By Chris Bowers, British Consul General in Erbil. This article was originally published by Rudaw, and is re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.
It has been a momentous few weeks in the Middle East as hopes and aspirations that had lain dormant for a generation or more have stirred.
British Prime Minister Cameron visited the region and spoke in Kuwait of his cautious optimism at this “precious moment of opportunity” for the entire region. It is, as he said, too early to say how things will turn out in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.There is some anxiety across the region, but hope too. This optimism derives from the peaceful, determined and dignified way that people across the region are standing up for their rights. They are showing that there are better options than a false choice between repression and extremism.
People on the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli are demanding freedom above all else: the freedom to participate in government, the freedom from tyranny and the dignity that comes from knowing that a citizen’s view is valued and matters. The protesters in the Arab world do not seem to be motivated by ideology; they are not demanding an “–ism” as a panacea. They don’t want utopia; their demands are of a people who want to make something of their lives. They have had enough of corruption, inefficiency and repression. They want a government that engages with them, listens, and delivers improvements to services and to the economy. In the words of the 18th century British liberal conservative, Edmund Burke: “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”