Middle Eastern leaders have been quick to add theirs to the influx of condolences for the Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, who died on Friday aged 90. The response so far has seen a panoply of praises from a selection of presidents who, like Castro, have a far-from-perfect political reputation.
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, passed on a telegram of condolence to current Cuban President, Fidel’s brother Raul, which was shared on his official Facebook page: "On behalf of the State of Palestine and its people, and my own behalf, I extend to Your Excellency, and through you to the people of Cuba, heartfelt condolences on the death of leader Fidel Castro, after a life spent defending a solid foundation for his homeland and its people, and truth and justice in world issues."
The Facebook post also highlighted that Cuba was the only Latin American nation that voted against the decision to partition Palestine in 1947, and since then has been a champion for national liberation movements across the world, especially “the Palestinian revolution”.
Iran's President, Hassan Rohani, praised Castro, saying: "As we witness the deprivation of people’s basic rights such as peace, justice and freedom, there are freedom fighters and activists who are resisting until their last breath to keep demanding that the flags of freedom and justice are raised among the peoples of the world." Given Iranian animosity towards the US, Iran has long recognized Cuba, historically a symbol of resistance against American dominance, as an ally.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also wrote that "the great leader Fidel Castro efficiently and effectively led the struggle of his people and his country against imperialism and hegemony for decades and became a legend and an inspiration for leaders and peoples all over the world." Cuba has recently been criticized for continuing to support al-Assad and his Russian allies during the bloody Syrian civil war, denying sending troops to support the regime.
The Turkish Exterior Ministry issued a statement recognizing Castro’s “radical reforms” and stating that “the influence of the struggle to which he devoted his life was not limited only to Cuba but also to the whole world, so he earned respect, even in different political camps.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that Castro was a symbol of the struggle and the defense of the issues faced by the developing world.
Some in the Middle East used social media to express their condolences for his death, and their respect for his legacy:
“That a correct principle should come out of the darkest of caves, this is stronger than the biggest army in the world” #FidelCastro #TheFatherOfTheCubanRevolutionHasDied
Cuban leader #FidelCastro challenged 11 US presidents, and avoided more than 600 assassination attempts, to prove that free will is the most valuable asset of peoples.
Fidel Castro was much respected in the Middle East as a symbol of resistance to American dominance and imperialism. The Cuban revolution helped to inspire many anti-imperialist movements in the region against British, French and US colonial ambitions. Castro also sent fighters to support Arab forces against Israel in the 1960s and 70s. Most surprisingly, the marxist leader was cited as an unlikely inspiration by some Islamist leaders.
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