A tale of two presidents, one crying and one laughing

by Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh


There is no doubt that everyone who has a conscience in the Islamic world or even an iota of humanity within them lived with great sadness and heartbreak last week as we saw the tragic aftermath of the terrible earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria. Tens of thousands were killed or injured and entire cities and towns were destroyed in the two countries. Earthquakes take no notice of arbitrary borders, and Turkish blood mixed with Syrian blood in the rubble, where hands were joined and souls met as they ascended to their Creator.

Turks and Syrians worked side by side to rescue survivors, despite the appalling weather. Nobody thought twice about the nationality of the injured child, woman or man; all were happy when anyone was pulled from the rubble alive.

Credit is due to Turkish officials who used their international contacts to garner solidarity and aid for both countries, even though the international focus tended to ignore sanctioned Syria. This was no surprise, as Islam unites us in the face of those who try to separate us and provoke nationalistic, ethnic and sectarian conflict amongst us. The earthquakes demonstrated that Islam unites us, no matter our differences, and brings us closer no matter how far apart we are.

Hence, our hearts were breaking as we watched the rescue teams pull the dead from under the rubble. We bade them farewell with tears and prayed to God to have mercy on them, accept them as martyrs, and save those left behind.

It was clear that the earthquakes brought out our shared humanity. The Arab people responded before their governments, as usual. Appeals were launched from mosques, and congregations performed absentee funeral prayers as an expression of the “Ummah as one body” concept. Donations were made to provide humanitarian aid for the earthquake victims.

The victims lost everything in the blink of an eye. They spent their whole life working hard to buy their house and car, and save for the future. Then they were gone; they had to leave it all behind. They had no choice. Our lives are fragile; we argue and fight with each other and gloat about our power and authority one minute, and in the next it is all taken away. Our human weaknesses were exposed by the force of nature.

Social media is filled with hundreds of stories coming out from under the rubble, and they have no choice but to say,” Glory be to God, who brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living.” One mother went into labour and gave birth under the rubble. She handed her baby to the rescue teams; then she passed away.

Another child was pulled from the rubble after 120 hours laughing and smiling, as if he hadn’t been under the rubble for many long hours without food, water or daylight.

These two surviving children represent the new challenges for the region. With every hardship there comes ease, we are told in the Holy Book. There is good in everything, even if we can’t see it at the moment.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife visited the city of Kahramanmaras the day after the earthquakes to reassure his people about the progress of the work being done following the disaster. He walked through the streets meeting families and weeping with them; he promised that he would rebuild what was destroyed within a year and provide them with decent housing. The Turkish leader also said that they would be given money to help them at this difficult time, and announced a seven-day mourning period for the victims, and a three-month national emergency to remove the rubble and restore life to the affected cities.

Over in Syria, meanwhile, President Bashar Al-Assad — the Butcher of Damascus — and his wife went to Aleppo four days after the earthquakes, after they were assured that the aftershocks had ended. They posed for photos, smiling for the cameras as if it were a happy occasion. Assad was no doubt pleased to receive phone calls from Arab and other leaders offering their condolences and calling for sanctions on Syria to be lifted, which would benefit the regime and end the punishment of him and his senior officials. They all stand accused of using chemical weapons against civilians, and committing crimes against humanity and war crimes. An end to sanctions would also mean that humanitarian aid would flow into Syria, opening up new possibilities for high-level looting and discriminatory distribution. This was a frequent complaint on social media.

In fact, Bashar and his criminals are subject to America’s Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, but the real siege is against the liberated areas in north-west Syria that are held by the opposition. That’s where the butcher’s regime has targeted residents with barrel bombs supported by its regional and international allies since 2011. The siege has been in place for more than ten years, and it affects around five million Syrian citizens, most of whom are displaced and fleeing from the regime’s repression. Regional and international positions on the regime have gone back and forth. Will the world provide it with support despite its crimes? And will that be seen as some sort of normalisation with the Assad regime?

This was an immediate matter of moral and humanitarian controversy, but some Arab countries decided quickly what their position would be, and provided support directly to the Assad regime. This happened despite many reports alleging that he dealt lightly with the earthquakes, and even traded some of the aid at a time when it was hard for aid to reach the affected areas. What little has managed to get through was never going to be enough, given the extent of the human and material damage.

The friends of the killer Assad said that the earthquakes were a golden opportunity to be used politically and exploited in his favour. The voices calling for an end to sanctions on him and his regime are getting louder. If this happens, we all know that it means that he will be given more time to liquidate more members of the Syrian opposition.

This is a tale of two presidents, one crying and one laughing. When it comes to sincerity, it is clear which one has his people’s interests at heart.

Source: Middle East Monitor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Follow us on Twitter


Follow us on Twitter