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The Syrians and el-Araby - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syria responded quickly to the comments made by the new Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil el-Araby, during his recent visit to Damascus, where he met with key figures in the Syrian regime, including President al-Assad, however, the Secretary General’s statements were not what one would expect from a seasoned politician.

Following his visit to Damascus, and in direct response to Hilary Clinton’s recent remarks that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had lost its legitimacy, el-Araby said that no one has the right to say that the president of any country has lost his legitimacy; “this issue is exclusively decided by the people”. Some may say that this is true in general, but the Secretary General of the Arab League has failed to see that the Syrian regime is responsible for a death toll nearing 1500 men, women and children, not to mention the thousands of refugees and detainees, only because they called for reform?

On the same day that Mr. el-Araby issued these remarks from Damascus, Syrian intellectuals and artists protested in the Syrian capital. They were repressed by the Shabiha and a group of them were arrested by the security services. This is not to mention the killing of Syrian protestors in Idleb, on the same day that the Secretary General of the Arab League was singing the praises of the al-Assad regime!

The matter does not stop there, for what was Mr. el-Araby’s opinion after the Syrians came out last Friday, two days after his visit to Damascus? Protestors emerged in unprecedented numbers, reaching one million for the first time in several regions of Syria. Even in the capital Damascus thousands came out, several of whom were killed, all demanding freedom and the overthrow of the regime. After all this how can the Secretary General of the Arab League respond to Clinton by understating the volume of suffering and the Syrians’ sacrifice, instead of saying the right thing, or even being silent? Furthermore, Mr. el-Araby also speaks about the importance of stability in Syria now!

When I say that el-Araby’s remarks do not emanate from a seasoned politician, this is not a slight on his character, but rather a description of the facts. If Farouk al-Shara himself has admitted that without the blood and sacrifices made by the Syrians in several cities today, there would not be talk about democracy and pluralism in Syria, then how can the Secretary General of the Arab League come out and say: “I was pleased to meet with the President, we talked for a long time, and quite frankly, about many matters emerging in the region, the winds of change that have engulfed some countries, and what is happening now in terms of reform”. Where are these serious reforms which the Secretary General has seen, but yet he did not see the Syrians who came out in unprecedented numbers after Friday prayers, demanding the fall of the regime?

El-Araby’s comments are strange and frustrating, especially as they were issued from a man who came from the depths of the Egyptian revolution. But as I said above, the best response came from the Syrian people themselves, who came out attacking el-Araby on Friday, and lamenting the Arab League. Indeed it seems the time has come to honor the organization, as one would honor the dead. The League must reassess its stances or there is no benefit to it, and this is evidenced by the events around us not only today, but for a long time.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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