Ever since I have involved myself with the affairs of the Syrian conflict, a number of years now, I have come to hold the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad increasingly highly, as an individual of great character, intuition and humanity, and also as one of the world’s greatest and most personable national leaders. With his quiet, humble demeanour, his rational outlook, his strength in adversity, his obvious love for his country and its people, Syria is fortunate indeed to have him direct its path through many years of what can only be described as a living nightmare, not of their own making.
That, I fully realise, is not the image that is usually presented to the world through external media, but I pride myself in being able to see through all such obfuscations, to determine what is real and what is pure geopolitical fakery.
This interview with the president, for and by the Syrian media has only strengthened my opinion of the man. In this shared article from the SANA website, in English, it is a very long read – if you choose to accept the challenge to read it – but it is very worthwhile and has aided my understanding of the current upsurge of activity in recent days. I commend it to you. But I urge you to cast aside any pre-conceptions you may have before proceeding.
Many important topics are discussed openly and frankly. I offer a sample of the discourse in this extracted quote:
“Journalist: But what is the problem with the Kurds, even before the war? Where does the problem with them lie?
President Assad: Although we stood with these groups for decades, and we could have paid the price in 1998 through a military clash with Turkey because of them, we stood with them based on the cultural rights of these groups or of this segment of Syrian society. What do they accuse the Syrian state of? They accuse it of being Chauvinistic, and sometimes they accuse the Ba’th Party of being a Chauvinistic party although the census conducted in 1962 was not under the Ba’th Party, because it was not in power at the time. They accuse us of depriving this group of their cultural rights. Let us presume that what they say is correct. Can I, as an individual, be open and close-minded at the same time? I cannot. Can the state be open or tolerant and intolerant and close-minded at the same time? It cannot. If we take an example of the latest group which joined the Syrian fabric, the Armenians. The Armenians have been a patriotic group par excellence. This was proven without a shadow of doubt during the war. At the same time, this group has its own societies, its own churches and more sensitively, it has its own schools. And if you attend any Armenian celebration, a wedding, or any other event – and I used to attend such events because I used to have friends among them previously – they sing their traditional songs but afterwards they sing national, politically-inclined songs. Is there any form of freedom that exceeds this? The Syrian Armenians are the least, among other Armenians of the world, dissolved in society. They have integrated, but not dissolved into Syrian society. They have maintained all their characteristics. Why should we be open here and unopen with others? The reason is that there are separatist propositions. There are maps showing a Syrian Kurdistan as part of a larger Kurdistan. Now, it is our right to defend our territorial integrity and to be wary of separatist propositions. But we do not have a problem with Syrian diversity. On the contrary, Syrian diversity is rich and beautiful which translates into strength. We do not have an adverse view of this; but richness and diversity are one thing and separating and fragmenting the country is something else, something contrary. That is the problem.”