March 21, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1119

Former Syrian Soldier's Letter of Apology to the Lebanese People

March 21, 2006
Lebanon, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 1119

The reformist website recently posted a letter addressed to the Lebanese people, by former Syrian soldier Ahmad Mawloud Al-Tayyar. In it, Al-Tayyar apologized for the plunder and humiliation perpetrated by Syrian soldiers against the Lebanese during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon - for which Al-Tayyar now feels shame and remorse.

The following are excerpts from the letter: [1]

I Did Not Dare to Think of Voicing My Objection to Entering [Lebanon], Which has Been Soiled by My Army Boots

"...I am a poor Syrian citizen who came into this world to discover that I, and the rest of my generation, have been condemned [to live] under a regime which I did not choose of my free will and did not appoint to rule me... Just as we do not choose our own names, our height, and the color of our eyes and skin, we came into this world and heard that there is a ruling party called the Ba'th Party, and that there is a pan-Arab [Ba'th] leadership as well as a regional [Ba'th leadership]. We also [heard] that there is a People's Council and popular organizations... This is the atmosphere in which I was raised, and this is the school from which I graduated.

"We were taught to love our homeland and that Israel is our enemy. We memorized grandiose slogans which I only understood after I grew up - such as 'Syria is the emblem of the Arab revolution,' 'Love for the leader follows from love of the homeland,' and 'the Muslim Brotherhood is a gang of collaborators with the U.S. and Israel,' as well as many terms and concepts relating to progressiveness and reactionism...

"I hereby declare my cowardice, my fears, and my defeatism, and I apologize to all the Lebanese, [since] on the day [we] went into Lebanon, I did not dare to think of voicing my objection to entering this country, which has been soiled by my army boots. I knew the consequence of such a rebellion, and I was afraid to announce [it] and to take that decision.

"One beautiful day in April 1988, my army boots defiled 'the Switzerland of the East.' I began my mandatory army service. Then came the shameful dates, one after another. I participated, heard, saw with my own eyes, and bore false witness to various 'incidents,' from the assassination of [Lebanese] president René Moawad [2] to the defeat of General Michel Aoun who hid in the French Embassy, [3] as well as other dismaying [incidents] that occurred between these two events..."

I Saw Lebanese [People] Being Publicly Humiliated at Syrian Military Checkpoints

"I heard with my own ears and saw with my own eyes... the lectures on nationalism and pan-Arabism delivered by 'our officers' during morning classes. Whenever [they] left [Lebanon], these officers piled into buses that returned by night to Damascus and Hims. These buses were [like] markets packed with [loot] - everything needed in the markets [of Damascus and Hims]. I saw the military vehicles carrying away even bathtubs, doors and window frames made of expensive wood that had been torn from [Lebanese] homes after their owners had left or abandoned them.

"I saw with my own eyes how the Lebanese people of the north Al-Matan region begged to be allowed to harvest [the pine nuts from] their pine trees, since this was their source of livelihood, but their pleas were ignored... Our brave soldiers girded their loins and undertook the task [themselves]... The tasty pine nuts were sold in the markets of Damascus...

"I saw Lebanese [people] being publicly humiliated at Syrian military checkpoints, and being 'lectured' by illiterate [Syrian] soldiers on various matters, great and small. I saw a lot of things, but my shame keeps me from speaking out about them.

"Fifteen years after leaving Lebanon as a soldier, I returned there as a civilian, my mind still filled with the sights [that I had witnessed] in places that I had loved, and whose [inhabitants] I had liked. To them and to all the Lebanese I [now] offer my apologies. I am deeply convinced that a civilized people like the Lebanese will [be able to] forgive and forget."

[1] March 8, 2006,

[2] René Moawad was president of Lebanon for only 17 days in 1989, from November 5-22, when he was assassinated by a car bomb that exploded near his convoy. To this day, no investigation into his murder has been conducted.

[3] Michel Aoun is a Lebanese politician, and formerly a prominent anti-Syrian leader, who served as acting president of Lebanon between 1988 and 1990. When the Syrians bombarded the presidential residence in 1990, he was forced to hide in the residence of the French Ambassador to Lebanon. Ten months later, he went into exile in France, and returned to Lebanon in 2005.

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