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Land of the Lost - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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On May 18, the International Herald Tribune published an article entitled: “The Hostages of War.” The article was supported by pictures, and detailed with estimate numbers and professions of the foreigners kidnapped in Iraq, and the ransoms paid for their release, to be reused for more kidnapping.

The article states that since the beginning of the war, 439 foreigners of variant nationalities were kidnapped; including medical doctors, men of religion, translators, journalists, women, diplomats, contractors, etc. It mentions that both the American embassy and the Iraqi Ministry of Interior have registered hundreds of kidnapped Iraqis. It fails however to mention that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and women and children have been kidnapped and sold in the markets of white slavery.

No one seems to care for keeping count of the dead and lost in Iraq. Iraq, the country of the Mesopotamian civilization, and Baghdad, the city of peace, have both become the playground for death and loss, not to mention the systematic elimination of Iraqi scientists and secular moderate thinkers. The question that goes unasked in such articles is: who will hold to accountability the war drummers of liberty and democracy in the Middle East for their crimes in Iraq? The article concludes that Iraq has become “the land of the lost.”

The coming years will bring more calamities to the Iraqis, their independence and their national unity. Yet, we still find people who blatantly support similar American policies against Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, masked with similar pretexts to those proclaimed for invading Iraq. Danger does not only engulf Iraq, it is creeping in the direction of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, one after the other.

It is why it is quite painful to hear some Arab voices trumpeting the same policies that threaten their very existence. On the other end of the spectrum, we find the rest entangled in internal struggles among themselves, undermining their credibility and ability to stand up to the challenges, and doing their enemies the greatest service possible.

The fifty-eighth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 (Catastrophe), which is by far one of the biggest human tragedy in modern history, should be an occasion for us to remember the lesson that we should have learned more than five decades ago. We should remember the internal conflicts that plagued Arabs and Palestinians at the time and blurred their vision and weakened their determination. If we were to avoid more catastrophes, we have to transcend our differences and concentrate on the whole picture instead of drowning in the details.

The groups of Lebanese who have welcomed Resolution 1680, which they considered as targeting Syria, are in fact welcoming a resolution that will only be more harmful to Lebanon. Using Lebanon against Syria is a sign of Arab weakness; and so are the disputes between Palestinian parties over minor authorities. The ultimate plan for the region is for our countries to become all “lands of the lost.” It is to siege Arabs in their own countries and ravage their resources and their lands. It is time we do some soul searching and learn from the lessons of the past.

The first step might prove much easier than many would expect. We could start with a campaign to preserve the Arabic language and raise awareness of its beauty. We could start by reviving our culture, literature, philosophy, and history to hone our own consciousness of our identity. We should carry these treasures around to Europe and the Americas, and explain to people there what is really happening in Palestine and Iraq, and what is being planned against Syria, Lebanon and Sudan.

We should follow the example of Cyndi Sheehan, the American woman who lost her son in Iraq and started an international campaign against the war; or the example of the many British universities that are on their way to boycott Israeli universities. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa started with organizations and establishments that worked on showing the real face of the apartheid. We can start by boycotting Israel economically, and informing the American public opinion about the reality in the Middle East.

It is a horrendous tragedy that Iraq has become “the land of the lost;” the country that has infused human civilization with poets, philosophers and scientists. We should not wait for the Palestinian Catastrophe to engulf us all before we realize the real dimensions of the threats to our existence. As a mother, and a woman, I would call first and foremost on Arab women to mobilize, and to create public movements of “mothers for Palestine” and “mothers for Iraq.” Let us look for all the lost, before we ourselves get lost in the coming turmoil.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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