More than twenty million people in the Middle East live under Muslim occupation. They are still waiting for equality or fighting for independence.
The Middle East and North Africa are home to millions of national and religious minorities living under Arab occupation since the seventh century.
They are still waiting for equality or fighting for independence. The Kurds are among the oldest peoples in the world, and they have kept their identity through centuries of Arab and Ottoman occupation.
Now that a revolutionary wave is sweeping across the Arab world, one must ask whether the revolution is for all or for Muslim Arabs alone.
On of these people are the Kurds. Though Islamized, they have kept their language (Indo-European close to Persian), traditions and customs. Today their number is estimated at 25 million to 30 million, dispersed between Turkey (15 million), Iran (5 million), Iraq (5 million) and Syria (2 million).
They have been unsuccessfully fighting for independence since the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.
Tens of thousands have been killed by the Turks and the Arabs.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein did not hesitate to use chemical weapons against them, and thousands died a painful death in the north of the country.
Saddam also implemented a displacement policy, driving Kurds away from their villages and from Kirkuk and bringing in Sunni Arabs.
THE BERBERS, another people living under occupation in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, are considered the native North Africa population. Their name is derived from “barbarian” since, according to some, they spoke neither Latin nor Greek. Before the Arab conquest, they had a flourishing agricultural culture.
In their own tongue they call themselves Amazigh and their language is Tamazight. They were Islamized and even played an important role in expending Islam in Spain but have always retained their original identity.
Since the North African countries gained independence in the 1960s, they have been resisting Arabization (preferring the French language) and fighting for the recognition of their distinct culture.
The Berbers in Algeria make up more than 20 percent of the population.
Many of them live in Kabylia and have managed to set up an active, strong independence movement. In 2010 they formed a government in exile in Paris, headed by Ferhat Mehenni, a Kabyle singer and activist. The event was mostly ignored by Western media and no government voiced its support, while Algeria intensified its repression.
In Morocco, where they comprise an estimated 40 per cent of the population, there is an Amazigh movement asking for autonomy, but it gets no support from the West.
THE COPTS of Egypt are another minority subject to oppression and discrimination.
Their numbers are estimated at some 8 to 10 million, about 10 per cent of the country’s population.
They are the original people of Egypt – their name is derived from the Greek word for Egypt.
They converted to Christianity in the fourth century and have kept their own language.
They are denied equal rights in their own country and are not allowed to hold significant positions such as provincial governor or head of a university.
Their representation in parliament is limited and does not reflect their numbers. They cannot build churches freely; even restoration work needs special government approval.
Article 2 of the constitution stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state and that Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation.
There is no attempt to cancel this article in the proposals for a new constitution made by the consultative committee set up following the revolution.
Christians in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories are also suffering from discrimination and aggression, and many have left to find a new life in West; the number of Christians in the Arab world is steadily decreasing.
Only two non-Arab peoples have managed to obtain their independence: the State of Israel in 1948, 1308 years after the Islamic conquest of the Holy Land, and South Sudan a few weeks ago, after 40 years of bitter war and more than 2 million dead. In neighboring Darfur Arab militias, aided and abetted by the Sudanese government, are still massacring non-Arab populations.
Where, then, is the Arab revolution going?
Will it be content with minor constitutional changes and elections which will – perhaps – be free in some countries, to bring about economic reform and better living conditions, with no consideration of the continuing oppression of minorities?
Can an authentic democracy, based on freedom of expression, liberation of women and basic human rights, exist while ignoring what is happening to the Copts or the Kurds?
It does not seem possible.
Should free and honest – or relatively free and honest – elections bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, would this be considered a democratic move?
Would exchanging secular dictatorships – through democratic means – for an anti-democratic movement calling for the restoration of the caliphate be acceptable?
The Brotherhood has not changed its motto since it was created 80 years ago: “Allah is our goal, the prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way and death for the glory of Allah is our supreme hope.”
Source: Jerusalem Post
First published: March 21st 2010.
Written by Ivar