The following are excerpts from an interview with former Syrian vice president Abd Al-Halim Khaddam. Khaddam was Syrian vice president and the top Sunni figure in the Alawi-dominated Syrian regime until 2005 when he left Syria for France, following the assassination of his friend former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri. He then became a vocal critic of the Syrian regime, allying with other exiled Syrian opposition groups, including the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood led by Ali Sadr Al-Din Bayanouni.
To view the clip of this interview, broadcast by New Syria TV on August 17, 2008, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1835.
"Is the Syria of Today... the Same Syria that Used to Be the Beacon of Freedom?"
Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Is the Syria of today – whose national unity has been destroyed by the regime – the same Syria for whose independence and for the revival of whose people our fathers and forefathers have fought, relying for their strength on their national unity? Is the Syria of today the same Syria that used to embrace the Arab causes, and was the beacon of Arab unity and solidarity? Is the Syria of today, which is held captive by its Emergency Law – a law that instills terror by means of oppression, intimidation, imprisonment, killing, and the denial of liberties – the same Syria that used to be the beacon of freedom?
"Is Syria, where a loaf of bread has become people's goal, and job opportunities have become people's hope, the Syria of yesterday, for decades the land of wealth and blessing? Is the Syria of today, teeming with all kinds and forms of crime – murder, theft, bribery, corruption, and forgery, as well as drug trafficking and abuse – the same Syria that used to be secure because of a legal system with integrity and security agencies that abided by the law?"
"Syria's Tribulations and the Suffering of Its People Stem From the Nature of the Regime"
"Syria's tribulations and the suffering of its people stem from the nature of the regime. The monopoly on political rule and on decision-making leads to two interrelated results: One is tyranny, oppression, and the denial of liberties, and the other is corruption.
"This corruption did not emerge spontaneously. It was planned, with two goals: First, to control the country's resources, and to create a circle of corrupt people, in an effort to take over the country's economy, and so that it will become one of the tools for governing the country. With regard to the second goal of the corruption – it is to starve and impoverish the people, so that obtaining a loaf of bread becomes more important than national interests.
"The regime uses sectarian [tension] in order to intimidate the minorities, especially the Alawi sect, warning it that democratic change will harm its interests – while it knows full well that the Alawi sect, just like all the others, was and still is subject to oppression, poverty, and so on.
"Therefore, I address the Ba'thists among the Alawi sect, as well as the intellectuals, the clerics, the members of the trade unions, and all the sectors of society, and I call upon them to restore national unity, by unmasking the regime and supporting the national activity. The continuation of this regime poses a danger not only to just one group within the country, but to the country and the people in their entirety."