A tale of two revolts

The tumultuous political developments in Ukraine have offered up several salient lessons for people in this part of the world.

On one level, it’s easy to conclude that when enough people are resolute in their quest for change, they will achieve it. Naturally, the protesters in Ukraine were also operating in a part of the world where there is a semblance of respect for human rights. This simply doesn’t exist in Arab countries, where the norm is dictatorship, and where turning city streets into killing fields often appears to be the first, second and third option for governments that face a people with legitimate political demands.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Ukraine’s uprising hovered around the 100 mark, while in Syria, well over 100,000 people have been killed as the result of an anti-government uprising.

In Ukraine, Western powers were up in arms over the blood that was shed, and gave the crisis their full attention – even though perhaps half of Ukraine might prefer the embrace of Russia to that of the West.

In Syria, the best these same countries have done is issue worthless statements and ultimatums, which in some cases appear to have only made things worse.

When it comes to the violence that has wracked Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and elsewhere, Western countries have been largely indifferent.

They have been concerned with securing the stability of energy supplies, and the interests of Israel, but little else. If anyone is tempted to believe that Western concern about “human rights” is to be taken seriously, all one has to do is compare the uproar over 100 people, and the paralysis over the loss of 100,000 lives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 24, 2014, on page 7.




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