Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

The Damascus djinn

Arab press
Arab press
Al-Ahram Weekly

Can one Arab nation make sense of another’s revolution if one cannot understand the dynamics of his or her revolution? One fears not.

Editor-in-Chief of the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Ghassan Charbel, in an article entitled ‘Post-presidential questions’ was particularly poignant. And, not one would think to cast aspersions.

“The Arabs who celebrated the eruptions of the Arab Spring cannot shield themselves from many ensuing questions today,” mused Charbel in Al-Hayat.

“While not yet nostalgic for the old regimes, which were indeed terrible, the Arabs have had their confidence shaken, a perturbed sense of direction and feel the tension of those who had danced in celebration of their victory in the public squares,” Charbel elaborated. “There are many questions accompanying the pains that came after victory,” Charbel pointed out in his thought-provoking article.

“Was Muammar Gaddafi the only problem in Libya,” Charbel asked rhetorically. “We cannot defend the situation that existed in the countries struck by the Arab Spring. Everything suggests that the transition in this country or that country will be saddled with disappointments and pain,” Charbel concluded on a sobering note.

Charbel’s piece might appear playful on the surface, but it asks deep questions. Ominously, he almost makes the post-revolutions menacing.

This article is one of the Arab commentators more thoughtful exercises. The reader no doubt was struck by the driveness. What are readers meant to make of Charbel’s controversial queries? His prose is enlightened throughout with unexpected metaphors and similes.

Even more knockabout in a very high order is Jihad Al-Khazen’s ‘Did you say Spring?’ which most certainly pulls one up.

“The Arab Spring reminds me of the old unlamented socialist bloc countries. Each one was officially called ‘Democratic’, and they were certainly as democratic as the Libya of Muammar Gaddafi was ‘Great’ as in the country’s official name,” professed Al-Khazen in Al-Hayat.

This is not an article to be read in 10 minutes. “I will begin with Egypt, the biggest Arab state and the cornerstone of building a better future, but without offering any praise or derision of the Hosni Mubarak regime. The Muslim Brotherhood has monopolised the revolution (I will not say stolen it) even though its time heroes are known. The Muslim Brothers have set up a Soviet-style regime, by another name. Instead of the Communist Party, there is the Freedom and Justice Party, and both represent a one-party state that accepts no opposition or difference of opinion,” Al-Khazen pointed out.

“President Mohamed Morsi sacked Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, the state prosecutor, and tied the hands of the Constitutive Assembly to block any dissolution of the constitution or the Shura Council. He also banned them from reviewing any decision he takes,” Al-Khazen, the veteran columnist in Al-Hayat, wrote.

“I expect the Egyptian people will not accept this coup against the revolution. I do not rule out a counter-revolution, before the issuing of a religious constitution, which will set things on the path to true democracy, instead of rule by a religious party supported by a more extreme religious party which I see as religiously and socially backward,” Al-Khazen boldly elucidated.

In the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat the Egyptian political impasse also took precedence. The inherent dramatic power of the new parties and their leaders who assumed office in the aftermath of the revolution and the unremittingly dense styles of government were the subject of heated debate. Gaza was mentioned albeit fleetingly.

“The intellectuals of the region are in dire need of a better understanding of what is happening all around us, and particularly what took place in the eight-day war in Gaza and which ignited the blaze of an insane Arab soiree,” wrote Tarek Al-Hamid in Asharq Al-Awsat. “Journalists, intellectuals and politicians sounded the alarm bells,” Al-Hamid noted.

The writer quoted the Iranian daily Kayhan, the mouthpiece of the Iranian Supreme Guide, in a commentary entitled ‘Please, we need an explanation’ as launching an unprecedented attack on the leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal claiming that he was ungrateful and forgot how he was desperate until Damascus saved him. Kayhan recalled how Mashaal had forgotten the support and shelter that Damascus bestowed on the then renegade Hamas leader. “Mashaal acts as if he was a Zionist agent,” Kayhan claimed. All hell was let loose.

“Who is delivering lectures? And who exactly is speaking to the other in the region? This is especially poignant since the unholy alliance was formed between the Iranians, the Al-Assad regime in Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbullah and Hamas,” warned Al-Hamid.

Piety is not a salient characteristic of the articles in the Arab press this week.

The Syrian official papers were naturally pro-government. They applauded Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and derided the Arab oil-rich Gulf states. In a commentary in Al-Baath, the mouthpiece of Syria’s ruling party, Mohamed Mouzir Zarik, in an article entitled ‘The psychology of midget states’ noted that Qatar is bound to exaggerate its role in the Arab Spring to prove that it can play a part in spite of its diminutive size. “In spite of the fact that no one in Syria thought that Qatar would play a pivotal role in aiding and abetting the Syrian armed opposition forces, it is clear that Qatar’s position is distinct from that of Saudi Arabia. Qatar was instrumental in the success of the Egyptian and Libyan so-called revolutions, and hopes to play a similar role in Syria,” Zarik extrapolated.

Daily life for most Syrians has become both unbearable and unforgiving. The Syrian Free Army continues to advance despite massive Iranian support for Al-Assad’s regime in Damascus. The armed Syrian opposition forces pressed on with their military offensive rebuffing all calls for restraint. Hussein Al-Shubukshi in an article entitled ‘Al-Assad’s death knell’ argued that it has become abundantly clear that the regime in Damascus is in its death throes.

“Russia and Israel now appear to be the closest of allies even as the fall of the Al-Assad regime in Syria seems imminent. Russia and Israel are about to strike a deal,” Al-Shubukshi forewarns.

“This is the time for the ‘final solution’ to the Syrian problem,” Al-Shubukshi declared. “Israel is desperately searching for a new regional power to guard its northeastern frontier, and Russia is looking for someone to buy its arms,” he concluded.

The world has watched anxiously in the past few months as hostilities in Syria threatened to spiral into a regional conflict. Syria is possessed by a demon of sectarian strife. Al-Assad has uncorked the bottle so that the genie, or djinn, can escape. Both sides in the Syrian civil war are declaring victory, but it seems this is an illusion

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