Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Syrian Opposition Responds

Here is Deborah Amos' National Public Radio broadcast on:
"Syrian Opposition Leaders Meet in London" (click on the link to listen to the story)
by Deborah Amos

Morning Edition, July 11, 2005 • Contact with some political groups is illegal in Syria. Officials have cracked down on meetings and arrested several dissidents. But two leaders from different groups are challenging the Syrian government by publicly meeting in London.
Farid Ghadri of the Syrian Reform Party wrote to complain about my coverage of the split between the SRP and the newly formed Syrian National Council, which I wrote about here: The Syrian Opposition tries to Remake Itself but Falls Flat
Hello Joshua,
I wish you would dig deeper than that. Islamists control the SNC we invited everyone to and that is why RPS pulled out. They used the State Dept. to grandfather the meetings we invited them to show they are supported.
Best,
Farid
This goes some way to explaining what is going on among the foreign opposition, but it is still rather unclear to me.

Here is the transcript of the Amos radio report:

FOR THE FIRST TIME, A LEADING SYRIAN DISSIDENT HAS CHALLENGED THE REGIME OF SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL ASSAD BY MEETING PUBLICLY WITH THE LEADER OF AN OUTLAWED ISLAMIST GROUP…THE MOSLEM BROTHERHOOD.

MEMBERSHIP IN THE BROTHERHOOD, EVEN COLLABORATION WITH THE GROUP, IS A CAPITAL OFFENSE IN SYRIA. THE MEETING TOOK PLACE IN LONDON.

BOTH THE SYRIAN DISSIDENT, AND THE ISLAMISTS AGREED THAT DEMOCRACY IS THE WAY TO SOLVE SYRIA’S PROBLEMS AS NPR’S DEBORAH AMOS REPORTS FROM DAMASCUS.

(Music of opening of the program)

IN A CRAMPED LIVING ROOM POLITICAL DISSIDENTS GATHERED FOR A SATELLITE TV BROADCAST ON AN ARAB NEWS CHANNEL FROM LONDON.
THE PROGRAM OPENED WITH A QUOTE FROM THE KORAN, THEN A TITLE: “DEMOCRACY” WRITTEN IN BOLD ENGLISH AND ARABIC LETTERS.

ON THE SCREEN, TWO MEN, FROM OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS SPECTRUM, SAT SIDE BY SIDE.

Riad al Turk speaking in Arabic – just use this for pacing – a second or two)

RIAD AL TURK SPENT 17 YEARS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR MEMBERSHIP IN SYRIA’S COMMUNIST PARTY. HE WAS INTENSE AND RUMPLED….BUT STILL THE MOST RESPECTED MEMBER OF SYRIA’S POLITICAL OPPOSITION.

(ambience of Sadr al Deen Bayanouni in Arabic)

SADR AL DEEN BAYANOUNI LEADS SYRIA’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, BANNED IN SYRIA – EXILED IN LONDON.

IN HIS WELL- CUT WESTERN SUIT AND NEAT BEARD, BAYANOUNI SEEMED MORE LIKE A POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR THAN THE LEADER OF AN OUTLAWED ISLAMIST MOVEMENT. THE UNUSUAL BROADCAST WAS A MESSAGE THAT ANY GROUP, EVEN ISLAMISTS, WHO SUPPORT IN DEMOCRACY, ARE WELCOME TO CHALLENGE THE RULING POWER IN SYRIA SAYS A MEMBER OF THE DOMESTIC OPPOSITION.

“We need democracy by any way, we need gatherings, and we need demonstrations to invent political life. We need time.”

KEMEL LABOUNI, WHO SPENT THREE YEARS IN PRISON, ADMITS THIS NEW DIALOUGE WITH THE BANNED MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS A RISK. BUT OPPOSITION GROUPS ARE ALREADY UNDER THREAT. IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS SOME OPPOSTION MEMBERS HAVE BEEN JAILED. MARWAN KABALAN, A PROFESSOR AT DAMASCUS UNIVERSITY, SAYS THE REGIME IS CRACKING DOWN.

“ I feel like they are so much afraid to change.”

KABALAN SAYS WHILE SYRIA’S PRESIDENT SUPPORTS POLITICAL REFORMS, SOME PARTS OF THE REGIME STILL WILL NOT TOLERATE DISSENT.

‘It’s better for every body, for Syria, for the government for the opposition, to just talk.”

BUT NO ONE IS TALKING TO SYRIA’S OPPOSITION…NOT THE SYRIAN REGIME, OR THE US GOVERNMENT.

JOSH LANDIS, AN AMERICAN ACADEMIC LIVING IN DAMASCUS, SAYS SYRIA HAS BEEN LEFT OUT OF WASHINGTON’S POLICY TO PROMOTE DEMOCRATIC CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S DEMANDS ARE AIMED AT CHANGING SYRIA’S EXTERNAL BEHAVIOR. WASHINGTON WANTS AN END THE FLOW OF ARAB MILITANTS INTO NEIGHBORING IRAQ, AND TO STOP INTERFERING IN NEIGHBORING LEBANON.

“None of those things concern democracy in Syria and this leaves the opposition high and dry. They realize they have no ally in America.”

LANDIS SAYS IT IS UNLIKELY WASHINGTON WILL PROMOTE DEMOCRACY IN SYRIA, OR PRESSURE FOR INTERNAL REFORM.

“Because that means when you ask Bashar to treat the democrats responsibly, then you have to reward him when he does it, and that means dialogue, carrots not just the stick. It’s completely antithetical to the present policy.”

FOR MARWAN KALABAN, WASHINGTON’S POLICY OF ALL STICKS AND NO CARROTS HAS UNDERMINED HOPE FOR SYRIA’S POLITICAL REFORMERS.

“The Americans are not willing to talk to the Syrian regime, the Syrian regime is not willing to talk to the opposition and the opposition cannot talk to any of them. So how are we going to resolve this? It’s a very complicated and difficult situation.”

SYRIA’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS WILLING TO TALK – ABOUT DEMOCRACY – AND REFORM…AND SYRIA’S POLITICAL DISSIDENTS ARE LISTENING. DEBORAH AMOS NPR NEWS DAMASCUS.

5 Comments:

At 7/13/2005 09:15:00 AM, Anonymous Mohammed said...

Great article;

As an Allawi in opposition to the rule of the Syrian Assadist clan and gangs, I welcome with a great anticipation the rapprochement between the Right And Left wings of the Syrian opposition groups. Certainly I am not against the Muslim Brotherhood when they have openly declared their new plan for pushing Syria toward democratic principles again (for Syria had democracy before, and was killed by foreign interventions that supported coups d'etats).

The Assad family must see to it that it can not own Syria for ever. Syria is not their private property, though they made it so. I hope also that the US will stand for the principles of democracy in Syria. The US must know that the Syrian people, more than any other Arab nation of the other 21 or 22 love every thing that is American. Contrary to what they may have read from the split tongue minsiter of immigration in Syria, Butheina Shaaban who say something in English to Americans, and then writes inflmmatory articles continuously against every thing that is American and Western in Arabic newspaper, the Syrian people have a great deal of admiration to the US and the greatest people on Earth who are the American people. The Syrian people were very disappointed with the performance of the Iraq liberation, since they were awaiting the coming of the Americans with open hearts. This is the opinion of the little Syrians who probably can not access the Internet and not in English to express what they want, but I have talked to so many inside Syria during the Iraq liberation war, and I know that we Syrians expected much more help from the AMericans then they are showing us.

America: Show the Syrian people that you are true to your principles.

Thank you.
Mohammed, the Allawi

 
At 7/13/2005 03:11:00 PM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

Mohammed,

What exactly is the program of the Moslim Brotherhood. Talk is great, but I would like some specifics before I confess the same enthusiasm as yours?

Wishful thinking on your part, here. The all sticks and no carrots American administration is even starving its own schools and hospitals. Never mind the carrots they serve to poor African countries, consisting of debt relief in exchange for ultra-liberalization (they cancel the debt but at the cost of the Africans turning over ownership of all resources to Western multinationals).

I would like to respectfully point out that you are a 'Alawi, not a 'Allawi (when you put the shaddeh on the "l" you would pronounce the name of the fomer prime minister of Iraq). By the way, Mohammed is a rather unusual name among 'Alawis.

Peace on you. Long live Syria.

 
At 7/13/2005 03:22:00 PM, Anonymous Mohammed said...

To Kingcrane:

Have you forgotten the Alawi General who was assissinated by Hafez Assad in 1971 in Lebanon where he retired and pulled out of politics, and was an Alawi? His name was Mohamad Omran.

Thanks for correcting the spelling of Alawi for me. You are right about that. You must be a true Arabic Socialist Baathy to be that precise, but thanks.

Mohammed (the Alawi)

 
At 7/14/2005 10:54:00 AM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

Mohammed,
No, I am not a member or supporter of any political party. I am a linguist. My wife is from Lattakia. We have friends from all colors of the 'Alawi political spectrum, including some that do not dare going back to Syria (non Ba'thists and non-mainstream Ba'thits).

 
At 7/14/2005 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous Mohammed said...

To KingCrane:

I hope Professot Landis takes note with what you just said. I respect your opinion, but disagree, of course with your assessement of the egomaniac Hafez Assad who was happy to build all his statues, and make his pictures imposed on every wall of the country, and simply was happy with the idea that people worshiped him like a god, or even God. You see that as a comparison with De Gaul when he considered himself "l'état'. I answered you in another thread about this very far fetched comparison.

Assad was not a noble man.

Mohammed (The Alawi for the sake of the discussion).

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home