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,This goes some way to explaining what is going on among the foreign opposition, but it is still rather unclear to me.
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.
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.