Time for Arab dictators to find another career

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Ahmed Tharwat



The Arab Spring in eight years forced six Arab dictators prematurely from their jobs, Bouteflika of Algeria and al-Bashir of Sudan in just one month. Arab Dictators have a heck of a time handling their imposed early retirements, too much time and nothing to do. In a ‘democratic’ world, leaders usually get a job review after a few years and if they qualify they stay another term or two, then once they leave office they have to explore their options and develop different skills. Some, like President Obama runs around preaching effective ways to cope with white establishments, Carter, goes into humanitarian work to do all the things they couldn’t do while in office. Others, like Clinton, go on a talking circuit to recoup all the money they spent on litigation while in office. Others go back to the private sector as lobbyists or consultants to make their hard-earned government experience available for a price. Most go on to write obligatory presidential memoirs full of biographical information that no one reads.


However, Arab dictators don’t have this luxury; their job is for life and don’t really get a chance to learn a marketable skill other than oppressing and controlling their respective populations and these are hardly marketable skills for new jobs. Arab dictators never get a chance to explore their other personal potential and this limits their chance in the job market once they leave office, which makes it hard to pursuit a second career. As a public service, can we help Arab dictators find a second career? Well, let’s ponder on that a little, shall we? We will spare Arab dictators who didn’t survive and don’t need a career change! Not a lot of things you can do if you are dead, even if you were a dictator…


We will start with Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, the one whose demise inspired the Arab Spring, who caused an over-supply of ex-dictators looking for a second career. Ben Ali, born in 1936, stayed in his job for 23 years without any job review, running the most oppressive police state in the area. Ben Ali saw the writing on the wall of the Arab Spring, escaping with billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia as a permanent houseguest of the royal family. With some attitude adjustments he would be most qualified to start a money laundering operation as a second career.


We next move on to Muhammad Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who was born in 1928, and not coincidentally, was also a military officer and then politician. He was president of Egypt from October 1981 until February 2011. After 30 years in the job, he got a lousy job review from millions of Egyptians who went to the streets and squares to convince him to leave his office and try a second career, ultimately forced into early retirement. Although his health was a national security top secret issue while in office, his illness has now become a public spectacle and a pretext to avoid imprisonment. Now he is playing the life of the “Egyptian patient” as a new career in acting.


Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was sworn in June, 2012, and just a year later, was fired through a military coup cooked up by General el-Sisi. Staying in his job for only one year, he never really got the chance to develop any skills. His inexperience, naiveté and incompetence cost him the presidency. Now he is being used as poster boy for military propaganda and Brotherhood bashing. This American trained engineer would find great happiness in another career as a community organizer.


Not to mention Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who at 50 has been the Syrian president since 2000 succeeding his father, Hafez al-Assad, who had ruled Syria from 1971. In spite of early hopes, his troubles have mounted, but he has kept his job while losing everything else. The former eye doctor should be thinking about another career as a village idiot who is entertaining his masters to survive.


Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, ousted last week, was born March 2, 1937, a Moroccan-born Algerian politician who became president of Algeria in 1999. Already limited by fragile health, Bouteflika suffered a serious stroke in April 2013 and was rarely seen in public afterward. Even so, in the election of April 2014 he sought a fourth term as president, although all his campaigning was done by allies and associates. As expected, Bouteflika won. He received more than 81 percent of the vote, and at age 78 was brought in via a wheelchair to accept his presidency. Not so optimistic about finding a second career at this age, with all the health problems he has, but Bouteflika with all his diverse background and fighting spirit would be well suited as a mafia hitman.


Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan, just a fresh dictator who was just ousted earlier this week, was born January 7, 1944, Hosh Wad Banaqa, Sudan, a Sudanese military officer who led a revolt that overthrew the elected government of Sudan in 1989. He served as president of Sudan from 1993. On July 14, 2008, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called for an arrest warrant to be issued against Bashir. He was cited for crimes committed against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Darfur. With this unique colorful experience for a second career he would be most qualified as a Safari Tour Guide for rich Americans looking for trophy hunting experience.


Arab kings are the hardest ones to look for a second career; being a King, doesn’t require any skill. King Abdullah II of Jordan, born 1962 succeeded his father, the late King Hussein, as king of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on February 7, 1999. Little known outside Jordan before becoming king, Abdullah has surprised many observers by displaying a natural flair for a job many said he could never handle. His military background served him well, a pilot by training, an urban legend fighting ISIS after the burning of a Jordan pilot. Being a head of a small fragile country, he has a knack for manoeuvring and good diplomacy. He would not have any problem finding a second career as an airline pilot for other escaping Arab Dictators.


Last and hopefully not least, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a sick man with no skills at all, so not much he could do, his son in all practicality running the kingdom show. He was born in 1935, served for 48 years as first the deputy governor and then the Governor of Riyadh. He was appointed defense minister in 2011 and crowned the new king of Saudi Arabia on 23 January 2015 following the death of his half brother, King Abdullah. With all the challenges surrounding Saudi Arabia, they have never had a direct war experience. King Salman has changed all that, waging an unnecessary air war with his Yemeni neighbors to the south declaring to the world that there is a new sheriff in town, a sick one though.






Ahmed Tharwat

Ahmed Tharwat is the Producer and Host of the Arab-American TV show BelAhdan. His articles are published in national and international publications. He blogs at Notes from America, www.ahmediatv.com and his articles appear in national and international publications. Follow him on Twitter @AhmediaTV.

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