Residents of Idlib embraced the Arab League’s decision with frustration and disappointment. “The Arab League should have cut ties with the Assad regime,” says Moataz Khattab, a displaced person from Aleppo who is now living in Idlib.
The Arab League’s decision, which was issued yesterday, Sunday, to restore Syria’s membership and resume its participation in League Council meetings, angered many Syrians in the city of Idlib, the last stronghold of the opposition in Syria.
The League of Arab States suspended Syria’s membership in it in 2011, with the onset of the conflict, which quickly turned into a civil war and many Arab countries severed their relations with the Syrian regime.
Since that date, armed fighting has torn the country apart, killing nearly half a million people, as well as displacing half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
Hundreds of thousands of displaced people live in Idlib, and 90 percent of its population depends on humanitarian aid. The city is outside the control of the regime and under the grip of the opposition.
The population embraced the Arab League’s decision with frustration and disappointment. “The Arab League should have cut ties with the Assad regime,” says Moataz Khattab, a displaced person from Aleppo who is now living in Idlib. He adds, “The regime should not restore its place, they must bear responsibility before the people and before the world.”
Meanwhile, Yahya Nema, a resident of Idlib, said, “We hoped to see (Assad) in the International Tribunal and not in the Arab League, because of his crimes.” “The leaders of the Arab League are like Assad, but their people have not yet revolted against them,” he added.
Another displaced person who lives in Idlib, Hamid Salah, said: The Syrian president does not represent his people, instead of returning him to the university, they should send us back to our areas (..) the president is a criminal who killed us and hit us with chemicals, and he has detainees, returning them to their families is better than returning (Assad) to Arab League.”
The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said during a press conference following the meeting that when Riyadh, being the host country, invites to attend the Arab summit, Assad “may participate in the summit if he wishes to do so.”
Damascus did not announce whether Assad would participate in the Riyadh meeting. The Sirte summit in Libya in 2010 was the last summit he attended.
Aboul Gheit explained that “Syria’s return to occupying the seat is the beginning of a movement, not the end,” considering that the settlement process will take time and that the decision “involves the Arab side for the first time in years in communication with the Syrian government to discuss all the elements of the problem.”