Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer
As I was skimming through recent headlines, something strangely reminiscent of a Sophoclean tragedy caught my eye. Hosni Mubarak, ousted from his position of power in Egypt is now, purportedly, in a comatose state.
On its own, Mubarak’s coma could be dismissed as the unfortunate eventuality of a pitiable man; but taken with the next Associated Press headline I read, “Tunisia asks Saudi Arabia: Is Ben Ali dead?,” I could not help but conclude that something smelled undeniably fishy.
Though Mubarak’s coma is, at present, a topic of choice for rumor mongering in the current affairs world, the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm divulged that Mubarak, supposedly, fainted twice during his pre-recorded last speech. Similarly, the deteriorating state of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is neither “confirmed nor denied” by the Tunisian government, according to the AP. Yet, this has not stopped the Tunisian people from insisting on his extradition in the case that he is alive.
I believe this is no mere coincidence. Mubarak and Ben Ali are not two hapless men whose illness suddenly befell them. In actuality, their sudden illness was assured when they lost all remaining dignity attempting to violently thwart the protests against their despotic regimes.
Mary Beard, of London’s The Times, has termed these parallel afflictions as the “deposed dictator syndrome.” Moammar Gadhafi is violently suppressing the pro-democracy uprising in Libya, which mirrors the revolutionary movement across the Middle East caused by the lingering effects of the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia. Although we have to wait and see if the deposed dictator syndrome holds true for the despot of Libya, perhaps a look into the past will allow us impatient souls a more immediate proof.
The former Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, in a corresponding fashion to the recently ousted leaders, fell into a coma five years ago. In the Arab world, he is impermeably known as the “Butcher of Beirut” for his role in the murders of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps. Though Sharon fell into a coma while in office, his demise serves no less purpose—revengeful fate seeks to win.
The former president of Uganda, Idi Amin, whose infamy was given a second spark with the movie “The Last King of Scotland,” was a notorious abuser of human rights and was personally responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. After facing exile, he fled to Saudi Arabia where he eventually also fell into a coma.
Amin’s ally, incumbent leader of Libya, Gadhafi, already has much blood on his hands. According to the AP, nearly 300 people have died as a direct result from the brutality unleashed on protesters. Known for his mindless rambling, Gadhafi, in a speech on Tuesday, declared that he will “die as a martyr at the end”.
However, his adamant clench on his seat of authority does not bode well. Considering the current statuses of Mubarak and Ben Ali, Gadhafi’s political, and possibly literal, demise is soon approaching.
As is now evident, leaders cannot simply stymie the spirits of the protesters with their stubborn refusal to step down. Mubarak and Ben Ali did not lose their dignity after they were deposed; rather, their dignity was gradually eroded with each of their missteps while in power. Ultimately, this deficiency of dignity caught up with them.
Mubarak and Ben Ali should serve as examples to current Middle Eastern leaders who can either behave oppositely to these deposed leaders and cooperatively step down or they can take a cue from Mubarak and Ben Ali and sign up for the same demise—dying of disgrace.