Saturday, March 22, 2014

Let us count the ways Arabs are dying

 March 22, 2014 12:12 AM
By Rami G. Khouri
How many ways are there to die in the Arab world today, other than through an act of nature or a natural death? Let me count the ways.
Being subjected to deliberate siege and starvation must be the worst way to die, and it is happening before our eyes in the Yarmouk region of Damascus that is mainly inhabited by Palestinian refugees. This is also happening in other parts of Syria where government forces have denied civilians access to food and medicine, inflicting slow death by starvation.
Next on this list of horrors are the growing incidents of Arabs drowning at sea while trying to migrate illegally to southern European countries. Hundreds of North Africans died when their boats capsized near Sicily last year; many others from Syria, Libya, Egypt and African lands risk the possibility of a quick death by drowning rather than the certainty of a slow death in their own crumbling or violent homelands. In just two days this week, the Italian Navy rescued 2,400 Arabs trying to reach its shores. The migrants came in 13 different ships – a veritable armada, unprecedented in its grotesque procession of desperate individuals who fear life at home more than death abroad.
Third on my list is the grotesque practice of beheading, often in public squares. This is mostly done by extremist Salafist-Takfiri religious fanatics who act like barbarians, slitting throats and decapitating other Arabs whom they accuse of being heretics, mostly in lawless lands such as Syria and Iraq. They often display the decapitated bodies and severed heads in public, and distribute videos of their deeds, making their degeneracy a global spectacle.
Death by torture is number four on my grisly list. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Arab men, women and children are tortured or raped to death every year. This is a double disgrace on the face of Arabism, for torture is practiced by state security authorities as well as rebel militias, gangs and other criminals.
Number five is to be at the receiving end of heavy artillery, missiles and barrel bombs ordered by one’s own government, a death that is all the more criminal because most of the victims are innocent civilians, not armed combatants. Like starvation sieges, these acts are war crimes according to international law, yet many Arab governments and rebel fighters have nonetheless evaded prosecution and punishment for such crimes.
In sixth place are the daily deaths of people killed by car bombs or suicide bombers. Most of these cases involve Arabs killing other Arabs, not attacks against foreign invaders or occupiers such as Israel in Palestine, or the United States and United Kingdom in Iraq, as was previously the case. With the rare exception of targeted political assassinations, civilians are almost always the only victims.
Seventh, sniper fire in urban neighborhoods is an increasingly common cause of death, especially in places such as Tripoli, Lebanon and Fallujah, Iraq, among many others. Heartless and sick Arabs pick off their neighbors in a way akin to shooting plastic ducks at a summer carnival.
Number eight on my list is the death of civilians who are killed during political demonstrations, whether they are targeted deliberately by government troops, accidentally by shooters from all sides, or are trampled by frantic crowds. Even during legitimate and nonviolent political protests, death is never far away today for Arabs expressing their views.
For many years, Arabs have also died by fire from artillery and other weaponry launched from foreign, often neighboring states. This is occurring increasingly these days, with Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians and Palestinians being killed by fire from neighboring Arab states or Israel, or by American drones in countries such as Yemen.
The last entry on my list is the worst, because it involves hundreds of millions of Arabs who are alive biologically, but have died on the inside from the lethal combination of misery, humiliation and agony that come from recognizing what has happened to their societies and many of their leaders. We adjust to these methods of death and go on with our lives, but we walk with our heads bent lower than usual – not to evade a bullet, but to hide our shame.
This is only a passing moment, though, when heartless killers and criminals – some in official positions – trample on the decency, humanity and vibrancy of Arab culture and values. These will regain their footing soon, I am sure, because they are what I encounter every day across the region. The relatively small number of killers and despots will eventually be driven out, and we will raise our heads again, remembering how we once killed and died in so many ways during the lowest point of our culture in the last 9,000 years of settled human life.

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