Arab Masses Criticize Syria While Their Leaders Remain Silent

Assad's crackdown on protesters in Hama has been met with criticism by Arab masses in other countries. Their leaders remain silent.

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Elad Benari,

Bashar Assad
Bashar Assad
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As Syrian President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown in Hama entered its second day and the UN Security Council met to discuss the continued violence, Arabs in other countries reacted strongly to the deaths of dozens of their Syrian cousins. Most of their governments, however, kept silent, according to a report in the Reuters news agency.

The report quoted Saudi columnist Hussein Shobokshi, who wrote in the Saudi pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, “It’s no longer possible to understand the silence of Arab and Islamic states and organizations before the massacres against Syrians.”

A Qatari who gave his name as H. Yousef also criticized the Arab states for their silence, telling Reuters, “As Qataris, we want to see all governments stepping in. Why doesn’t the Emir of Qatar support Syria and not only the Libyan people? Our hearts are bleeding for them. They’re one of our nations.”

Also voicing his criticism was Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, who wrote on his Twitter page, “The world is watching the slaughterhouse in Syria. Shame on us. The peace of God be upon Syria’s martyrs. Shame on every Arab and every human being.”

But while the Arab masses are reacting strongly to the Syrian massacres, their leaders are remaining silent, noted the report.

For example, Saudi newspapers have run headlines about Syria next to pictures of King Abdullah and his Ramadan speech calling for Muslims to build “sympathetic, tolerant societies” in which “the wronged forgive those who have wronged them.”

According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia, while having had bad relations with Assad because of his close ties to Iran and the Lebanese-based Hizbullah terror group, the Saudi royal family is conflicted over the possibility of seeing another Arab ruler fall.

The United Arab Emirates daily al-Ittihad has also minimized the Hama story, said Reuters, publishing it below headlines announcing a round of massive housing loans.

Shadi Hamid of the Doha Brookings Center explained this silence on the part of Arab rulers by saying they are “just not willing to stand up to the Assad regime and potentially damage the relationship. They don't know if he’ll stay in power and there’s a chance he will.

“We may possibly see the worst massacre of the Arab Spring right now,” he added. “I think we're on the verge of that.”

Hilal Khashan, a politics professor in Beirut, told Reuters, “Arab governments are not reacting because they are concerned that the unrest will spread to other Arab states. I don’t think that continued violence (during Ramadan) will have any official reaction from the rest of the Arab World.”

At least 84 people were reportedly slaughtered in Hama on Sunday, while on Monday Assad praised troops for “foiling enemies” during the slaughter.

In a speech marking the 66th anniversary of the Syrian army’s formation, Assad said the military “proved its loyalty to its people, country and creed.”

The European Union responding to the latest violence in Syria by expanding its sanctions against Assad and imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials.