For the last year, it seems we have been caught in a limbo of reacting, reviewing, and reminding people what the demands of the revolution were, what the definition of democracy is, and what inclusion of women means for our region. We have faced up to challenges and identified new strategies—new coalitions and collaborations—to build up civil society, and strengthen our attack against women’s exclusion, repression, and abuse. And to promote equal human rights for all.
In the region, we have held post-revolution elections. From Morocco to Egypt to Tunisia, we have seen conservatives take power, but have yet to see how this will impact visions for new democracies, how new constitutions will promote fairness, equality, and security. In the meantime, we are working together, convening seminars and consultations, sharing perspectives and priorities with the media, and developing advocacy and lobbying campaigns to ensure that new governments and constitutions are reflective of the demands voiced in the uprisings, the needs that had gone unmet in previous structures and regimes.
At the same time, we are reaching out to our global community, making sure that they understand the meaning of the revolutions and uprisings, that they invest in local solutions and listen to our recommendations and voices. While asking for their support, we also continue asking for their active engagement of the region, monitoring how the global environment is influenced by the region and vice versa, what similarities we share, what lessons we can learn from each other.
Where we have hope for the potential of change in the region, we see the same potential in other parts of the world. And now, today, there is a major moment ahead of us that will determine for another member of the global community, the direction of this change. Today, the people of the United States vote in the 57th presidential election and decide whether President Barack Obama will return or be replaced by his primary opponent, Mitt Romney.
For us in the region, it is very important to watch how this plays out. The debates already suggested to us, by way of the rhetoric employed, how the region will be discussed and by extension, how it will be engaged by each platform.
The region seems to come up in two ways: in order to provide examples for/against what Obama or Romney has done/will do to protect the American people; or in order to prove who is the most supportive of Israel. Since the time I spent in the US as a student to the present day, when I visit there as an activist and lobbyist, nothing has changed. I always heard that American foreign policy is non-existent for Africa or the Middle East, and this seems to remain true. There is no foreign policy except Israel. There was no real discussion of Syria or Libya or Egypt, aside from finger-pointing on Romney’s side and defense of what happened in the past by Obama.
While there were mentions of diplomacy from President Obama, it seems Romney’s foreign policy is largely focused on war. The idea seems to be intimidation and force. I did not hear about the idea of using peace, without any other strategy, however, it seems that war, on its own, without any clear vision as to what it will accomplish, is a perfectly sound and viable idea.
And since there cannot be war without a target, Romney did his best to reinforce who the enemy of his war will be. During the final debate, Romney employed the term “jihadists” numerous times, while Obama continued to use the term “extremist.” To Romney, America’s war seems to be defined by a religion. He has shown the same ignorance and marginalization we have seen in our region by pointing blame at Islam instead of at a specific behavior, at the violence and values that are offensive across the board, across the world, across all affiliations and sects and groupings. He has failed to acknowledge all the violence we have mutually encountered, the threats we’ve all endured and loss we’ve all had to come up from again and again.
Today will determine what American leadership will look like over the next four years. We will hope that whether it is Romney or Obama, or whether we see a Republican or Democratic house or senate, the Middle East and North Africa will be considered a vital part of the discussion. We hope that Israel will not be the only country on the table, and that the conflicts in Syria and Libya and other nations will not be used as an excuse for war, but an opportunity to invest and rebuild.
This is an opportunity to change the rhetoric and finally define a foreign policy that is not only comprehensive, but that suggests dialogue and disarmament before suggesting more bombings, more devastation and war. It is an opportunity to demonstrate that compassion and fairness are not just images used for political gain but true values we can stand behind and count upon. That we can build and rebuild with.