Voices from The Arab Press: coronavirus and refugees

Why do women have a clear advantage over men in fighting COVID-19?

 TEST TUBE with coronavirus label is seen at the end of January.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
TEST TUBE with coronavirus label is seen at the end of January.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Rai, Kuwait, March 6
We’ve all been talking about coronavirus, but we fail to mention another infection that has plagued our society: the sectarian virus. The sectarian virus leads people to delude themselves, promotes fanaticism and spreads a culture of hatred in order to win the voices of the masses. What we need to do in order to fight this disease is to find rational people who would be willing to stand up and speak on behalf of the quiet majority.
The most important factor defining modern society is the notion of the nation-state. We must protect our national sovereignties in order to defeat tribalism. To do so, we need to educate all Kuwaitis that the only way to disarm and demobilize those promoting sectarianism is to prevent them from reaching the National Assembly.
Unlike coronavirus, the sectarian virus will not go away simply by wearing face masks or isolating ourselves indoors. The Kuwaiti people must speak up and take action. If they reelect sectarians into power, the sectarian virus will continue to plague our nation. Sadly, there is no cure or vaccination that would help us.
– Khaled Ahmed Al-Saleh
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 5
The recent strikes carried out by pro-Assad forces in [Syria’s] Idlib Province are a stark reminder of the importance of the rule of law. Not because of the 800 innocent civilians who were killed in Idlib over the course of the past few weeks, but because of some one million refugees who have fled… with the hope of surviving the attacks. According to sources, the Syrian regime systematically targeted refugee camps and healthcare facilities in order to inflict maximal civilian damage.
With nowhere else to go, these civilians started making their way to the Turkish border. Sadly, however, Turkey will not harbor them. Instead of taking them in and resettling them, Turkey will simply pass these individuals onward to Europe. But Europe cannot bear more of them, especially since among these innocent and vulnerable individuals are inevitably some hidden terrorists from Al-Nusra and other rebel groups. By tracing the flows of refugees, we can better understand the meaning of the rule of law. Why is it that Turkey can expel refugees to Europe while European countries insist instead on absorbing them? Why is it so easy for Turkey to blackmail Europe?
The answer is that the rule of law in most European countries is sacred. Its revered status is not derived from a religious ruling, but rather from the authority of the parliament, which is elected by the people. Among these laws are humanitarian laws related to the protection of refugees and foreigners. The Turkish government’s “dumping” of Syrian refugees onto European soil is telling of how the Turkish government views its own citizens: It has zero respect for them.
While Western governments unconditionally accept refugees because that is the pledge they made in law, Turkey simply ignores its legal commitments. And just like it violates laws pertaining to refugees, it can easily violate other laws pertaining to the rights and protection of its own citizens. This is the difference between these two worlds: One enshrines the universality of law under democratic rule, while the other bends and twists laws to meet the interests and needs of a regime.
– Abdallah Bin Bujeit
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, March 6
The Syrian war, which erupted nine years ago, marked the first time that Turkey used its air force and artillery to target Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias. The Turkish F-16s and drones would not have entered Syrian airspace had it not been for the protection of American forces on the ground. Just like it allowed Israeli fighter jets to operate freely against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in the vicinity of Damascus, Russia also enabled the presence of Turkish planes over Syria.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his intention to travel to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin, whose spokesman has said that Russia does not want to widen the circle of war in the region. What worries the Turkish president about the nature of the Iranian-Syrian military move in northern Syria is the fear that the latter will invade Turkish territory. Ankara revealed its suspicions, threatening the warring parties that it will do everything it can to protect its borders and citizens.
As for why Damascus and Tehran want to expand the circle of war and redirect it toward Turkish territory, the explanation is clear: The goal is to cross the border under the pretext of pushing armed groups away in order to weaken Turkey. Suddenly, Ankara discovered that all of the understandings and arrangements it had reached over the past two years with Iran and Russia in Sochi came back to haunt it.
The US opposes the recent agreements in Syria and criticized the Turkish position at the time.
Washington is demanding that the Syrian opposition be given a seat at the table, and that Iranian forces be expelled from Syria. The truth is that Erdogan is paying the price for his indecisiveness, as well as for his decision to align himself with the Iranians and Russians at the expense of the Syrian opposition. A quick look at the map shows that most of the fighting is happening just several miles away from Turkish borders. During the past weeks, [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s forces have carried out the most violent and devastating attacks in Idlib [Province] and its vicinity.
The Turks have only issued denunciations in response, while hundreds of thousands of residents have been forced to flee toward Turkey. Erdogan has no room for errors. If he does not defend Idlib and the Syrian [civilians] in the areas adjacent to his country’s borders, the war will leak into Turkey. Millions of Syrians will be displaced from their homes and flee across the border.
– Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Al-Watan, Egypt, March 6
Will the coronavirus become weaker as temperatures rise? Several scientists have attempted to answer this question, as well as another important question: Why do women have a clear advantage over men in fighting COVID-19? Regarding the first question, there is disagreement on this issue to date. Some scientists believe that if everything goes well, the new virus might behave like the influenza and stop spreading with the rise in temperatures during the spring and summer months. However, it’s still too early to predict how similar this virus is to the flu. Furthermore, unlike influenza, which almost everyone has come in contact with at some point, COVID-19 is a virus that is completely unknown to our immune systems. This, together with weather conditions in the northern hemisphere, set prime conditions for the rapid spread of the disease. Air humidity also affects the transmission of respiratory viruses. Once pathogens are expelled from the respiratory system through a sneeze, they become suspended in the air. In cold and dry winter days, small drops, along with viruses, float in the air for a longer period of time than when the humidity is high.
Regarding the second question, the female sex hormone estrogen helps women cope with viral diseases. Some immune-linked genes have estrogen-binding sites where these genes are triggered, meaning that they are controlled by hormones. Therefore, women are less likely to contract certain diseases to which men are prone. The coronavirus season could very well end with the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, according to the World Health Organization. Yet, the fact that both Australia and Brazil – two countries in the southern hemisphere where it currently is late summer/early fall – have seen cases of COVID-19 suggests that this debate has not been definitively settled. As we say goodbye to the cold and rainy days of the winter and begin to prepare for the Middle East’s long summer days, let us hope that this heat-related theory proves true.
– Khaled Montaser
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.