Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Muammar Gaddafi’

41 Years of Oman’s “Renaissance”

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 18th November, 2011

Omani Embassies all round the world have been celebrating Oman’s National Day today, in London’s case with a sumptuous reception at the Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge. Gulf Arab hospitality is invariably generous. There were no speeches and no-one acknowledged (at least in my hearing) the obvious landmark that has just been passed: with the killing of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman has become the Arab world’s longest serving ruler. Not that one should draw parallels between the two men; far from it. Having gently ousted his father in 1970, young Sultan Qaboos set about bringing his country into the modern world, with such daring innovations as paved roads and electric light. When I first started going there, there were still communities on the Musandam peninsula (itself then still a no-go area for many foreigners) which were only accessible by sea. But in contrast to some of the flashier emirates of the UAE, Oman under Sultan Qaboos’s guidance has maintained many of its traditions and its heritage. Muscat is by far the most charming cpaital in the Gulf. The country had enough oil to lift its people out of poverty, but not so much that it spoilt them. Indeed, the oil has been running out for some time and so diversification of the economy and the Omanisation of the labour force have been top priorities. The government refers to the 41 years of Sultan Qaboos’s rule as the “Renaissance”, and objectively it has been, given the deliberately old-fashoined ways that his father imposed on his subjects. But inevitably in 2011, with the new Arab Awakening, there have been questions raised in Oman too. There were some disturbances yjrtr earlier this year, but little was reported about them and the Sultan has endeavoured to defuse dissent by acceeding to a degree — though only a degree — of democratisation and assistance to unemployed youth. But loved as he genuinely is by much of Oman’s population, Sultan Qaboos is still a million miles from being a constitutional monarch. Moreover, no-one has any idea who will succeed him. His marriage was shortlived and did not bear fruit, and he has so far resisted the temptation to point the finger of succession at anyone.

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Remembering Hungary’s Uprising

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st October, 2011

The world was so mesmerised yesterday by the capture and summary execution of Muammar Gaddafi that most people failed to notice the 55th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising. Coincidentally the events in Budapest in 1956 were also overshadowed by North Africa so far as London and Paris and even Washington were concerned because of the Suez Crisis. But last night the Hungarian Embassy in London hired the circular great hall at Church House Westminster — the place where the Synod of the Church of England meets — to host a reception in memory of what is now referred to as the Hungarian Revolution. I mused that for well over half a century, the word ‘Revolution’ had been tainted by Communism, but the Arab Awakening — and in particular Egypt’s February 2011 Revolution — has given the term a new respectability, even chic. In case anyone present doubted just how firmly Hungary has returned into the European mainstream, Ambassador Janos Csak (who sports a moustache that would have graced the Austro-Hungarian Empire) led everyone present, including the Conservative junior Foreign Minister Lord Howell, in a rendition of the Hungarian and British national anthems.

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Gaddafi: The End of an Era

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 20th October, 2011

The capture and fatal shooting of Libya’s long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi brings to an end over four decades of the country’s Green Revolution. It is hard to remember now that when he first came to power there was widespread jubilation in Libya. But like many rulers who stay in office too long, he got more ruthless and despotic as the years went by, and he failed to ensure that the people benefitted from the country’s oil wealth. Gaddafi and his henchmen liked to pretend that Libya was run by people’s committees, and that he had no direct control himself. But everyone in Libya knew that was a lie and that even the hint of opposition could land one in jail, where torture was endemic and where hundreds, maybe thousands, of people were executed. I visited Libya many times over the past 20 years, travelling from west to east and north to south, much of it in a four-wheel drive. I was well aware how deeply the people of Benghazi in particular hated Gaddafi, but I also knew he had his supporters in Tripoli, Sirte and elsewhere. It is a remarkable tribute to the NTC forces (‘the rebels’, who must now be called the government) than they managed to topple the regime, albeit with assistance from NATO, Qatar and the UAE. Now comes the difficult task of reconstruction and reconciliation; one can only hope that the journey ahead is smoother than that being experienced next door in Egypt. For today, though, the mood amongst most, though not all, Libyans is one of celebration. The man who could have ordered their death on a whim has been dragged out of the pipe in which he was hiding and shot. Of course, those of us in the liberal West would have preferred to see him captured alive and brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, to be tried on charges of crimes against humanity. But many Libyans are just glad the nightmare is over and that Gaddafi perished inside the country he plundered for 42 years.

 

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Mubarak Test for Egypt’s Revolution

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 3rd August, 2011

Former President Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into Court today to face charges of corruption and of ordering the killing of protestors earlier this year. His trial is the greatest test so far for Egypt’s Revolution. For the families of those who suffered at the hands of his brutal security forces, this day is almost too good to be true, seeing the old dictator on a trolley bed in a cage, but whether he will be fit enough to endure the whole procedure is another matter. Since stepping down after mass demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere, Mr Mubarak has spent most of his time in hospital in Sharm El-Sheikh. Conflicting reports about his exact state of health have emerged over the past five months, some claiming his ‘illnesses’ are a total sham. Either way, to put a former ruler on trial for alleged past misdeeds is something of a novelty in North Africa and I suspect Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi will be keeping a close eye on proceedings. Because so much of the media focus has shifted to Libya and Syria recently, it is all too easy for people in Europe to forget that Egypt’s Revolution is by no means complete. The willingness of the army to relinquish the hold on power that it now has as well as the outcome of November’s elections will both we worth watching.

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Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th March, 2011

UN Security Council resolution 1973 regarding Libya is a milestone in the development not only of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect but also the realisation of its practical implications. Muammar Gaddafi had shown such flagrant disregard for the well-being of his people, in his brutal attempts to suppress the popular uprising against him, that the international community could not just sit back and watch a massacre take place. This of course goes counter to a longstanding principle in force really since the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648: the concept of the sovereignty of the nation state — in other words, that other countries should not interefere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. That is a principle that both Russia and China are keen to see maintained (because of their fears over restless regions such as Chechnya and Tibet) and explains why they both abstained on Resolution 1973. At least they did not veto it, thus giving a green light to international action, with UN backing. Britain, France and Lebanon took the lead on this, with the United States coming on board soon after. At least two other Arab states — the UAE and Qatar — have also indicated their willingness to be involved in the operation to protect the Libyan people. But inevitably the main thrust will come from NATO, with France and Britain again taking the lead. Like many who opposed the Iraq War, I feel that UN action on Libya was essential. But the challenge will be to bring a swift end to Gaddafi’s attacks on the rebels without things escalating or becoming too protracted. And then ideally Gaddafi must go — perferably pushed out by his own people.

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The Sheffield LibDem Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 13th March, 2011

The Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference this year was on Nick Clegg’s home territory of Sheffield, which was partly why there was such tight security — the so-called ring of steel — round the City Hall, to fend off protestors who accuse him of ‘selling out’ to the Conservatives. Actually, there were nowhere near the expected number of demonstrators, even if some were the predictably nasty Trots with their unsubtle chants of ‘Scum! Scum! Scum!’ and even ‘Nazis!’ Others were much more reasonable, including a number of students understandably aggrieved that the LibDem policy against university tuition fees fell by the wayside during the course of the Coalition Agreement negotiations. One small group, bizarrely, were Libyans praising Muammar Gaddafi. Party President Tim Farron, who was omnipresent, fuelling press speculation that he already has his eyes on the leadership, insisted the LibDem policy on this hasn’t changed, but I don’t think the electorate would put much credence in such a pledge second time round. As several speakers in this morning’s excellent debate on party’s principles pointed out, we must avoid such ‘train crashes’ as the tuition fees disaster in the future. The mood was distinctly upbeat, nonetheless, even before Nick Clegg’s speech. Government Ministers and party managers might be unhappy about the conference’s rejection of the government’s planned NHS reforms, but most rank-and-file members were not. Shirley Williams and Evan Harris were amongst those leading the charge on that issue and the outcome certainly makes the statement that the LibDems have retained their distinct identity more credible. My own activities this time were limited to the fringe, outlining some of the work I have been doing with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in eastern Europe and the Arab world at a meeting organised by LDEG (Liberal Democrat European Group) and speaking briefly from the audience at a LDFP (Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine) discussion on the question ‘Should we speak to Hamas?’  O’ll be filing a piece on the Bankers’ Bonuses emergency motion for the next issue of Liberal Democrat News

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Gaddafi Must Go!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 22nd February, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi went on Libyan state television during the night to prove that he is still in Tripoli, though as Al Jazeera (a channel that has really proved its worth tracking the democracy wave sweeping North Africa and the Midde East) said, he could have been on a filmset, given the weird décor in which he sat, half-in, half-out of a car while holding a large umbrella over his head. He looks completely crazed, and it would be funny, were the situation in Libya not so tragic and bloody. The UN is launching an investigation into whether Gaddafi is guilty of crimes against humanity. Certainly, the eye-witness accounts coming out from Libya are damning evidence that he is. What needs to happen now is for the Libyan people to overthrow him and to hand him over for an international tribunal. In the meantime, the West should not be shy of voicing its disgust at this tyrant. There is no room for so-called ‘dialogue’ with the régime in Tripoli. There is no chance that Gaddafi or one of his sons could oversee a process of reform in Libya. Gaddafi must go, and go soon.

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