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‘With the Region’ or ‘Against the region’?

‘With the Region’ or ‘Against the region’?

Monday, 20 July, 2020 - 07:00

With every regional escalation, volunteers who draw a line between those who are “with the region” and those who are “against the region” emerge among us.

This dichotomous classification has many precedents: in the second half of the fifties, as Gamal Abdel Nasser clashed with Western alliances, everyone who did not support the Egyptian president was classified as being “against the region”. Only Egypt and Syria were “with the region”, while Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco were “against the region”.

This repeated itself during the Iran-Iraq war in the eighties. Despite the difficulty of supporting either of the sides of the war, classification enthusiasts found that Libya and Syria, both of which stood with Iran, were “with the region”, while all the Gulf states, and Egypt and Morocco with them, were “against the region”. In Lebanon, which was controlled by Syria at the time, an amusing and bizarre phrase was popularized: standing with Iran is proof of Lebanon’s Arabism!

As for Saddam Hussein‘s invasion of Kuwait, though the Arab states were almost equally split, the same classification enthusiasts put all the Gulf countries, along with Egypt, Syria and Morocco, in the category of those who are "against the region”.

Now, those who are sympathetic to Iran, and believe that we are a few meters away from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, are "with the region", and those who are fearful of Iran's expansionism and whose minds refuse to believe that prayer in Al-Aqsa is imminent are "against the region”.

So what are the criteria for this dichotomous classification? Those who make them say: the masses and the position of the masses. But how is the masses' position assessed, given that the masses’ spokespersons, who claim to speak for them without asking them for their opinion, always support the regimes that most oppress these masses and are the most hostile to their freedom to elect representatives to articulate their opinions and interests.

Indeed those who make these classifications give themselves the permission to represent the masses, the region and its interests, cast everyone who does not espouse their rhetoric as traitor, and sometimes physically liquidate those who disagree.

Here, we arrive at the second criterion adopted by the classifiers: a love for violence and exercising it, assassinations and bombings, and wars when possible. The love for violence and its sanctification are exemplary characteristics of those who are "with the region", while those who advocate compromises, armistices and neutrality are necessarily “against the region”.

The “region” is itself in fact no longer a purely geographical concept, or its geographic dimension has been waning since natural borders, rivers, mountains, and deserts began losing their ability to isolate people from one another. This decline was imposed by humanity’s will, after scientific and technological advances provided it with the tools needed to tame nature. After nature was tamed, immigration in search for work, education, tourism and hospitalization expanded.

The "region", therefore, is no longer a cage, and people are no longer trapped on its land or by the ideas described as native to it. The accumulation of experiences has also demonstrated that demanding harmony and unity among the groups of the region, purely because they belong to it, are a prelude to the imposition of a single opinion and a one-party system or the like. This is what the experiences of the Baathist and Nasserist coups and the Khomeinist revolution in Iran, at least, have shown: We begin by asking our people to stand together and face the alien West, and calling for unity, Arab or Islamic, that brings the peoples of the “region” or “nation” together. However, we immediately proceed to establish a regime that has no mercy on the region and its people.

Moreover, the concept of a region, like the concept of national sovereignty, has lost many of its assumed functions, which have become vested in several countries or regions. This is true for the intertwinement of borders and migration, asylum and transcontinental labor, as well as curbing terrorism, drugs and smuggling and for pricing raw materials and regulating the use of rivers that emanate from one country and flow into another and so on.

The “region", as the classifiers present it, is not required to improve its economic conditions, educate its youth and provide them with job opportunities or increase its contribution to the global economy or the production of culture and scientific knowledge. Only liberating itself, from the West in particular, is required. Since we liberated ourselves from the colonialism of the West, we have had nothing left to do but liberate ourselves further, that is, to rid ourselves of the facets of the West’s influence, cultural, scientific, social and, above all else, democracy, which would allow us to disagree about the meaning of the region without prisons, bombs and silencers. This kind of liberation, as a late great Syrian writer had described it, is merely turning de-colonization into de-civilization.

Following in the footsteps of countries that have been "very liberated”, such as Iran and North Korea, and more recently Venezuela, the people of the region will become so free and joyful that only ballads would come out of their throats.

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