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On the Front Line - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English
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On the Front Line

The cover of Marie Colvin’s On the Front Line

A year ago Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin was killed in Syria. Colvin had spent her career covering the conflicts and wars of the Middle East. She had seen countless corpses of martyrs, terrorists, and agents, along with all other labels used to characterize those who have died, and likewise she had seen the hatred, ignorance, and revenge in our region that characterizes those who are still living.

Cleverly, Colvin chose a profession of endless employment here; a region that thrives on the rhythm of killing and the culture of death. From the experiences of our ancestors we know that wars breed in these parts on their own, without reason; once for the sake of a horse, another time because of defeat in a soccer match, and another time because of a disagreement over a birthplace or birthdate. Death, devastation, and destruction are innate here.

We also know from our ancestors that the colonial era was highly successful in uniting the Arab youth, because they hated it and cursed it every day. In fact, the longest era of Arab unity immediately followed the Sykes-Picot agreement, which the Arabs vehemently detested. From the history books of this era, one could deduce that all Arab wars have since been in aid of Palestine. However, this is not the case. Since the colonial era, we have seen Arab wars in Oman, Beirut, Kuwait, and so on; between Libya and Egypt on one occasion and another time between Sudan and Egypt in Hala’ib. These days we are witnessing demonstrations in every Arab city but not in Palestine.

Now Colvin’s collective work has been published in a book entitled “On the Front Line”, from 1987 on the Iraqi-Iranian battlefront to 19 February 2012 in Homs, Syria.

Colvin grew accustomed, like the correspondents who came before her, to the language of the Arabs: Each declaration of unity is followed by a war of secession. All talk about sisterly relationships is used to conceal bloody conflicts. Every speech by a president about not wanting to extend his reign actually means he wants to stay in power forever and then bequeath power to his son.

Thus Marie Colvin chose to write only about the truth on the front line; the people, the victims, the suffering, and the misery. The rest is lies. The news tickers that we read on television screens reel off the names of children, orphans, and widows, as rockets explode amongst those queuing for bread or returning to their homes. Marie Colvin’s final report from Homs was about a young mother who had lost her husband and brother in a single explosion as they were traveling to the bakery. A day later she lost her home. She, her neighbors, and the rest of the Homs residents were real people; they had names, they were not just daily numbers on a news ticker. They had friends, families, homes, schools, and hopes and dreams. Now they have nothing and can do nothing but wait for the next expression of Arab anger against the Sykes-Picot agreement!

Samir Atallah

Samir Atallah

Samir Atallah is a prominent Lebanese journalist, author and political analyst.

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