Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive
doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs. He has created and
conducted counter-Arab propaganda programs for college youth, has
lectured on numerous campuses and other platforms, and has publicly
debated many Arab spokesmen. His articles and op-eds have been
published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, academic journals and
websites all around the world.
Read more by the Author
Professor William G. Moseley's
analysis in Al Jazeera
of the new, would-be nation of Azawad is among the
best out there so far... Having written about the
quest for justice by the region's various peoples
for decades myself (http://q4j-middle-east.com),
I have watched these new developments in North
Africa very carefully.
What has been of special interest are the unique
players involved. These are not just more Arabs
demanding yet another state--almost two dozen to
date--at everyone else's expense....
The Touareg make up the majority, or at least a good
proportion, of the population of the northern part
of Mali. Like other native, so-called "Berber"
peoples (about 35 million remaining who have not yet
been effectively Arabized by their conquerors), for
a variety of nasty reasons they were denied their
own share of political rights when the region was
being primed and/or fought for independence after
the mid-20th century. Their collective fate was tied
instead to various Arab or black African nationalist
entities and neo-colonial manipulators. Like a
similar number of Kurds, the Amazigh too were deemed
unworthy, by other powers that be both in and out of
the region, of their own national existence.
Neglect and other problems festered for decades, and
when a power vacuum was created during a coup in the
south, Touareg fighters, who had been paid to fight
for Qaddafi, returned home from Libya loaded with
arms. By April 2012, they had joined their brothers
in the secular National Movement for the Liberation
of Azawad (MNLA) and booted the southern Mali forces
out of northern strongholds such as Timbuktu.
While Professor Moseley's analysis was good, for
whatever reasons (I suspect deliberate, given that
his article seems to have been written for the Arab
publication, Al Jazeera), he only slightly hinted at
what the true stakes were and are in Azawad...especially
the emergence of the region's first Amazigh state,
and the potential nightmare-come-true for adjacent
Arabized nations, such as Algeria and Morocco, with
their own long-subjugated and large Amazigh/Kabyle
From the get-go, it was feared that Islamist groups
like Al-Qai'da in North Africa and Ansar Dine would
also do in Azawad what they did earlier during the
so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt:
emerge from the background to take control.
While on the surface some may claim that this is a
good thing for democracy (whether others like the
results or not)--since the masses (if not endangered
minorities) got what they wanted out of the new
situations--please consider the following...
Democracy--at least as we have come to recognize it
in the West--can be a wonderful idea. No doubt,
while variations can be found, equality and freedom
have been closely identified as important
characteristics since its origins. While ancient
Greece is often touted as its birthplace, other
nations and peoples also contributed to democracy's
basic concepts. America’s own Liberty Bell, for
example, has a quote from Leviticus 25:10 in the
Hebrew Bible on it…”proclaim liberty throughout all
the land to all the inhabitants thereof.”
But there are, indeed, different species of
democracy--and this is where the problems emerge.
Some provide more freedom and representation, others
provide better protections for minorities, and so
More importantly, however, democracy may also simply
be translated to mean the rule of the majority,
and--especially in some situations--such a system
can easily lead to the oppression of others. These
latter points are key to understanding some of the
main concerns about what is now taking place in the
Since my focus here is now mostly about North
Africa, how, for instance, can the plight of tens of
millions of native, but non-Arab, people not be
addressed in a discussion about democracy? Actually,
the story of the various Amazigh peoples has been
too often deliberately ignored--even by most of the
experts in academia and the State Department. Arabs
and Islamists have had their way as well. Native
Amazigh culture and language have often been
suppressed and outlawed, to the point where parents
have been forced to name their own children with
Arab Islamic names instead of their own. Berbers
(earlier allied with native, North African Jews who
also pre-dated the Arabs) resisted the Arab Jihadi
conquests for centuries and are still murdered when
they protest against their subjugators too loudly.
Imagine, for one moment, what the reaction of the
world would be if Israelis were doing such things to
Arabs. Arabic, by the why, has been made the second
official national language of the
oft-criticized--and yes, imperfect--state of the
How will democracy change things for such people (be
they Imazighen, Copts, Kurds, Assyrians, native
kilab yahud "Jew dogs"), and so forth when Arab
majorities, with their non-egalitarian elitist ruler
and ruled mindsets towards various
non-Arab/non-Muslim populations still prevail?
This is not to say that grievances of the Arab
people themselves should not be addressed and are
not valid. But it is to say that the mere fact that
millions of Arabs, who suffer under the type of
rulers that their own culture seems to specialize in
producing, demonstrate and rebel against their own
repressive regimes does not erase the fact that
there will still be much to worry about by non-Arabs
even when Arab despots, medieval potentates, or
other autocrats are toppled.
In this case, whether the oppressors are Arabs or
black Africans (who should certainly know better),
justice demands that the plight of the Amazigh
people at long last be addressed as well.
That brings us back to Azawad and the latest news
out of Timbuktu...
The secular Touareg MLNA had pleaded for outside
support to counter Islamists who were also making
their moves to capitalize on the new power vacuum
resulting from the coup in the south of Mali.
No one listened...It was if, for a variety of
reasons, an Islamist regime was favored over the
emergence of the first Amazigh state.
Whether for fear of alienating other Arab and black
African nations, a desire to keep the oil and
mineral-rich country intact, and/or whatever, Mali's
former colonial French masters, the American State
Department (which rarely met a Muslim Brotherhood
clone it didn't like),www.ekurd.net
the Arab League, black Africa, and so forth were all
determined to see Touareg Azawad aborted. It appears
that the plan has become to unify the outside
opposition to the Allahu Akbar crowd which has now
apparently defeated the MLNA and razed parts of
Timbuktu. This is still confusing, however,
considering that no such plans exist to topple other
ascendent Islamist regimes which have replaced
And perhaps it really just doesn't matter...Anything
to the above folks would likely be preferrable to
the birth of that first Amazigh state which would
likely send shockwaves into neighboring North
African "Arab" countries the same way the creation
of a truly independent Kurdistan would do likewise
and for similar reasons in the area of Mesopotamia
and its environs.
Since I brought up the Kurds, the lessons of Azawad
and Timbuktu are profound.
It's just a matter of (bloody) time before the
butcher of Damascus falls. But the question in Syria
is the same as in Azawad--or in Egypt, Libya, and so
Who will replace Assad and Saddam's Syrian version
of the Ba'th?
If it's up to most of the outside world--including
the Turks, the Arab League, and the latter's
American State Department rah rah squad--Syrian
counterparts to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood or the
Ansar Dine will prevail.
The good news is that there is in Syria--as there
was and still is in Azawad, if the MLNA could only
receive support--a viable alternative to the
Islamist-dominated Syrian National Council. The
latter will not even acknowledge the political
rights of millions of various non-Arab peoples
(Kurds, Druse, Assyrians, and so forth) in the
land...no different from Assad's Ba'th Party's own
position for decades now. While this is indeed
nothing new for Arabs, who like to proclaim that the
entire region is simply "purely Arab patrimony,"
this subjugating mindset should not survive a post-Ba'th/post-Assad
era. Others besides Arabs are also entitled to their
own fair share of the justice pie--if not in unity
with their Arab neighbors, then by themselves in
their own newly-designated lands. Iraqi Kurdistan is
the model here--despite the jitters it too creates
in the neighborhood.
The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC) represents an
opposition truly dedicated to democracy Westen
style--far more tolerant, more inclusive, more
egalitarian, and so forth. What the SNC offers, in
contrast, is simply the democracy of majority
rule...and this bodes nothing but nastiness for the
future of non-Arab, non-Sunni Muslim, and
non-Muslims in general in the nation and elsewhere
The defeat of repressive secular autocracies should
yield something besides oppressive Islamist
theocracies when the dust finally settles in the
wake of the alleged Arab Spring.
Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has
done extensive doctoral studies in Middle Eastern
Affairs. He has created and conducted counter-Arab
propaganda programs for college youth, has lectured
on numerous campuses and other platforms, and has
publicly debated many Arab spokesmen. His articles
and op-eds have been published in dozens of
newspapers, magazines, academic journals and
websites all around the world. Visit his
Gerald A. Honigman, a longtime contributing writer
for Ekurd.net. Honigman has published a major book,
Quest For Justice In The Middle East--The
Arab-Israeli Conflict In Greater Perspective."
By Gerald A. Honigman for EKurd.net, July 8, 2012. You may reach the
author via email at: honigman6 (at) msn.com.
Copyright © 2012 Ekurd.net.
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