Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

An apology to our people in Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The people of Syria have had enough. The Syrians who have been spared death have certainly not been spared torture, and if they have escaped this and that, how will they escape the pursuit of the secret service? The least the Arabs can do is apologise for letting the Syrians down. The Arab reaction is still at the initial stage of waiting and watching, even after 1300 deaths, 10,000 arrests, and mass displacement.

Three months of continuous brutal repression, and the Arabs sit by and watch. As demonstrations broke out against the regime, Washington called on the Syrian government to exercise “self-restraint”, France condemned the “violence against demonstrators”, whilst Turkey warned its Syrian ally and advised it to implement political reforms. As for the UN Secretary General, he called for an investigation [into the government crackdowns] and punishments for those responsible for the massacres. But the Arabs sat by and watched. The EU urged the [Syrian] authorities to respond to the citizens’ demands, and the UN Human Rights Council warned against the country entering “a spiral of violence.” Killing and repression spread throughout several Syrian cities, yet the Arabs sat by and watched!

“The army is intervening…Latakia is turning into a ghost town…” these were just some of the front-page headlines of Asharq Al-Awsat on March 28. Daraa was subjected to an organized campaign aiming to starve the young before the old, whilst the military forces opened fire on those protesting. Hamas said that what was happening was an “internal issue.” Hezbollah showed support for the Syrian regime at the expense of its people. As for Tehran, it strongly criticized the protesters and considered what was happening to be a “Zionist plot.” Meanwhile the Arabs sat by and watched. The repression spread to cities that were relatively unknown; now Tal Kalakh has been bombarded, Bani Yas is dripping with the blood of its dead, while Daraa and Duma are still under siege and the death toll in both places has risen to approximately 500. Yet the Arabs still sit by and watch. Turkey has continued to condemn its Syrian ally, and warns against “violent repression.” Washington is considering drafting sanctions. Four countries, certainly not Arab ones, are considering drafting a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the violence in Syria. Even Russia, yes Russia, is demanding an investigation into the killing of civilians. Where are the Arabs!? They are silently sitting by and watching.

With the uprising entering its third month, the Syrian regime has surpassed all boundaries with the repression of its people. It killed the young hero Hamza al Khateeb, and scenes of his torture shook the world, but still the Arabs sat by and watched. The Syrian regime razed houses to the ground with tanks, and when the demonstrations did not stop the authorities resorted to aircrafts and guns. As the killings increase the regime remains indifferent. Why not, as long as the Arabs are just watching!? Al-Assad’s forces are besieging cities and turning them into ghost towns. Mass graves are revealing the brutality of the regime, and Iran is strongly involved in suppression of unarmed protesters. The whole of the West is standing up and demanding al-Assad [to implement] reforms or go. As for the Arabs, well don’t ask, they are sitting back and watching.

Then the Arabs finally made a move. The secretary general of the Arab League previously refused to be “harsh” towards Syria, but after 90 days of violent repression he uttered soft, diplomatic words, expressing “concern” for what is happening, yet this will have no benefit whilst the Syrians flee their homeland. As for the GCC, the secretary general was satisfied with the [Arab League] statement, so what did he say? “The appropriate place to discuss the situation in Syria is within the Arab League.” The concept of such a statement falls under the category of “closing the argument!”

The Syrian people are taking the world by surprise and the message has been clear to all: the killing of thousands and the repression of the people will not stop the uprising. A Syrian activist said, “It is sad that the invention of rubber bullets never made it to Syria! What is being used to confront demonstrators here is live ammunition or nothing at all.”

We apologise profusely to our people in Syria, to all the men, women and children. Even if we address only the lions, and not the women or children, we would say to them, “do not wait for the Arabs as they are intent on sitting by and watching!”