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The will of the people

There has been a large media focus on the Middle East in the past decade. Fuel resources, cialis sale wars and human rights abuses have been central in the debate regarding the nature of the governments in the troubled region. Many discussions have centred on the nature of the Arab Spring, check particularly in relation to whether or not it will lead to democracy in the countries involved.

Democracy is the foundation of western civilised society. We consider it to be the cornerstone of human rights and freedom of expression. Is it wrong then to wish that all peoples could express themselves in a similar manner? As our perception of human rights is so intrinsically linked to democracy, sickness there is a logical conclusion that undemocratic regimes are to blame for human rights abuses. Thus, the move towards democratic principles and institutions can be seen as a positive development in Middle East.

Political analysts are in some disagreement over whether the Arab Spring will bring democracy to countries in the Middle East or whether further instability is likely. However, what is perhaps more important is whether political analysts should be examining these events from a transitional standpoint in the first instance.

Arguably it is wrong to suggest that countries in the Middle East are becoming more or less democratic. Certainly they are adopting facets of democratic countries, such as having women in government, but the deep-rooted effect of these changes remains to be seen. These changes were brought in under pressures from the western world regarding trade. Oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia have brought in some changes, but with some of the largest oil stores in the world, they hold the chips. The ally of the United States also still has laws banning women from driving.

Measuring democracy is a poor analysis of the state of a country’s people. Some countries are highly democratic but still have issues regarding minority groups. Definitions of democracy hamper the process: most agree that there should be elections, but how often? Should they be fair or free? How fair or free is necessary for a country to be called a democracy? Should candidates be directly elected or chosen through an Electoral College system akin to the US?

It is impossible for political analysts to predict when and if states in the Middle East and North Africa will become democratic. To look at countries such as Saudi Arab ia, Qatar, Iran and others as states in a transition to democracy is naïve. While these states have given way to international pressure, the internal pressure for rights has been limited – arguably due to a strong military presence.

There is something to be said for the normalisation of western values within these states, i.e. that having a department for equality will eventually lead to more equality, but the time span would be incredibly long.

By far a better indication of the rights of people would be a measure of freedom similar to the one conducted by the authoritative US-based Freedom House. There are problems with this system, however: Freedom House defines Israel as the only free state in the Middle East. The issue regarding the treatment of the Palestinian people has been a contentious matter in debates surrounding Israel for decades.

Freedom remains, however, the most accurate barometer of human rights.

A survey of freedoms regarding the press, elections, movement and Internet could feasibly be used to measure human rights in all countries.

Conor McKenna

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