Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The pilot and the Arab leaders | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What a contrast! Two days ago a collision occurred in the British skies between two light aircraft. One landed safely, whilst the 63-year old pilot of the second aircraft died. However his death is not the news here, rather it is the manner in which he died, as he demonstrated the greatest sense of human values.

According to the official authorities in Britain, the deceased pilot did the impossible to ensure that his aircraft did not crash into a residential area, where the mid-air collision occurred. This pilot did the impossible to ensure that his airplane crashed in an open field, where there were no people, yet unfortunately he died on impact. My honorable readers should consider this story and compare it with some of our Arab leaders who do not hesitate to suppress and kill their own people merely to stay in power. This pilot did the impossible in order to spare innocent people the disaster of a plane crashing into their homes, offices, or shops. The pilot did the impossible and faced death alone; he acted along the lines of the famous Arabic proverb “I am drowning, so why should I fear getting wet?” You only live once, as they say, however this pilot completely forgot about himself, even when facing death [in order to protect the lives of others]. Meanwhile [in the Arab world] we have those who do the impossible to remain in power, even if this means killing their own citizens!

Therefore, what Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal said on Tuesday – when he announced his country’s stance towards what is happening in the Arab world following the political earthquake that has shaken the region – is even more important. He said “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries…and we are deeply pained and saddened at the huge civilian death toll caused by these regional crises, which includes women and children.” He added that “we call on all parties to be prudent and wise while tackling this matter, evade more bloodshed, and carry out serious reforms that guarantee human rights”. Prince Saud al-Faisal’s words, without a doubt, apply to Gaddafi’s Libya, Saleh’s Yemen and certainly Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which is besieging Hama today as if it were preparing to liberate the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation!

Prince Saud al-Faisal’s remarks are important because they come from a man of his stature, and from a country of stature. As I have said previously in a number of articles, the Arab silence with regards to what is happening in Syria is unacceptable, whether this is from Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and of course the rest of the Gulf. Even if they are unable to say what Prince al-Faisal said, specifically towards Syria, we are not asking them to do what the pilot did, who made the ultimate sacrifice and displayed the utmost human values, rather we are asking them to adopt a “positive silence”, meaning no visits, and no justifications.

Of course, it is difficult to simplify politics and make it a noble cause, but we have a duty to respect human life, especially when it comes to unarmed civilians. Thus the question is: when will our Arab republics have leaders who are willing to do the impossible and die alone, along the lines of the British pilot, without causing harm to others?

I think that the road ahead of us is long, but it begins firstly with respect for the Arab citizen.