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Dictators’ extreme fates

The final hours of fallen dictators have been increasingly violent with Gaddafi’s being fiercest. Those that caused Arab spring

world Updated: Oct 22, 2011 02:18 IST
Neil MacFarquhar

With Arab despots toppling at an unprecedented pace since January, a range of options for the final curtain have been tested, with Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, typically, making the most dramatic exit with his gory death on Thursday.

Even before the uprisings, of course, Saddam Hussein had vowed to fight to the death. But the Iraqi strongman ended up hiding underground, in a six-foot spider hole, and was eventually hanged in 2006 after a trial, however predetermined the outcome.

Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, the first president who was forced out by popular outrage this year, back in January, chose exile in Saudi Arabia, where the ruling family will take virtually any Muslim. But it is a difficult option for someone accustomed to being the centre of attention; Ben Ali has not been heard from since.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt chose to stand and fight in the courts. But he now risks being remembered mostly for lying on a stretcher in a metal cage, all part of his defense that he is too sick to suffer the indignity of a trial.

Among the remaining Arab Spring autocrats under siege, Presidents Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen are struggling to hold on to power.

Assad first tried a feint about concessions, but soon abandoned any pretense of compromise, and his security forces have killed at least 3,000 demonstrators. Saleh nearly left office in a bomb attack, but survived with severe burns and sought treatment in Saudi Arabia.

It is not clear what lesson, if any, either man will take from Gaddafi’s fall and death.

“For Arab dictators, it shows that for the amount of pressure they place on their people, there will be an equal and opposite reaction, and they cannot hold on forever,” said Yuseff Assad, an expert on Libya and an early supporter of the uprising. the new york times

First Published: Oct 22, 2011 00:04 IST