The fragmentation of Syria’s opposition fighters into Islamists and non-Islamists leads the headlines of Arab media as this week comes to a close.
“The Syrian Coalition reaches a truce with the Islamic Front to retrieve the weapons of the Free Syrian Army,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring an image of two Syrian girls in a Jordanian refugee camp walking between muddy puddles.
The Free Syrian army (FSA) and the break-off Islamic Front have reached an agreement under Turkish brokerage, the daily reports. However, the agreement has not yet gone into effect as the Islamists refuse to return weapons stolen from the FSA.
“This may lead to full-scale military confrontations between the sides,” the daily warns, reporting that the Free Syrian Army has begun assembling support from various opposition factions to be united under the title of Al-Ahrar (“the free”).
Meanwhile, the London-based daily Al-Hayat reports Friday that the joint command of the Free Syrian Army is trying to dispel Western fears of weapons possibly falling into the hands of extremist Islamists. It explains that Islamic Front members have entered arms repositories owned by the FSA near the Turkish border, based on instructions by the FSA.
“But the Islamic Front said that when it arrived, the FSA warehouses were empty,” continues the report, confirming activists’ fears that Al-Qaeda — an independent Islamist force — had already snatched the weapons.
“Do Syrians have a national framework?” wonders Syrian columnist Eli Abdo in an Al-Hayat op-ed Friday.
Bashar Assad, he writes, has done his best to paint the revolution in sectarian colors, convincing the minorities that they would be endangered by an extremist Sunni takeover. The opposition tried to counter this tactic by highlighting the diverse sectarian identity of opposition members. The opposition failed at this, writes Abdo.
“The core cause of this weakness probably lies in the lack of a national framework uniting the Syrians,” writes Abdo. “National unity was close to collapse before the revolution erupted.”
Why no Arab Mandela?
A number of Arab columnists eulogize African leader Nelson Mandela while wondering why no Arab leader has yet emerged in his image.
“An Arab Mandela will not emerge tomorrow!” reads the title of an op-ed by Hashem Saleh in A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Nelson Mandela was one of the rare men willing to die for their cause, writes Saleh. “With his death, this type of people ended with no return.”
Mandela’s superiority exists in the fact that he did not seek vengeance against his oppressors following the long years he spent in prison.
‘We need 20 Nelson Mandelas to extinguish the fires burning everywhere’
“I write these words thinking of course about our Arab world. We need 20 Nelson Mandelas to extinguish the fires burning everywhere. But there is a theory whereby the Arab and Islamic world in its entirety will not reconcile with itself before it explodes and is sick of explosions. It must empty its guts of pent-up historic animosities. Hence, the time for an Arab Nelson Mandela has not yet come.”
But Saudi columnist Sultan Al-Amer dedicates his op-ed in Al-Hayat to dispel the myths of Mandela as a purely non-violent activist, noting also that he had forsaken his socialistic ideology for neo-liberal economic policies once in office.
“Demystifying Mandela certainly doesn’t mean demonizing him,” writes Al-Amer. “But the image being circulated around the world these days is misleading, eliminating the complex historic context in which the events in South Africa transpired.”
“In our Arab context, the context of the Arab Spring and regional changes, we must not adopt the compromise Mandela did. He compromised by integrating the opposition movement to marginalize the rebels, allowing the opposition to come to power at the expense of the poor.”