Renewed repression in the Middle East

An extraordinary wave of change continues to sweep across the Middle East and North Africa. It is a heady time for many who wish to cast off their chains of repression and deprivation and usher in a new age of freedom and democracy. But unless such developments ultimately occur in the context of virtue-driven changes, it is all too easy to reproduce old patterns and replace the current strongman or dictator with another or an oligarchy of exploiters.

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The course of human history is littered with examples where the flames of freedom were extinguished by an avalanche of renewed repression — from the French Revolution morphing into the Reign of Terror to the Iranian Revolution exchanging the Shah Pahlavi’s autocratic dynasty with a sect of repressive, fundamentalist Islamist fanatics.