The Last 12 Steps of a Middle East Dictator


From former Presidents Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to embattled Presidents Ali Saleh in Yemen and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, someone is handing Arab autocrats the wrong playbook. Either Ashton Kucher is behind the best Punked series ever or these nefarious nitwits are truly out of touch with their own people. It is somewhat surprising that none of them foresaw that a combination of a large, educated but unemployed youth population, widespread poverty, palpable despair, and blatant corruption and nepotism among the elite might incite a bit more than a modicum of hostility towards their rule.

Here are the 12 steps which ‘shocked’ and ‘deeply concerned’ dictators take when their days are numbered:

1. A failure to mention original outcries of misery. An often tragic act of despair is committed such as the self immolation of Mohammed Bouzazizi in Tunisia. Usually such a move is dismissed by the government as isolated and extremist. 

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria (this incident sparked the domino effect for Egypt, Yemen and Syria)

2. Motivated by the suffering and misery of their compatriot(s), protesters take to the streets demanding that their voice be heard. Not wanting to be bothered by such "isolated" disturbances, the authoritarian leaders delegate the task of dealing with the "criminals" to their lackey regional governors who in turn send in the police. Protesters are attacked, leaving scores injured and killed.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Algeria

3. Enraged by the crackdown on their peaceful protests, crowds gather in large numbers to bury the martyrs. Panicked by the growing unrest in their provinces and worried about possible repercussions from the boss, the minion governors call in the internal security services (aka trained secret police) who open fire on the protesters with live ammunition. In response, protesters burn down local government offices and police stations.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria 

4. News of the violence and brutality against the protesters spreads. Suddenly the president/king is gravely concerned about the use of violence. The regional governor who betrayed his country for killing innocent protesters (although really for not cracking down hard enough) is sacked and the cabinet is replaced. The leader promises to ‘explore’ lifting the decades-long emergency rule, which is really just a law banning protests. Meanwhile crackdowns and arrests continue.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain 

5.  Fury increases. Facebook and Twitter explode calling for "Friday of Anger" and "Day of Rage." People take to the streets across the country. Alarmed, the ruler declares an emergency meeting with his new cabinet and vows to speak to the nation. Later that evening the ruler addresses his "fellow countrymen" (who in reality he has little in common with) and promises a myriad of concessions. In order to "really connect" with his people, the ruler often speaks to his people in the vernacular for the first time rather than the traditional and more refined classical Arabic.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain 

6. Protesters continue to pour into the streets expressing their disappointment that the measures did not go far enough. Fear of the secret police is broken as now hundreds of thousands switch from demanding economic reforms to calling on the ouster of the ruler. Shootings, arrests, and crackdowns intensify as the demonstrations are blamed on "thugs and criminals" and "outside foreign influences attempting to undermine the regime." Even terrorists, and groups like Al-Qaeda, are blamed for the unrest. 

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain

7. Presdient Barack Obama issues a statement condemning the violence saying he is gravely concerned (but not enough so to do anything more). Protests gather momentum. The ruler promises a new constitution, vow not to run again for "re-election," and offer to hold new elections earlier than previously scheduled. 

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen 

8. By now protests have erupted throughout the country. Flustered, the ruler imposes martial law and a curfew. Tanks roll through the streets, the cities are ghost towns at night, and reports of rampant torture surface.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain

9. Ignoring the law, numbers swell in areas such as Tahrir Square and the Pearl Roundabout. Meanwhile, concerned that images and stories of their institutionalized uses of torture and brutality will cause further unrest and condemnation, foreign journalists are targeted, often detained and beaten in an attempt to intimidate them. 

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain

10. The lifting of emergency law is promised to happen sometime in the "near" future. More wildly inflated economic reforms are promised. Violence and the death toll escalates. Realizing their days are numbered, bags are packed, the remaining assets that haven’t already been frozen are transferred, and the presidential jet is fired up and ready to go.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen

11. In a last ditch attempt to show their humility and uphold their honor, the ruler makes a final address defending their military service, vowing to die in their homeland, and claiming he is one and the same as the poor brethren. Then they hop into their Mercedes and return to their palatial estates cursing their people the whole way home. Protesters who are excited to finally have Facebook, Twitter and YouTube back use social media to vent their frustrations that the ruler has not yet stepped down. Anger rises even further.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt

12. At long last the army realizes its own reputation is in danger, and moves in and ends the corrupt regimes by military coup/forced resignation. Ben Ali takes off to a safe house in Saudi while Mubarak heads for his beach estate in Sharm El-Sheikh. The people go wild in celebration, finally achieving a realization that was decades in the making.

Occurred in Tunisia, Egypt … waiting on Yemen and possibly Syria? 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons