Prisoners Of Past – OpEd


Writing on the wall is unmistakable for the rogue regimes in the Middle East. Their time is up. The unprecedented attack on the presidential palace in Yemen on Friday, which injured President Ali Abdullah Saleh, his deputy premier and speaker besides killing many members of the presidential guard, only goes to underscore this reality.

No one expected the Arab Spring to be a smooth affair or that the winds of change would be welcomed by the ruthless, totalitarian regimes that have perpetuated themselves in power for decades at gunpoint. However, the barbaric and murderous crackdown unleashed by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and his counterparts elsewhere against their own people has crossed all limits.

It has been months since this carnage began and thousands have been killed from Libya to Yemen and from Yemen to Syria. This Friday brought another day of rage and endless, indiscriminate killings for the people of Libya, Yemen and Syria. Unarmed, peaceful protesters continue to be killed like flies by the security forces whose job is to defend them.

What is their crime? Demanding the freedom and rights that are taken for granted elsewhere in the world? The audacity to choose their own destiny after decades of putting up with the corruption, tyranny and ineptitude of their tormentors?

The truth is, Qaddafi and his fellow travelers have not just overstayed their welcome and have forfeited all legal and moral sanction to remain in power, they are now guilty of appalling and grave crimes against humanity. They deserve to be tried and punished for war crimes, just as the Serbian mass murderer Ratko Mladic is being tried in the international court in The Hague for genocide of the thousands of Bosnian Muslims.

The extent and nature of the crimes of these so-called Arab republicans is not any less serious. They have virtually turned their countries into killing fields, as they go about silencing every voice of protest against their tyranny and oppressive rule.

The long suffering people of Libya, Yemen and Syria deserve the backing of the international community, not misguided initiatives for “peace and reconciliation” like the ones being tried by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Incidentally, this is Zuma’s second trip to Tripoli to help end the conflict. Obviously, as a fellow African, the South African leader means and wishes well for the people of Libya. However, it’s too late for such peace initiatives now. This movement for change has crossed a point of no return. Truce and dialogue would have been possible, if tanks and fighter jets hadn’t been deployed against unarmed civilians peacefully seeking change.

All attempts to persuade them to leave with dignity while they can have failed. If African leaders have tried to talk sense into Qaddafi and failed, desperate efforts by Gulf Cooperation Council to persuade Saleh to step down in the interest of Yemen’s peace and stability have also run into a blind wall of obstinacy.

Clearly, these prisoners of the past have shut and locked all their exit doors and thrown out the key. They have sealed their own fate and it’s only a matter of time before they end up where they belong — in the dustbin of history. In the meanwhile, the world community must do all it can to support the people who have shown remarkable grit and courage in the face of appalling brutality and offered immense sacrifices to change their destiny.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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