July 6, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 112

The Speech That Bashar Al-Assad Will Never Make

July 6, 2000
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 112

In the international Arabic daily Al-Hayat, columnist Hazem Saghiya imagines "The Speech that Bashar Al-Assad Will Never Make," in which Bashar Al-Assad promises democracy and freedom:


"The arduous times that Syria went through necessitated a regime that is no longer needed. The world has changed and so have we, or at least we should, so as to find the time to [deal with] our real problems and compensate for the long years we were busy handling problems that withheld our progress."

"The Cold War has ended and sooner or later so will its Middle Eastern parallel. The [continuation of the conflict] is more harmful to us than it is to Israel, which is building a thriving technological economy while neutralizing its [internal] conflicts by the democratic means it has developed over decades."

"The first change Syria must undergo is transforming from a one-party state into a pluralistic, democratic one. The citizens should be directly responsible for decisions relating to their lives and the future of their children."

"I know that the past has created hatred between the regime and the public. [This is why] we must tell the opposition members - 'let bygones be bygones' - and hope they will be mobilized for the great transformation, to save Syria and [begin] her progress. However, if [the opposition] uses democracy to rebel [against the regime], we are all doomed. The skies will tumble down and our future will be in jeopardy."

"Now we have to bring together the regime, the public and the opposition parties, which will all enjoy political freedom. All [political] prisoners will be released; the emergency laws and the military regime will be canceled; multi-party elections, followed by presidential elections, will be held. The Ba'ath party will become [just another] party competing for and sharing financial support and media coverage with all the other parties. We have had enough of the one party regime. The pompous octopus-like bureaucracy must be torn down so that we can fight corruption."

"Obviously, the rule of law will bring about the dismantling of the security apparatuses. This will, no doubt, increase the Syrian people's self-confidence, creativity, and increase the freedom of speech, and affect the economy and vital foreign investments. Banning the establishment of private banks and the lack of a single exchange rate for the local currency damaged investments and prosperity. [This] made the world mock Syria. Our national pride cannot allow it [any longer]."

"Syria was for a long time in conflict with itself. It began in 1949 with the coup of Husni Al-Za'im and it ought to stop. [We have to] live as a normal state in a normal region. We have to keep a small, modern army, rather than the large one that seems to have very little influence [i.e. effectiveness] during wars. We still invest too large a share of our limited resources in this army."

"Syria's identity crisis made us rush into unity with Egypt and caused the military coups. During Hafez Al-Assad's reign, the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Cold War required a unique way of handling this crisis [i.e. the autocratic regime of Hafez Al-Assad]. [This way] granted [Syria] relative stability but at too high a price. Anyhow, this way must stop [now]."

"Syria cannot be more Palestinian than the Palestinians, nor can it be more Lebanese than the Lebanese. This is why we support the Palestinian Authority's decisions. As for Lebanon, we have no choice but to withdraw and stop backing one element [of its population] against the other. The sooner we withdraw [from Lebanon], in coordination with the Lebanese regime, the easier it will be to build future relationships."

"Our real concern today is to renew Syria and its democracy beyond the empty slogans and the tumult of flattery, including by those Lebanese who do not care for Syria's interests or future."

"This realistic and modern path will undoubtedly leave its positive marks upon the diplomatic arena towards regaining the Golan, which was lost during the policy of infatuation. The world would be more supportive of our rights to our territories, and so would Israeli [public] opinion, which we must encourage to pressure its extremist governments."

"Syria needs the efforts of all her sons, and especially their ideas, opinions and convictions. We have to become the house of democracy after so many years of wandering in the desert."[1]

[1] Al-Hayat (London – Beirut), June 25, .2000.

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