The continuing protests for democracy and jobs across the Middle East and North Africa show that undemocratic governments of different ideologies and forms of government are all more similar than any of them would like to think.
They may vary the rhetoric they use to justify their rule and their actions, but they’ve all been jailing their own people without fair trial for decades, torturing and murdering them – and they all send their police or soldiers to shoot unarmed demonstrators in the street the moment it looks like their power might be threatened.
Which ideology you’re being jailed, tortured or shot for makes far less difference to those on the receiving end than those trying to justify it might think.
This holds whether it’s supposedly to defend the Revolution and the Republic in Libya and Egypt, to defend the Islamic revolution in the semi-theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, or to defend the monarchy in the Kingdom of Bahrain (and held for Iraqis tortured in the name of democracy too – because democracy, as George Orwell said, is more often an undefined word used to justify unjustifiable actions than a reality).
Democracy does exist in a very real sense for the protesters who see it as fair elections, the right not to be jailed without trial, tortured or murdered by the government – and – though this gets less press – the right to a job and a living wage (most of the demonstrations having included demands for jobs and better pay from the start).
The hypocrisy of democratically elected governments who back many of these dictatorships (the only exceptions being Syria and Iran) continues, with bans on sales of arms and “crowd control” devices, just a bit late and - on their past records - unlikely to last long.