This is what, to my eyes at least is the most important thing happening in the world right now. The Middle East Protests. Since December 17th when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year old street vendor, set himself on fire in Tunisia, protests have developed in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran, rumours of protests in Jordan and Morocco. Reports have come out today of a man in Senegal setting himself on fire in what has to be assumed to be a deliberate reference to Bouazizi's deliberate immolation. In all these countries people are marching, and in many fighting and dying in pursuit of a concept we in the west proudly boast about yet far too often take for granted, Democracy. Such a basic premise, the idea that everyone's voices should be heard within a nation, that people's rights should be respected, that governments should serve, rather than exploit the people of the nation. Horrific scenes are unfolding day by day (if anyone doubts just how horrific they can watch this video from Bahrain, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fwnUQcKXmMM but it is very graphic so consider yourself warned), the worst of which seems to be in Bahrain and Libya, where there are reports of government officials explaining that if people engage in the protests they are "committing suicide".
One of the uncomfortable truths for the 'west' is that a number of these governments that people are attempting to overthrow, are ones which have been supported financially, and with military supplies, by ourselves, especially the United States and the UK; Egypt and the Bahrain are the primary examples of this. I've been trying to remain up to date with the news from these states (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/feb/18/middle-east-protests-live-updates) has been particularly useful in this regard. I am under no illusions about the likelihood that in all these cases, or even any, the people will get the government their revolutionary spirit merits. History has taught us often enough that revolutions often only provoke cycles of violence that only come to an end when someone equally as dictatorial as the person kicked out in the first place. However i hope (and if i was religious i'd consider this something well worth a whole heap of prayers) that at least some of those brave people find a form of democracy that makes all their efforts worthwhile.
I can't imagine the courage it takes to go out onto the streets and protest in states like the ones mentioned above. So many brave men and women are putting their freedom and their lives at risk, simply in pursuit of the freedoms we hold dear. I hope it doesn't get any worse, but it seems almost inevitable that it will for the time being.
I have to hope that at some point in the future this unrest will die down because the majority, but preferably all, of the governments which have ruled that region with violence, corruption and nepotism have been replaced with something closer to the democracy we hold dear. It may be a naive hope, but it would seem cruel to hope for anything less.