x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Arabic language newspapers on Gulf's Bidoons and arming Libya's rebels

Arabic language newspapers look at reforms in Syria and sectarian strife in Bahrain.

Withholding reforms is a big mistake for Syria

The Syrian president's speech before parliament in Damascus on Wednesday suggested that his government has decided to confront its internal crisis with strict security measures rather than reform, observed Tareq Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based Asharq Al Awsat daily.

Although Damascus hasn't hesitated in its support of other uprisings - "the voice of peoples expressing dissatisfaction with their leaders,"Mr Bashar al Assad views the events of his country as a reaction to the revolution "trend" that is taking the region by storm.

In his speech, Mr al Assad did say reform is crucial, but he failed to declare any reforms. That betrays some dissent behind closed doors in Damascus about ways to deal with the unprecedented protests in various Syrian cities.

Only three days earlier, the vice president, Farouq al Sahrea, officially announced that the president would deliver an important speech. Naturally, expectations were raised among Syrians and foreign observers alike, especially given that Syria impacts regional dynamics. But the address was nothing but a series of promises.

Immediately after Mr al Assad spoke, protestors took to the streets in Latakia and were dispersed by live fire. No one can predict what the coming days hold for Syria, "but what is certain is that withholding much-needed reforms, even under pressure, was a grave mistake," the writer said.

Gulf crisis is 'not strictly sectarian'

"I disagree with Sheikh Khaled Al Khalifa, the Bahraini foreign minister, when, in an interview with Al Hayat newspaper, said the problem in his country comes down to a conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiites and is not an issue between the ruling elite and the opposition," noted Abdul Rahman al Rashed in a column for the pan-Arab Asharq al Awsat newspaper.

"I do see truth in his assessment of the current situation - a very explicit one, coming from the chief diplomat in Bahrain - but I am against throwing in the towel on the issue, on the basis that it is a historical conflict between two sects, thus beyond the government's control.

"In fact, I think the Bahraini crisis has swollen into a sectarian issue only in the last chapter of a simmering conflict between the government and its supporting forces, on one side, and the opposition, on the other," the columnist said.

Utilising sectarian allegiance has been a 14-century-old practice in the whole region's politics. And yes, there is a faction in Bahrain that is loyal to Iran and Hizbollah, but it does not represent all of the country's Shiites.

Opening channels for dialogue between all the parties involved in Bahrain's political life would have thwarted all sectarian flare-ups, fanned by Iran or otherwise. And these channels must still be opened now.



Gulf's Bidoons must be given a status

The name Bidoon ("those without" in Arabic) is a bit inappropriate, but it has imposed itself as the common reference to a category of people who are almost native to an Arabian Gulf country, yet are not entitled to its nationality and so remain "without" one, commented Abdul Ghaffar Hussein, an Emirati writer, in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan.

"That is to say, they are deprived of their rights as humans. For it is their due right to acquire that nationality, as per international conventions and basic human rights principles.

"And every state that has a group of people unjustly living 'on the margin' must realise that its future will have undesirable things in store," the writer said.

Granted, the situation of the first generation of Bidoons, who came here 20 or 30 years ago, is a bit tricky. But what about the second generation, their sons and daughters who have been born and grew up on this land, here in the UAE or in other Gulf states?

"I've come to know some members of that second generation, and I can say that they don't differ - in attitude, language, hobbies or behaviour - from other nationals.

"These youth must, as soon as possible, be integrated in the list of categories eligible for citizenship."

Decision to arm the rebels to be made soon

There will be no speedy end for the confrontations that loom on the horizon for Libya, as Col Muammar Qaddafi still holds on to power and insists on fighting rebels and challenging UN resolutions or the will of the international community, observed Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

In light of this reality, the US, Britain and France proposed to arm the rebels in the event that air raids and missile attacks failed to persuade Col Qaddafi to relinquish power or to disable him militarily.

Under resolution 1973, arming the rebels becomes legally justified, as it aims to protect civilians.

The rebels have demonstrated a weakness in warfare and, had it not been for raids and cover provided by allied forces, they would have been crushed in a matter of days.

The alliance succeeded in partly disabling Col Qaddafi's air and ground forces, nonetheless, but the rebels' archaic weapons are still no match for his remaining military arsenal.

In the coming days, an analysis will be conducted to assess the impact of the raids on the Qaddafi regime. And in light of the analysis, the appropriate decision pertaining to the armament of the rebels will be taken.


* Digest compiled by Achraf el Bahi