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September 26, 2017

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There are a lot of positives to remember from 2011

In yesterday's editorial, The China Post outlined gloomy aspects for the global economy and Western governments in 2011. There were, however, also events and trends for optimism in 2011.

The past year turned out to be a bad year for dictators. The Arab Spring dethroned "strongmen" such as Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, posed existential challenges to authoritarian governments in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain and encouraged government-initiated political reforms in Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Equally important, the demonstrators in these countries put an end to incorrect ideas that Arab nations are incapable of democracy and that religious extremism is the best agent for change. The protesters at the "freedom squares" across the region braving security forces, tanks, tear gas, live bullets, state-sponsored thugs and sword-wielding camel riders, showed the world that true bravery lies in the risk and sacrifice of one's own (and only one's own) life for justice, not in the killing of innocent people as heralded by terrorists. While it was U.S. Special Forces that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, it is these protesters that have put an end to the al-Qaida narrative. It is these freedom seekers, not U.S. President Barack Obama, who ensured bin-Laden died a footnote in history, not a martyr.

There are causes for optimism for the new democracies in the Middle East. The democratic process will not be smooth, not because of any democracy-deterring Arabic characteristics implied by some commentators, but simply because building nations from scratch is not supposed to be easy. Dictators such as Gadhafi had spent their lives instilling permanent disarray in their countries to prevent the formation of organizations strong enough to challenge them. It will not be easy for the new governments to form national unity. No doubt opportunists from old regimes will don new democratic clothes to seek power in the new nations and some might succeed. These, however, are not reasons for despair.

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