Arabs Celebrate, Debate Gadhafi’s Death

Syrian opposition protesters poured into streets across the country on Friday, as they have every Friday for the past seven months. But this time, the chants were different, the energy higher as the demonstrators trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad were buoyed by the news of  Moammar Gadhafi’s capture and death.

“Gadhafi is gone, your turn is coming, Bashar,” protesters chanted in Hama. “Our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you, Libya!”

Anti-Syrian regime protesters shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad, during a protest after Friday prayers in Tripoli, Lebanon, Oct, 7, 2011.Bilal Hussein/AP Photo

The Local Coordinating Committees, an opposition group that monitors and coordinates protests inside Syria, issued a statement congratulating Libyans.

“This third great victory for the Arab Revolutions sends a critical message to the region, the people suffering under other tyrants, and the world at large,” said the statement. “Therefore, there is no turning back from the demands for freedom, or from the dear and generous blood and souls of those who perished in the fight.”

Expatriate Libyans flocked to their embassies around the world to celebrate. They waved Libya’s new flag, the flag of the monarchy that Gadhafi deposed in 1969. Groups of Yemenis, Bahrainis and Tunisians – who went through or are still going through their own uprisings against autocratic rulers – celebrated Gadhafi’s death in the streets.

As it was in the rest of the world, Gadhafi’s death was front-page news in the Arabic press. “Execution of a Tyrant” the headline read in the Al Akhbar newspaper. “He Lived in Terror and Died in Terror” was Asharq Al-Awsat’s.

But inside the Arabic language newspapers and online a debate was brewing as many condemned the violent way Gadhafi met his end. The street justice of being dragged from a drainage pipe, beaten and eventually shot was not how Gadhafi should have been treated, many argued, despite his innumerable crimes against the Libyan people during more than four decades of rule.

“I didn’t know Libyans are so [violent] this is a bad example in the #arabspring,” a Yemeni woman named Dory Eryani wrote on Twitter.

Many pointed to the Egyptians, who arrested President Hosni Mubarak following his ouster and put him on trial, as more dignified and civilized. Mubarak now faces the death penalty if convicted of being complicit in the deaths of around 850 killed during the January revolution.

In Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper, columnist Satea Nour al-Deen wrote about the “utterly immoral” celebrations and media coverage.

“It was inhumane and immoral to dance around his body and keep putting the footage on the TV,” wrote al-Deen. “It was not moral that the world was celebrating the death of a man who was already dead after the fall of Tripoli…”

In Egypt these days, many who were against the Mubarak regime feel that the humiliation of lying on a stretcher in the courtroom cage is too severe a punishment for the octogenarian. Before Gadhafi’s capture, asking Libyans what fate they would like to see befall Gadhafi elicited a range of answers from exile to lynching. Yemenis, Egyptians and Syrians say the same about their past and current despots.

“Some may argue – and they are many, especially inside Libya – that what happened yesterday was a bloody end to a bloody regime,” wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper. “But the Arab peoples want rosy, democratic, and humane ends to these bloody regimes; ends that would highlight the difference between these regimes’ practices and the democratic rebels’ behavior.  It is one of the qualities of powerful victors to rise above the desire for revenge.”

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