x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Islamists 'proud' to condemn Syria

As hundreds of police watch, several members of the Kuwaiti parliament and influential Islamists call on the government to expel the Syrian ambassador.

KUWAIT CITY // Islamists continued to put pressure on Syria this week with protests and promises of more to come, just days after three Gulf states recalled their ambassadors from Damascus.

"Now it is beginning," said Adel Al Damkhi, the chairman of the Kuwait Human Rights Society, at a protest attended by about 2,000 people in front of the Syrian embassy in the outskirts of Kuwait City on Tuesday night.

Mr Al Damkhi said the Kuwaiti government allowed the protest to take place "because they want the ambassador to hear the Kuwaiti people".

As hundreds of police watched, several members of the Kuwaiti parliament and influential Islamists called on the government to expel the Syrian ambassador. Mr Al Damkhi said: "The Islamists were the first with the idea to bring the Gulf together on this issue."

The Kuwaiti protest was organised by the Gulf Cooperation Council Group for Solidarity with the Syrian People. Mr Al Damkhi, who is a member, said the majority of the organisation's members were Islamists, including MPs and experts in Sharia, the Ulama.

In Saudi Arabia, "the protest has been led by King Abdullah himself", said another member of the group, Mohsen Al Mowadhi, in Riyadh. The king of Saudi Arabia "expressed the opinions of all the Saudi people" when he called the bloody suppression of protests "unacceptable" this week, he said.

"There are no traditional protests here, but the people are firmly united," said Mr Al Mowadhi, who is also a member of the Qatar-based Global Organisation for Muslim Scholars. "I'm not surprised to hear that people are demonstrating here or there," he said.

The Islamic scholar believes the coordinated actions of Gulf Islamists have "affected the atmosphere" in the Gulf and assured local rulers that they will have support of their people if they condemn the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad.

This week, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Damascus, and the Arab League urged Syria to begin a "serious dialogue" with protesters. Turkey said it had "run out of patience" with the "savage" crackdown.

Mr Mowadhi said "we are proud" that the Islamic movement has led the Gulf's opposition to the Syrian regime. Islamists were massacred by the current ruler's late father, Hafez, at Hama in 1982, "and if the Islamic world allows this regime to go on, our grandsons will be killed in the future", he said.

Adel Al Maawdah, a member of parliament for Al Asalah, a Salafi Islamist political group in Bahrain, said there was a recent protest in Manama against the Syrian regime and he expects to see more in the future. "I encourage it" because "day and night, they are killing innocent people", he said.

Mr Al Maawdah said it was not just the Gulf's Islamists who were condemning the massacres taking place all over Syria. Even some people from Mr Al Assad's own sectarian group, the Alawis, recently spoke against the acts of the "vicious regime", he said.

We want our governments to "make pressure, to talk to the horrible regime - to do something", the veteran member of the Bahraini parliament said. He suggested that the next move should be to "chuck out" Syria's ambassadors to the region.

A Syrian resident of Kuwait waving a banner at this week's protest in Kuwait City, Mahmoud Ahmed, believes the Gulf's Islamists were at the forefront of the opposition against Mr Al Assad because they see it as an opportunity to "slam against Iran".

Mr Ahmed said Iran "conspicuously supported Shiites" during Bahrain's anti-government protests this year, and now the Gulf's Islamists wanted to isolate the Persian Gulf power that many consider to be a threat.

"The Islamists want to end the marriage between Syria and Iran," he said.

 

jcalderwood@thenational.ae