While regime loyalists were infuriated at the suspension of Syria’s Arab League membership, activists and opposition figures breathed a sigh of relief and hailed the decision as a step toward taking Syria to the freedom for which it has been struggling.
At last, the Arab cover has been lifted off the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, said Syrian journalist Bassam Gaara.
“This cover is what gave Assad one chance after another, and this, in turn, led to the killing of more Syrian civilians,” he told Al Arabiya.
Despite seeing the suspension as a positive step, Gaara warned of a violent response from the Syrian regime.
“The regime will react with more killing and suppression, yet we are counting on the people who have reached the point of no return and who will continue their struggle until they win.”
Gaara added that the main concern is ending the crisis with the least amount of damage possible, and stressed the important role of the Syrian army in reaching this end.
“We call upon the Syrian army to refrain from carrying out Bashar al-Assad’s orders to kill innocent civilians.”
The secretary-general of the Syrian Unified Bloc, Wahid Sakr, blessed the Arab League’s action as the fruit of the Syrian people’s efforts and said the army and the president are now left with few options.
“The army has to stop spilling the blood of Syrians and Bashar al-Assad has to step down immediately,” he told Al Arabiya.
Sakr added that the coming stage necessitates the involvement of the Security Council as the Syrian agenda shifts from the Arab to the international scene.
“It is now time for the Security Council to take up its responsibility towards the crisis in Syria.”
Regarding Lebanon’s objection to the suspension, Sakr said he was not surprised.
“This is the government of Hezbollah, whose militias took part in killing the Syrian people.”
Iraq’s abstention from voting, Sakr explained, was equally expected.
“The militias of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also took part in killing our people.”
Syrian activist Islam Abu Shakir agreed with Gaara as far as the reaction of the Syrian regime is concerned.
“Of course the regime will respond with more violence, because reaching the highest levels of repression is the only means it possesses in order to stay in power.”
Abu Shakir praised the Arab League’s demand that the Syrian army stop crushing protests and killing protestors and stressed the importance of the army’s response to this demand.
“Leaders and officers of the Syrian army have to take a clear stance and to stand by the people.”
Nedal Darwish, a member of the political bureau of the General Association of the Syrian Revolution, said the suspension of Syria’s membership at the Arab League proves that the Syrian regime has lost legitimacy on both the local and the regional levels.
“However, it would have been much better had this happened earlier in order to minimize the number of the regime’s victims,” he told Al Arabiya in a phone interview from Geneva.
Darwish stressed the necessity of setting clear mechanisms that regulate the implementation of the suspension and that provide protection for Syrian civilians.
A dissident officer and member of the Syrian Free Army, Captain Ammar al-Wawi welcomed the Arab League’s decision, and anticipated more division in the Syrian army.
“This regime is falling apart from inside even though it looks like it is strong from outside,” he told Al Arabiya.
According to Mohamed al-Abdullah, a member of the opposition, the Arab League’s decision poses a challenge to the Syrian opposition.
“The Syrian opposition needs to unify its ranks and adopt one approach in order to gain legitimacy,” he said.
One opposition figure, Loay al-Hussein, said that he thinks it will be nearly impossible for the Syrian opposition agree to agree on one, united stance within three days, as the Arab League requested.
“We have asked the Arab League to establish a permanent office in Damascus in order to communicate with different opposition factions, yet it seems to want to support one opposition party, which is the Syrian National Council,” he told Al Arabiya.
Hussein said he expected that the Arab League would not be involved for long in the Syrian issue and that it will soon internationalize it in order to “relieve itself of the burden,” as he put it.
Another Syrian activist, Hakam al-Baba, viewed the Arab League’s decision as the end of one era and the beginning of another.
“We are now ending the dark ages and are starting to come out to the light,” he wrote on his page on the social networking website Facebook.
“This is the stage of fastening our seat belts, starting our engines, and getting ready to take off in a new space other than the one where we spent 40 years of darkness.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)