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To many Arabs, Castro was an idol and symbol of freedom

They saw him as standing up to American arrogance

Image Credit: AP
Fidel Castro greets Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on April 12, 2000 at the inauguration of the South Summit of developing nations in Havana, Cuba.
Gulf News

Dubai: Algeria has announced an 8-day mourning period following the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The Palestinian government mourned the Latin American revolutionary leader and lowered the flag to half-mast. Many Arabs used the social media to praise the Cuban icon and international figure who became a symbol for freedom and national liberation for several decades.

Many Arabs look at Castro “as a symbol to resist American arrogance over many years, and be steadfast against the (American and western) embargo against his country,” said Hassam Abu-Taleb, a Cairo-based veteran political analyst at Al Ahram Strategic Studies Centre.

“The idea of him (Castro) being an emblem is very high among large numbers of Arabs because we feel the American arrogance and the different forms of western pressures, and we always seek to have a symbol to love and support,” Abu-Taleb told Gulf News.

Many Arabs hailed Castro in their comments on social media, particularly Twitter. However, others criticised him as well.

“I am not at all a fan of Castro nor a fan of leftists allied with the Russians, but I respect him in his firm stance in defending his country and his principles,” tweeted Abdulla AK.

“The enemy of imperialism, the champion of the poor and oppressed he is a role model to free nations,” tweeted another under the name of Wissam.

“The man who turned his people into refugees and beggars has died,” tweeted Faiza Ali.

“For every dictator has a bunch of fans,” commented Alfares Alzahrani on twitter.

While the late Cuban leader was an icon for national liberation seekers around the world, he did not represent the model that many Arabs seek, particularly that freedom became a priority for many Arabs, commented Abu Taleb.

Through freedom, he continued, Arabs believe they “can face American arrogance”, he added.

Yet, regardless of the view to Castor and his role in the past decades, he will go into history as one of those great leaders who searched for freedoms and resist colonialism, said some Arab political analysts. They put Castro along with South African Nelson Mandela, Yugoslavian Josip Broz Tito, Egyptian Jamal Abdul Nasser and late Palestinian Yasser Arafat.

“Surely, Castro is connected with many peoples around the world as one of the top national freedom leaders and the last one on the list of the national liberation movement around the world,” commented Jihad Harb, a west-bank Palestinian analyst and writer.

Castro’s supporting position to the Palestinian question has not changed one inch throughout the years, added Harb in an interview with Gulf News.

“With his passing,” said Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, “I lose personally, a friend and companion of more than half a century. This is also a great loss of the people of Algerian who have a special relationship with El Comandante, made of respect, admiration and mutual affection,” he added.