Julian Assange, “The World Tomorrow (Episode 4: Nabeel Rajab, Alaa Abdal-Fattah)” (Russia Today, 8 May 2012)
In this episode, Assange interviews two human rights activist revolutionaries, Nabeel Rajab of Bahrain and Alaa Abdal-Fattah of Egypt. At the time of the interview, Rajab had been menaced by police and government authorities who had tried to arrest at home while he was in the UK visiting Assange; after the interview, Rajab returned to Bahrain and was almost immediately detained by the authorities. Abdal-Fattah was under house arrest and forbidden to travel so he participated in the interview through a Skype connection. The interview took up three hours but only 28 minutes made it to video and this video constitutes the basis for this review.
Both interviewees are very articulate about their respective countries’ politics and the general politics of the Middle East. Rajab provides a quick short history of Bahrain: the country has long been ruled by one family with Western support (mostly British as Adam Curtis’s post “If You Take My Advice – I’d Repress Them” on his blog reveals) while the desires and needs of the Bahraini people for democracy go ignored. The media organisation Al Jazeera supports the Bahraini government and does not report on the meddling of Saudi Arabia in Bahraini affairs; ergo, Western media also ignores the situation in Bahrain and how Saudi Arabia undermines Bahraini sovereignty. Rajab admits that fighting for freedom and democracy involves a heavy cost but he is willing to fight to the utmost to achieve abstract ideals.
Abdal-Fattah describes the various crimes he has been accused of, to the extent that he finds humour in the list of crimes that make him appear super-human, being in two or more places at once and single-handedly taking on two platoons and stealing their stash of weapons. He discusses the current state of the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt and how it seems to have stalled with no clear direction. The interviewees move onto different aspects of the revolutions in Bahrain and Egypt including the role of social media and technology in spreading and exchanging information among different groups fighting for freedom, and the impact of the revolutions and the interviewees’ own experiences with the police and government authorities on their own families. Interestingly, far from being cowed by threats and harassment, the families resolved to resist the authorities. Even the role of football clubs in the Egyptian revolution got a mention – and you thought football clubs were good only for soccer hooliganism!
Apart from Nabeel’s opinion that Iraq is a democracy and that Russia and United States should speak with one voice on the situation in Syria and should help that country, I didn’t find much to fault what the two interviewees said. I do think that Nabeel is looking at Syria and Libya in a naive way, equating the struggles in those countries with the struggle in Bahrain, and not appreciating that these countries have had very different post-1945 histories from his own in spite of a shared language and to some extent cultural heritage. At least he said that the Syrians must be allowed to decide for themselves what government they want without interference from outside. The trio also discussed politics and democracy in the United States and the United Kingdom, finding much in those countries that paralleled the repressive rule in Egypt and Bahrain, but this part of the interview failed to make it to the 28-minute video presentation.
As it is, the video is a mere shadow of what the men ranged over and abruptly cuts off Abdal-Fattah while in the middle of talking about his son. I hope that Assange will be able to edit the three-hour interview he did and upload this to the Russia Today website. The 28-minute interview can be viewed here and the full three-hour transcript can be read here.