The Region Turns Its Attention to U.S. Unrest

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Views from the Region


The ongoing civil protests in the United States have drawn the attention of observers and commentators abroad, including in the Middle East, many of whom have expressed dismay at the US government’s heavy-handed response. More worryingly, most agree that what is happening in the US reveals more than a temporary fissure within its society. Rather, it underlines and highlights long-term, systemic failures which endanger the very fabric of US society and its liberal democratic order.

Calling for a fairer US judicial system, and more equal treatment of citizens, The National editorial speaks for many in the region who have expressed shock at what they have seen play out on their television screens, noting that “The brutality seen in the footage has shocked the world and, understandably, driven thousands to the streets across the US to demand justice, equality and fair treatment of minorities by law enforcement officials. Floyd’s death has revealed deep fractures within American society, putting the spotlight on instances of police brutality against marginalized communities…. Time and again, excessive force has been used against marginalized communities, sparking protests, and eventually riots, in a never-ending cycle of violence…. All people regardless of race and social status must receive fair treatment when apprehended by police forces.”

In an expression of solidarity with the protesters and their demands, the Khaleej Times editorial staff takes issue with what it considers ‘institutionalized racism’ in the US judicial and law enforcement apparatus, as well the failure of the country’s current leadership to empathize: “Floyd’s last words articulate what the Black America is feeling right now – choked. Floyd’s is not the first case, and neither will it be the last…. Apart from raising questions on the inherent biases in the force, it also points to a certain institutionalisation of racism in a body that is meant to protect every American citizen. It does not help that the man helming the country is known for spewing racial slurs himself and has endorsed white supremacists in the past…. For now… we must challenge the idea that gives a white supremacist power over a Black American, and spell out, ‘We are not in this together’.”

In a sign that the unrest in the United States would soon become politicized and affect US moral standing in the world by making it more difficult for US diplomats to speak out against human rights violations elsewhere, the Tehran Times reports that the Iranian Foreign Ministry had noted via Twitter “that the U.S. police’s brutality against African-Americans knows no boundaries. ‘6 yrs after ‘I can’t breathe’ pleas of Eric Garner, #GeorgeFloyd, another black man, dies after a cruel, inhumane arrest,’ the ministry tweeted. ‘It seems that US #PoliceBrutality against blacks knows no boundaries. And as always, the response to calls for justice is employing even more force’.”

That message has been repeated across the region as also seen in this Gulf News editorial remarking that unfortunately “Protests against police brutality and perceived racist practices by local law enforcement agencies, however, are not unusual in the US…. There have been some attempts in many US states since to clean up the security forces and end the racist practices. However, the Minnesota crime shows that there is still a long way to go, especially with the rise of populist politics that have polarised societies worldwide…. But such violent riots will recur unless the US took serious measures to eliminate racist tendencies in some of those who are in a position of authority.”

The riots in the United States are seen by some in the region, including Asharq Alawsat’s Hussam Itani, as perhaps posing even an existential threat to the liberal democratic order that the US has built at home and for which it has been an advocate throughout the world: “The danger that the protests pose does not lie in the security threat that it poses or the looting, violence, and the destruction of property, or that criminal elements are taking advantage of the public’s legitimate outrage, but that it is one of the rare occasions where the ability of liberal democracies to reform itself and address its illnesses is being questioned…. especially since the financial crisis in 2008 and the limitations that traditional political representation cannot cross in addressing massive crises… today this question carries dimensions that relate to the restructuring of American society and its political system.”

Jordan Times’ Ayman Matar draws parallels between Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who became a catalyst for the Arab Spring, and George Floyd, wondering whether we are currently witnessing “the beginning of an American spring? The answer [will be] determined by how American officials, mayors, state governors and US President Donald Trump, handle the situation to decrease tensions and gain control of the hot cities suffering from violence brought by historical social injustice against minorities, specially African-Americans, who suffered from many incidents of police brutality, racism and bigotry resulting in the death of black individuals unjustly…. The US must work to eradicate biases and bigotry, clearly, cultural, legal and structural changes are needed to be able to move forward as a world superpower and a beacon of democracy.”

Finally, in an eloquently written piece, Khaleej Times’ former associate editor writes a scathing op-ed reflecting on the current state of affairs in the US: “On occasion, the greatest of tragedies is the conflict between two wrongs. A rudderless America tosses about in churning seas. A leaderless America runs around in burning cities. A clueless America scrounges around for answers…. Trump was wrong, Minneapolis PD was wrong, but so are the violent elements in these protests, especially after the quickest possible action has been initiated against the perpetrators of a publicly recorded crime. It is thoughtless too because the righteous are getting confused with the amoral Trump as they make the mistake of engaging with him on his home ground: abject indifference to reason.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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