x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A regional newspaper comments on the recent Syrian bombing

Arabic-language newspapers consider the gender dimension of Egypt's protests and the GCC plan to save Yemen from economic stagnation.

Has Al Qaeda's influence reached Syria or is this yet another ploy by Bashar Al Assad's regime?

In a comment on the two deadly blasts that shook Damascus on Friday, Abdulbari Atwan, the editor-in chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi wrote: "For the past ten months, since the start of the Syrian uprising, spokespersons for the Syrian authorities boasted that the pro-democracy popular protests haven't reached the capital city and were mainly concentrated in remote rural areas.

But the explosions that targeted two security centres in the heart of the capital on Friday killing 37 and wounded more than 160 others, refute this pretext and project an eerie image of what the future holds for Syria."

Two conflicting theories were offered in this case. The first, by the opposition, claims that the regime's hastiness to accuse Al Qaeda is sufficient proof that the double attack was fabricated, especially that the official Syrian reports says that the perpetrators, the suicide bombers, were captured. How can they be suicide bombers and be captured alive?

The second interpretation comes from regime spokesmen who confirm that Al Qaeda has began its operations in Syria and that the neighbouring Lebanese security forces had warned Syria only a few days ago that a number of Al Qaeda operatives have infiltrated the Syrian territories.

"I don't believe that the Syrian regime that is desperately trying to give the impression to Syrian and to the world that it is in total control of the situation and that nearly crushed the protests, could fabricate such attacks just to mislead the Arab League observers and derail their mission," said the writer.

At the same time, nothing proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was effectively Al Qaeda's doing, but it isn't unlikely. In fact, the terrorist organisation's ideology is against the Assad regime and accuses it of blasphemy and sectarianism. Furthermore, Al Qaeda is no longer centralised, it has become an encompassing ideological umbrella that includes a number of branches with field commands that have become even more powerful than the central command in Afghanistan. "Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised if we were to hear of an Al Qaeda branch in Syria in the future," added the writer. "The Syrian regime closely cooperated with the US in its war on terrorism and offered 25 thousand terrorism-related documents in this respect. Mr Al Assad stated at one point that Syria prevented the death of dozens of Americans due to this cooperation, which won him Al Qaeda's hostility."

In any case, the regime's use of Al Qaeda as a scarecrow wouldn't do it any good, just as it didn't serve Qaddafi in Libya. If the terrorist organisation is effectively in Syria, it is because of the regime's ongoing brutal reaction to the protests.

Tahrir's Friday protests give revolution lustre

She's called the "Tahrir Girl". The veiled girl in the blue brassiere. Nothing is known about her, not even her name although photos of her getting beaten up and stripped by soldiers have shocked the world, said the columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

"She is a believer, but, since none of the Islamic parties and groups rose to defend her or raise her case, one has reason to believe she isn't a member of any Islamic organisation," said the writer. "Strangely enough, the Islamists in Egypt actually blamed her for what was done to her in Tahrir Square. Some said she should have worn another layer of clothing under her abaya before taking to the street, to avoid revealing her nakedness."

The Islamic denial of the injustice that was inflicted on the Tahrir girl went so far as to have them object to the angry women's marches in the streets of Cairo during the last few days.

"This last Friday was a test: the girl's case gave the revolution back its momentum and some of its lustre," he added.

The Islamists boycotted Friday's mass protests against the Egyptian military's use of violence against women, despite women's outstanding contributions to the revolution, since Sally Zahran, the first female martyr, to the hundreds of young women who were beaten, tortured and humiliated during the alleged "virginity tests" and in other ways.

GCC rescue plan for Yemen is vital interest

On Friday, the Yemeni government called upon Gulf states to launch an aid programme similar to the European Marshall Plan to enable the country to become an influential player and an efficient partner in the region.

"This project would be a safety valve for regional security and would prevent many troubles and problems that may befall Yemen due to its enormous economic strain," said the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial.

The Gulf states have offered considerable aid to Yemen throughout the years. Surely they won't turn their backs now, especially since they recently succeeded in stopping the bloodshed through the GCC initiative.

What is requested is a Gulf-devised plan to save Yemen. It must target development as the first priority and set up mechanisms for the next 10 years.

"Yemen is an integral part of the region. Its stability means stability in all the Gulf and its security reflects on all of its neighbours. It is unimaginable that any Gulf state could enjoy security and peace while a part is weighed down by instability and underdevelopment."

A Gulf version of the Marshall Plan would directly impact the living conditions of Yemenis. And a developed, stable Yemen would no longer be a fertile breeding ground for extremism.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem