Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

What are the Arab observers doing? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby, recently came out to say that Syrian tanks had withdrawn from the residential areas of troubled cities. However, sniper attacks and killings continue. The statement seemed to serve as an acquittal freely granted to the Syrian regime, at a time when killings are ongoing at a rate of no less than 30 people per day.

A few hours after el-Araby’s words, video images emerged from Syrian activists showing that tanks in Homs, for example, were still deployed, and that the regime’s Shabiha were still on the streets. As for the stream of images depicting bodies and victims who have been falling up to this moment, this is also continuing at a rapid pace, and not without scenes of civilians being beaten and tortured.

The fact is that the first week of the Arab League observer mission in Syria has carried just as many images and scenes [as before], which gives rise to many questions from those concerned. What is the point in Arab observers taking pictures in front of the bodies of children held captive in their houses, or in front of tortured victims, or taking pictures during their meetings with Syrians who have experienced intolerable cruelty and complain of what they have suffered, or scenes of the observers in the streets with protestors and citizens, while we hear gunfire overhead?

Considering these images, if it is not the observers’ job to speak out, document and condemn, then what is their value?

This certainly does not point to the success of the observation mission. The ridiculous campaign waged by the Syrian media against certain individuals among the observers, through first-hand accounts and investigative stories, does not mean the task of the mission has been completed, that the mission has managed to uncover the full facts, or that it has enabled the image of the Syrian scene to reach the world. The image has already reached the world thanks to the sufferings of the Syrians, and their struggle to convey the magnitude of their suffering and the extent of the cruelty and violence committed against them.

Meanwhile, Nabil el-Araby also came out to announce, in a victorious tone, that the Syrian regime has agreed to issue visas for 150 media outlets, although entry has not been granted to “al-Arabiya”, “Al-Jazeera” and “France 24”.

Yet the Arab observers have entered a country that has been enclosed and locked to outside journalists for more than nine months, and remains closed to all attempts to convey the reality of what is happening to the outside world. At the same time, since the arrival of the observer mission in Syria, the death toll has exceeded 200.

So what are the Arab observers doing in Syria?

After more than a week since the beginning of the task, entrusted to those observers by the Arab League, to monitor and investigate the facts, an answer to the question does not seem obvious. The stances of the observer mission, conveyed through the Arab League Secretary General, seem contradictory, unconvincing and hesitant in many cases, and have not brought anything new in terms of uncovering the truth, or allowing the media to convey what is happening in Syria.

The media is not rushing to draw rash conclusions about the observer mission, at least not as much as the Arab League Secretary General is.