|2006-01-24 00:00:00 : Syria > Politics|
|An Nahar Exclusive: Interview with released former Syrian MP Riad Saif|
|An Nahar, a privately owned Lebanese newspaper, published an exclusive interview with Riad Saif on January 24. The article read: “Riad Saif, former industrialist from Damascus and former independent MP who lost his seat in the parliament after he was accused of seeking to change the constitution by illegal means, still enjoys the same enthusiasm he had before he was imprisoned. Moreover, he even tells his visitors that his four years behind bars were very enriching, whereby he became more politically-mature and has a clearer vision of his relationship with the Syrian regime. |
“The interview aimed at finding out what was Riad Saif’s vision of the Syrian opposition, of Islamic political parties (namely the Brotherhood), of other countries and his involvement in internal change, in addition to his speculations about the future of the Syrian regime that is currently under a lot of pressure.
“AN: ‘To start off, what are your real intentions behind founding a liberal party’?
RS: ‘It doesn’t have a real definition. We are closer to a democracy in concept and work mechanism than to a liberal system. I mean we are democrats with all the implications of the word, that which has evolved and gained experience from WWII in Europe and international organizations that work in human rights, etc. A democracy that is built on solid grounds and a moral system, in accordance with the Syrian people’s culture. That is why we try hard to stay away from slogans…’.
“AN: ‘Do you have any partners and where are they coming from?’
RS: ‘We do have partners and the work will not be done individually. The whole group is currently at a discussion phase and we are trying to create the concept behind this party before we start the project. It should be able to include all of Syrian society, with all its elements, economic, social and religious factions and [the effort] should find common factors between all of them’.
“AN: ‘Will that be possible?’
RS: ‘Well yes. Take the Democrat party in the US, it includes different social classes. The same applies to European parties. In these experiences, there are no pre-established molds…’.
“AN: ‘What about the Syrian opposition. Will you cooperate with it? Are you satisfied with its performance?’
RS: ‘I hold the Syrian opposition in high regards because it works in such unfavorable conditions and is walking through a landmine. As you know the author of an article can pay a hefty price for it, like being thrown in jail for example. That is why I say give the Syrian opposition some credit. It is operating in abnormal conditions and whatever effort it does, it is fine. On the other hand, members of the Syrian opposition who have gathered within the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change, have proved to be capable of operating under any circumstance…. Of course we will have a lot of things in common and there might be a possibility of some sides cooperating with members of the opposition that are close to us…’.
“AN: ‘What about the Syrian opposition outside of Syria?’
RS: ‘All Syrians outside of Syria, whether in the opposition or ordinary exiles who left the country for specific reasons, they are all citizens that belong to this country. And there are ways of dealing with the opposition outside on different levels, starting from the Damascus Declaration and possibly ending in partnership. But let me make something clear now. There’s a red line for us and hindrances that keep us from dealing with some members of the opposition… What I mean by red line is that members of the opposition should not have been involved in the previous corruption in Syria… We can’t deal with this sort of opposition and we don’t have the right to annul it. We have no problems with Islamic groups and organizations. I mean when the Islamists become democrats, they won’t frighten us anymore.
“In this regard, and to avoid any misunderstanding, I have to say there certain issues on which I have very clear position. The first is that I totally refuse foreign occupation no matter for what cause it is conducted. The second is we need to establish a clear cut [line] between the interests of the Syrian people and that of the Syrian regime… if the Syrian people’s interest is in danger we will be standing on the front lines to defend our dignity. If the Syrian regime’s interest is in danger, that is an entirely different matter.
“I would also like to point out that the opposition on the inside has the right to make its message, political speech and program heard by the Syrian people. This is a right that is guaranteed by all legislations. At this point we do not have that right and we will demand it. If we get it all is good. If we don’t we will scream and if our screams don’t get through, we will seek help from any of the free powers in this world…’.
“AN: ‘This raises the issue of your vision of the outside. Do you think it has the power to help in achieving a democratic change?’
RS: ‘If the Syrian people have correct ideas and concepts that allow it to request the rights it’s been missing for 40 years, then it will be able to make the change through its national leaders and within its capacities. It will not need any foreign support nor militarily nor financially. In that case we would have transitioned into a democracy with the least damage possible…’.
“AN: ‘In light of all the ongoing international pressure on Syria, how do you conceive of its future?’
RS: ‘… I don’t see Syria changing because of foreign pressure, on account of certain accusations, like the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Al Hariri for example. We honestly seek to change the regime in a very peaceful way… not by overthrowing the current regime. There are many clear indicators to the incapacity of the Syrian regime to go on or achieve reform... If President Bashar Al Assad decides to accept the change and real democracy,…then the transition towards democracy would be easy, at a very low cost, and achievable by the end of his term in 2007. President Bashar Al Assad would go into history as the man who took a nationalistic position and spared his people from a lot of anguish’.” - An-Nahar, Lebanon
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