By Hannah Gurman, OtherWords.org, May 2, 2011
The U.S. response to the democratic uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa is as notable for its silence as for its uneven support for the Arab Spring.
It took weeks of incessant protest in Tunisia and Egypt before the Obama administration would say much or do anything to support the protesters in those countries. While Washington intervened in Libya to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi’s attacks, it’s responding to uprisings in Bahrain, Yemen, and Iraq with a particular quiescence. The Obama administration has hardly said a peep about the need for democracy in Saudi Arabia or the other oil-rich states of the Gulf, even as those regimes are cracking down on the small but growing number of democracy activists in their midst.
In recent weeks, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has joined the list of Gulf states that, without eliciting much outrage from the United States, have silenced individuals demanding even modest steps toward democratic reform. The UAE, a federation of emirates including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has no political parties and never holds free elections. In response to the revolutions in the region, public intellectuals, academics, and political activists in the country have advanced a democracy campaign of their own.