THE Arab revolutionary regimes lost their way and condemned themselves to failure after they made it their priority to monitor and spy on their own people. They plunged into a whirlpool of fear and terror and drowned their people with it after they established intelligence networks with its nefarious methods. Spying became the dream of citizens.
It was narrated that a Libyan man, during the reign of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, had a dream in which he was hitting one of the colonels. When he woke up, he told his wife what he had seen in the dream, and she told her neighbor Umm Salem about it.
On the same night, a security patrol team arrived and arrested the man for a week. Following his release, he returned home with wounds of severe beatings and some fractures.
Within an hour of his return, the same patrol team came again, and he said to them, “I repent. I won’t have such dreams again.”
The patrol officers then said, “Don’t worry, we are only here to ask you the identity of the two people who were holding the colonel while you were hitting him in your dream.” The man responded, “It was my wife and our neighbor Umm Salem!”
This story is a classic case of the reality of the Arab revolutionary republics. In Egypt, after the success of the Free Officers Movement coup against King Farouk, intelligence was given wide powers such as arresting and kidnapping Egyptians, and spying even on ministers.
It is worth mentioning that one of the ministers of Awqaf (Endowment) during the era of Jamal Abdul Nasser, a graduate of Al-Azhar University, had a mistress named Susu. Every night he talked to her on the phone, but the intelligence recorded these calls and sent them immediately to the president.
One day, the minister violated Abdul Nasser’s instructions concerning a ministerial matter due to which Abdul Nasser intended to dismiss him. When the minister arrived at the palace, the president asked him, “How is Susu?”. The minister replied, “Susu is well. I would like to submit my resignation, President … goodbye.”
In Yemen, following the coup against Imam Hamid Al-Din, all presidents followed the same trait. Brothers spied on brothers, and wives spied on husbands. The charges were tailored according to the mood of the particular official or officer. This led to the spread of maliciousness, which hindered any attempts to develop the country because fear prevailed among everyone.
Even the ministers were not presenting any development project out of fear that it would not conform to the interests of the ruling party or the Revolutionary Command Council. It therefore fell behind after being at the forefront of the developing countries before the coups.
At that time, those regimes took the worst techniques of espionage and torture, which were used by the Russian intelligence during the reign of Lenin and Stalin against the opponents of the Bolsheviks rule. However, the world today has become a small village thanks to advanced technologies. Therefore, freedom of opinion and expression is no longer confined within the walls of homes; it has become common to all.
Hence, the methods of dealing with opponents have changed. Assassination has become morally unacceptable. Arrest and kidnapping are no longer present except in Iraq where the sectarian militias affiliated with Iran operate in the same manner as the Iranian intelligence, that is physical assassination and disappearance in prison basements resembling medieval caves.
Hezbollah tried to work according to this method in Lebanon, and carried out a series of assassinations between 2005 and 2020, starting with the martyred Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and ending with the outspoken Shiite activist Luqman Salim. But this did not work in silencing the Lebanese who stood against everything after Hezbollah tightened its grip on the political class and the economy, and used all this to serve its interests. It had led to an increase in popular resentment that is manifested today in demonstrations and sit-ins, in addition, of course, to the flood of stinging criticism against Hassan Nasrallah personally on social media.
The dawn pick-ups of dissidents by intelligence officers who were active in revolutionary countries are no longer operating during the dawn. They have instead become spies behind screens, recording every tweet and picture posted by anyone on those sites. They tailor them according to their interests and vision, or based on the malicious instructions issued by certain influential individuals or officials.
Nevertheless, in the end, such malice fades away immediately when met with the greatness of the truth that cannot be obliterated.
Therefore, if the Arabs want to move to a new era, they must remedy themselves by getting rid of the syndrome of monitoring people’s gossip and charging people’s intention. We want to remind the Arab rulers that – “He who constantly monitors people will worry himself to death.”
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times