadership. This is made evident by his most recent address to congress. His speech was not the issue, rather the context of his visit was a significant political gesture. In accepting the invitation to address Congress without the request of the president, he has displayed his indifference to respecting the American Commander-In-Chief. This alienates him from much of the American public, which is not the message Israel wants to send to its closest ally.
The final issue with Netanyahu as Israel’s leader is his stance on the Palestinians. In the most recent statement before the election, he explicitly noted that he would not entertain the idea of Palestinian statehood if he is to be reelected. This further alienates him from other nations. Furthermore, such a statement erases decades of slow movement towards a peaceful resolution. The Palestinian resistance movement will not react to this with peace given their is no longer anything to work for diplomatically. It will also create a rift within the Israeli public as many support the notion of a solution and are beginning to sympathize with the occupied territories. Therefore, it can be said that Netanyahu’s reelection would be destructive to Israel’s global position as well as the nation’s domestic well-being.
The Gulf States are notorious for their vast oil wealth, with which they have been able to form powerful allies. As a result, much of their affairs are overlooked or accepted, despite their questionable nature. One such feature is their treatment of migrant workers and the means by which they restrict their freedoms.
The migrant workers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait make up a significant portion of the population of these nations, yet they receive minimal benefits if any. The individuals come from all over Africa and Asia as well as from the Gulf States themselves. This system is known as Kafala, in which an individual is allowed to work in one of these nations if they are sponsored by an employer. This relationship becomes very similar to indentured servitude, however, when the sponsors refuse to allow the workers to further themselves and seek better employment. The workers are often made to pay off the cost of the sponsorship, which cripples their chance for social mobility if they still wish to send remittances to their families abroad. This creates a very difficult situation for the workers and is all too often the case.
A large portion of the migrants work construction in these countries, which are building their infrastructure through the exploitation of these individuals. Even more shocking than the Kafala system itself is the death toll and treatment the workers. For example, a report revealed that almost 1,000 migrants perished while working construction in 2012-2013 in Qatar alone. This is without mentioning the sexual and physical abuse that is a constant factor, also. Unfortunately, the power and wealth held by the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council makes fixing the situation more difficult. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are exposing these crimes, but it is the duty of the international community to pressure these nations to enact change.