Middle East

Sykes-Picot marked with bitterness and regret by Arab media

Sykes-Picot map Image copyright National Archives
Image caption The Sykes-Picot map was drawn with a line from Persia to the River Jordan

The signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement 100 years ago is marked with regret and bitterness by Arab columnists and social media users.

Some commentators believe that the "same type of conspiracy" that led to the deal is still at work today.

The Sykes-Picot agreement secretly carved an area stretching from Persia to the Mediterranean into British and French spheres of influence.

Egypt's official Al-Ahram newspaper bemoans the anniversary of the "ominous" deal as something which "divided the Arab nation".

Ayman Al-Hammad comments in the Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh that the anniversary "reminds Arabs that they were not liable to decide their fate".

But Twitter user @muhydinlazikani says: "The old hag Sykes-Picot turns 100. The strangest thing in its history is that all who attacked it fiercely defended the borders she drew."

Twitter user @Rafiknasrallah says: "As we commemorate Sykes-Picot, and after 100 years many of us still think like cattle and will not realise what has happened, and what is not happening."

'Catastrophic division'

And Ibrahim al-Hamdi, writing in the London Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat, still suspects a conspiracy: "When Briton Mark Sykes and Frenchman Francois-Georges Picot drew their map in Arab sand on the sick body of the Ottoman Empire in 1916, they did not know that 100 years later London and Paris would be begging Washington and Moscow to let them have a role in redrawing borders on their map, and that the sun would shine on two new empires."

Twitter user @Pencil192 also suspects a conspiracy: "There is a new Sykes-Picot planned for Arabs, using the argument that dividing them along sectarian and national lines will protect them from infighting and conflicts that are in reality staged by the West and Zionists."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption One Twitter user noted that Arabs were fiercely defending borders decided by Sykes-Picot

Ali Badri argues in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar that condemnation of the Sykes-Picot legacy is unfair, saying: "The Arab Spring erased the maps of Sykes-Picot. These are no longer valid. Some pillars of the old Arab system have collapsed. Terrorist groups arrived with epic horrific projects. The maps need updating to reflect the new global and regional balance of powers."

Referring to claims by the Islamic State group that it is busy reversing the work of Sykes-Picot in Syria and Iraq, the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi daily says: "What is closer to reality, is that Islamic State made this border similar to what the agreement entailed! The Ottoman province of Mosul and the Anbar desert that Islamic State annexed to some Syrian Euphrates territory were attached to Syria in the Sykes-Picot agreement."

For Kurds, the signing of the agreement was particularly painful as it "divided Kurdistan between four countries in an appalling violation of the rights of the Kurdish people", one Kurdish man remarked to Ara news in north-eastern Syria. "The international community should now consider the ambition of this nation to obtain its legitimate rights and establish its rightful homeland, Kurdistan."

The Union of Kurdish Writers and Journalists in Syria issued a statement saying: "Every Kurd should know this dark page of international conspiracy which took away our rights as a people. Our catastrophic geographic division was worsened, as our homeland moved from the hands of colonialism to the domination of racist authorities, which exploited us in more horrific ways."

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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