Published on The World/blogs.ft.com, by Roula Khalaf, August 10, 2011.
Middle Eastern autocrats are having a field day with the UK riots, taking pleasure at the mayhem in a western capital and interpreting it the way that suits their propaganda … //
… There is, of course, a sea of difference between what’s going on in the UK and the events in the Middle East, in both the actions of the youth and the response of the authorities. Autocratic regimes should pay attention to the fact that there is plenty of free reporting on the events; that police officers are not going around shooting at the rioters, and that the government is fully mobilised to deal with the unrest.
The similarity is in that there are underlying causes in Britain, like in the Middle East, for the destructive rage of the rioters, and that too will have to be addressed. As this Washington Post editorial says: “This is becoming a year of rebellion by the dispossessed — first in the Arab Middle East, then in Israel and now in one of the world’s richest democracies. At a time of economic disruption, no country is immune from such upheaval.”
The editorial goes on to say: “Britain is showing that democracies can respond with responsible policing and robust political debate. It is because they are incapable of such political flexibility or respect for human rights that the Arab autocrats are doomed.” (full text).