More than 100 reportedly unarmed civilians in the Syrian city of Hama have died at the hands of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces since the start of Ramadan on Sunday in a crackdown some in the media have labeled the “Ramadan massacre.”
Former International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, in a well-received Twitter post on Sunday, implicitly condemned the Assad regime, as well as Arab governments that remain silent, writing, “The world is watching the slaughterhouse in Syria. Shame on us.”
While Arab leaders, many of whom likely fear similar uprisings within their own borders, have been silent, rank and file Arab citizens of countries both in the Mideast and elsewhere have taken to the internet to vent their fury and disgust over the Assad regime’s abuse of civilians.
Writing in the Saudi pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, columnist Hussein Shobokshi observed, “It’s no longer possible to understand the silence of Arab and Islamic states and organizations before the massacres against Syrians.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said his country was “very disturbed at the increase in the level of violence and the number of victims” in Syria, according to Egypt’s state news agency MENA.
While Assad has clamped down on official media, activists are reportedly using pen phones and small camera phones to document the government’s attacks against the Syrians.
Usually, Israel – in defending its borders and citizens against armed terrorists – is singled out by United Nations for blame. It is worth noting, however, that this week the U.N. Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning widespread human rights abuse by the Syrian president’s security forces. Until now, Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa have all been arguing against condemnation of Assad, saying it would undermine the possibility of negotiations with him. But with the adoption of Wednesday’s statement, it would appear that these countries may be waking up to the folly of attempting to appease a dictator like Assad.
Could these be positive signs of growing backbone in certain corners of the Arab world, and in the world more generally?
When, instead of focusing all their energies condemning Israel for its sadly necessary self-defense, Arab peoples are instead focusing their rage on the true sources of their misery, including corrupt and brutal rulers, could progress be at hand? Similarly, when, instead of focusing exclusively on demonizing the Israeli government for what it is forced to do to defend its people, the nations of the world actually for one brief moment turn their criticism toward one of the hostile regimes surrounding Israel, might that signal a ray of light in the cave of moral blindness to which most of the world’s nations persist in confining themselves regarding the root causes of Arab misery?
We can and do hope. Meanwhile, as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak prepares to defend himself on trial, Assad would be wise to consider that a cautionary tale. We find ourselves ardently hoping that Egypt’s justice system upholds the rule of law in a manner worthy of the sacrifices made by brave protestors in their successful effort to take back their nation.