This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 22/05/2011
If it wasn't for the resilience of the unarmed Syrian people, and their commitment to their legitimate rights in the face of brutal repression from the Syrian regime over the past 9 weeks, the U.S. President would not have broken his silence, calling on Bashar al-Assad to stop the killing, and reform or leave. But the question here is: What about the Arab silence?
If the Syrians have pressed the Americans and the Europeans with their resilience, and forced them to break their silence, and move against the al-Assad regime, then when will the Arab silence be broken? The number of Syrians who have died at the hands of the regime's repression has now reached nearly a thousand. Where are the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Organization of Islamic Conference? Why did they stand so quickly with the Libyans against Gaddafi, and demand that the international community intervene, while they have kept silent about what is happening to the unarmed Syrians, some of whom in demonstrations last Friday came out without their shirts to show they had no weapons, and despite this the Syrian security forces killed nearly forty of them?
The Libyan regime used violence against the rebels from the beginning of the revolution, and we all know the Libyan rebels took up arms early against Gaddafi's forces, or mercenaries. Meanwhile in Syria the demonstrations are entering their ninth week, and the uprising does not seem to be armed, despite all the misleading propaganda from the Syrian regime. It is easy of course, to confirm the reality of the situation in Libya, because Gaddafi allows a media presence in Tripoli, although he is under a NATO bombardment seeking to end his reign, yet there is no media presence permitted within Syria!
Therefore, the Arab silence about what is happening in Syria is sad and depressing, especially as the murder and brutal repression against the unarmed Syrians continues, with no sign of stopping. We saw Sheikh al-Qara in Damascus announcing his resignation from his Friday podium, because the worshippers feel uncomfortable praying in the presence of the security services. Of course it is not inconceivable that the authorities are there to prevent the Friday prayer from going ahead, in order to stop the demonstrations, even though they are based on solid foundations, rather than sectarianism or Salafism, as the regime tries to portray. We see the Kurds participating in the demonstrations, the rural communities, and even major cities from Damascus to Allepo to Homs and so on.
Therefore, away from all political concepts, there is a moral and humanitarian duty incumbent on all those in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to break their silence and take a moral and humanitarian stand in support of the unarmed Syrians. The protestors simply want to live a decent life and are tired of repression, humiliation, and false slogans of resistance.
What the Arabs have ignored, without exception, are the genuine questions being raised in the region today as a result of the Syrian situation, such as: why is a Syrian who protests in his country being killed, while a Syrian who protests in the Golan Heights against the Israeli occupation is not? Why are the Lebanese handing over Syrian soldiers who have fled because they refuse to kill their own people, while if they had fled to Israel, they would not have been handed over to Damascus?
Because we criticized America's silence towards Syria, and its selectivity in dealing with Bahrain, where the demonstrations were supported by Iran, we must ask ourselves the following question as Arabs: If the Syrians' resilience has forced Obama to act, when will we feel forced to act?