Syria dominates the headlines of Arab language dailies Tuesday, with both “good news” of advances by the Free Syrian Army and “bad news” of the sorry situation of the capital Damascus.
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads its news with an exclusive report from within Damascus, by a journalist whose name is not given. The journalist describes Damascus as a city “under house arrest,” adding that city residents do not risk leaving their homes after 10 p.m. for fear of being caught in the crossfire between government and rebel forces. The outer neighborhoods of Damasus and its suburbs are particularly dangerous, claims the report.
London-based daily Al-Hayat, for its part, focuses on the advances of the opposition’s Free Syrian Army. “Free Syrian Army controls the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border,” reads its headline. The daily describes the opposition’s control of the Andan passage near Aleppo as a “major blow to the regime.”
Al-Jazeera reporter Ahmad Zaidan joins a Free Syrian Army soldier in his car en route to Aleppo. The road seems quiet and there is no fighting on camera when Zaidan arrives at the city
London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi focuses on the politics, reporting that the Free Syrian Army is suggesting to establish a transitional government headed by some of the current opposition leaders in exile: Syrian Muslim Brotherhood member Mulham Al-Droubi as prime minister, current Syrian National Council (SNC) chief Abdul Basit Sieda as foreign minister, and former SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun as minister for expatriate affairs.
Al-Jazeera reporter Ahmad Zaidan joins a Free Syrian Army soldier in his car en route to Aleppo. The road seems quiet and there is no fighting on camera when Zaidan arrives at the city. He interviews the local Free Syrian Army commander who tells him that his men are pushing back Assad forces who took refuge in a local church. “We are trying to fight them, but do not want to harm the church,” says the commander.
Tackling the question of whether Syria’s “opposition” really represents the people on the ground, A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tariq Homayed notes the fact the most communiques released by the Free Syrian Army are now issued from within Syria, especially from Aleppo, while the foreign minister, Walid Muallem, is issuing his statements from Tehran, Iran (where he is conducting a diplomatic visit).
“Muallem’s statements from Iran and the Free Syrian Army’s statements from Syria reflect the real situation on the ground, showing that Assad does not take into account the opinion of Aleppo or Damascus residents, but wants to verify the support of Tehran in his campaign against the Syrians,” writes Homayed. “This foretells the end [of the Assad regime] and not only its weakness. It also indicates the extent of Iran’s sectarianism in our region.”
‘Racism first emerged during the long civil war, when the term ‘foreigners’ was used to describe Palestinians and Syrians’
Al-Quds Al-Arabi columnist Elias Khouri scathingly criticizes the level of racism in his country, Lebanon, towards refugees from Syria.
“Racism first emerged during the long civil war, when the term ‘foreigners’ was used to describe Palestinians and Syrians. While Palestinians paid the highest price for this racist stance — especially following the Israeli incursion of 1982 — racism continues to manifest itself towards Syrian migrant workers and anyone with dark skin, and especially Asian [domestic] workers.”
“This racism carries within it a tone of superiority; stemming from an empty sense of cultural and material eminence. It was created by a stupid bourgeoisie that considers itself — and the cultural and political myth created for Lebanon as ‘Switzerland of the east’ and ‘homeland of the stars’ — as the be-all and end-all.”
A Youtube video from Aleppo Monday shows framed portraits of Bashar Assad lying in a garbage mound.
Egypt releases 15 Islamists
A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports on its front page that Egypt has released 15 men belonging to the extremist Islamist groups Gamaa Islamiyah and Egyptian Jihad, whose member Khaled Islambouli assassinated president Anwar Sadat in 1981. The men, who were sentenced to death or to life in prison, were pardoned by President Mohammed Morsi.
A statement issued by Gamaa Islamiyah acknowledged that 12 of its members were released from Tora prison Sunday after serving 20 years in prison.
A statement issued by Gamaa Islamiyah acknowledged that 12 of its members were released from Tora prison Sunday after serving 20 years in prison
Earlier this week, Egyptian press reported that elderly ailing prisoners serving life sentences will be pardoned collectively, sparking fears that deposed president Hosni Mubarak and members of his regime will be released, claims denied by the country’s interior minister.
Meanwhile, Al-Hayat reports Tuesday that President Morsi is downplaying the level of conflict with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) following a court ruling Monday that allowed the constitutional assembly, loyal to Morsi, to continue meeting. The daily considers this a drawback for the military, which would like to consolidate legislative power.