In an August 20, 2017 speech at the opening of a conference at the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addressed the situation in the country and set out the main principles of his policy on various issues. Assad said that Syrian society had paid a heavy price during the seven years of crisis, but that, as a result, it had become a more homogeneous and nationally unified society. He said: "It's true that we lost the best of our young men as well as our infrastructure, [built] at great cost and through the hard toil of generations, but in return we earned a healthier, more homogeneous society – in a literal sense, and not as flowery words or lip service. This homogeneity is the basis for national unity – homogeneity in beliefs, ideology, traditions, customs, perceptions and outlook, despite the fact that they are diverse and multifaceted. Homogeneity doesn't mean complete identity, but rather mutual complementation that creates a single national hue. This hue is the basis for national unity that unifies all members of the one homeland.
President Assad delivering his August 20 speech about Syria's homogeneous society (image: sana.sy, August 20, 2017)
Assad's remarks about the homogeneity of Syrian society provoked scorn and fury among the opposition and members of the Syrian diaspora. Academic Najib George Awad, a Syrian living in the United States, published a scathing article in the London-based Qatari daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid in which he compared Assad's comments about Syrian society becoming homogeneous to Nazi ideology, and warned against the birth of a new Hitlerism in light of the world's silence following Assad's statements. He also expressed concern about a global trend among leaders, including in the U.S., to promote social homogeneity in their countries. He wondered how Assad could describe Syrian society, deeply divided after seven years of civil war, as homogeneous.
The following are excerpts from Awad's article:
"The ruler of Damascus [Assad] recently delivered a victory speech in which he announced to his gullible supporters that he has emerged victorious and realized his progressive and ingenious plan, the one he had dreamed of realizing in order to create a new Syria the likes of which the world has never seen. He, or whoever wrote the victory speech for him, did admit that Syria has lost the best of its young men, but he hastened to reassure the unfortunate, naïve sheep who sat opposite him and applauded him enthusiastically that the loss of the best young men was the price that had to paid for the creation of a new Syrian 'homogeneous society.'
"In the 1930s, when the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany, the leader of the new Nazi regime, Adolf Hitler, repeated in several speeches his philosophical ideas about the meaning of 'the [German] nation' and the idea of 'the pure people'... Hitler spoke of the need to purge German society of the social classes that didn't contribute to the creation of a 'homogeneous society' and a new Germany. Hitler spread this discourse throughout Nazi Germany and eliminated anyone who disagreed with him or opposed him. Eventually, he not only caused a world war that cost the lives of millions throughout Europe, he also committed one of the worst crimes in human history [by using] crematoria to purge the race and society... and literally burn hundreds of thousands of Jews and other non-Arian minorities.
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"Today, history is witnessing the birth of a new [kind of] modern Hitlerism, for the world is no longer shocked to see a tyrant murder half the Syrian nation, destroy it, exile it, doom it to an unclear fate and take his country back to the age before [the advent of modern] civilization and human society. [Assad] has carried out the most heinous crimes... on Syrian soil for seven years, while repeatedly using discourse replete with Nazi ideas that we had thought had become extinct.
"What 'homogenous society' are we proclaiming in a country that no longer has [any kind of] society or human collective that meets [even] a single criterion for forming societies?... In terms of its human components, this society has not only lost its networks of mutual aid, and the bond and shared social existence among its [various] strata and groups, due to the discourse of hatred, suspicion, division, hostility and bloody war... It has also lost most of the human infrastructure it had built – now that some one million Syrian citizens have died, 12 million have been displaced and uprooted from their land and homes, a third of Syria's cities have had their infrastructure destroyed..., and the state has lost its sovereignty, is occupied by more than five foreign armies, and in practice is directly managed by Russian and Iranian rulers. The Syrian nation has lost every [mark] of sovereignty, honor and [existence as a] unified and organized collective that meets any basic scientific and objective definition of a society, let alone a human society...
"What 'homogenous society' are we talking about in the face of a tragic and destructive reality that does not allow any kind of homogeneity to exist? What 'homogenous society' [are we talking about] when the conditions for maintaining a society have ended? Syria is not a society but a collective of survivors, and the Syrians remaining [in the homeland] lack any kind of social and collective sentiment, conscience or morality... Syria now consists of small enclaves or groups of different people, a former human collective that is now divided, fragmented and disharmonious, and concerned only with avoiding death and war and surviving in any way [possible], even at the cost of surrendering and keeping silent...
"I was neither surprised nor shocked several days ago to hear the ruler of Syria announce his terrifying ideas in a speech [marking] the victory of Syria and the defeat of its people. For [Assad] already showed us seven years ago, without a shred of doubt, that what we have told the whole world about him is true, and he has repeatedly proved this with his words and actions. What caused me to feel great fear, sorrow and nausea is that he has openly created a Hitleristic model in front of all the world's ideological circles and decision makers, yet nobody batted an eyelid or noticed his statements. I find it deeply alarming to live in a nihilistic, terrifying, extremist and crazy place like today's modern world. It terrifies me that tyranny and racist crimes have become so commonplace that nobody takes any notice of them... We now live in a world in which the decision makers and influential people dream not only of creating a 'homogenous society' but of creating a Hiteristic homogenous world. In this global context of reviving Hitlerism and spreading it throughout the world, Bashar Al-Assad's words are only part of a broader, bleaker and more criminal picture, which is killing humanity [and extends from] the Al-Muhajireen Palace [the presidential palace in Damascus] to the White House."
The same issue of Al-Arabi Al-Jadid also featured a cartoon titled "Assad's Nazi Speech," in which the Syrian president, propped up by the arms of Russia and Iran who are giving the Nazi salute, says: "We lost the best of our young men and our infrastructures, but earned a healthier and more homogenous society."