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Dec 02, 2011
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Former Syrian Vice-President Rif'at Al-Assad: My Nephew Bashar Must Step Down; He Is Not Qualified to Bear Responsibility

#3225 | 10:50
Source: Al-Arabiya Network (Dubai/Saudi Arabia)

Following are excerpts from an interview with former Syrian vice-president Rif'at Al-Assad, uncle of current Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on December 2, 2011:

Rif'at Al-Assad: I did not say that I myself or one of my sons would replace [Bashar Al-Assad]. All I said was that he had to step down.

Interviewer: But who do you propose should take his place?

Rif'at Al-Assad: I propose that for the transitional period, he be replaced by someone from within the regime, who is familiar with all the ins and outs of the regime, who knows its enemies, and who knows the people as well. Such a man must come from within the regime, not from anywhere else.

Interviewer: This means that you are not proposing yourself as an alternative. Don't you want to become president of the Syrian Arab Republic?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Absolutely not.

Interviewer: Not yourself, nor your sons?

Rif'at Al-Assad: No. All I want is a transitional period that will end with the establishment of a framework for democracy in Syria.

Interviewer: You say would like somebody from within the regime to be in charge during the transitional period. Do you have anybody specific in mind?

Rif'at Al-Assad: No, I don't. Today, the Syrian people lives in fear and is divided. It seeks a sense of security, and is afraid that someone will come to power and exact revenge. That is why someone who can offer a sense of security must come to power, even if only for a short transitional period.


The ethnic, sectarian, and denominational minorities are afraid.

Interviewer: From whom? Who is capable of striking fear in the Syrian people?

Rif'at Al-Assad: They fear the unknown.


I was never part of the regime. I was opposed to the regime.

Interviewer: You served alongside your brother, President Hafez Al-Assad.

Rif'at Al-Assad: I did not serve for a single day alongside the president.

Interviewer: So what were you doing in Syria those days?

Rif'at Al-Assad: I was an officer in the armed forces. Then they had me retire, giving me time to pursue higher education. They made me retire because of my opposition…

Interviewer: But you served as vice-president…

Rif'at Al-Assad: After I became vice-president, I didn't work for a single day in that capacity.

Interviewer: As vice-president, do you bear some responsibility for what happened there?

Rif'at Al-Assad: I did not serve even one day as vice-president. Not for a single day.

Interviewer: Have you not heard the allegations – which I will describe in detail in a minute – that you are responsible – and I quote – for the Hama massacre of 1982, and for what is known as the Tadmor Prison massacre of 1980?

Rif'at Al-Assad: That is a great lie, which was devised and marketed by the regime, which passed it on to its friends and allies in Arab and non-Arab countries, who in turn, would pass it on.

Interviewer: Are you accusing the late president Hafez Al-Assad, then?

Rif'at Al-Assad: President Hafez Al-Assad was the leader of the state and of society.

Interviewer: And hence…

Rif'at Al-Assad: Hence, he bore the responsibility.

Interviewer: Are you saying that he bore responsibility for what happening in Hama, in Tadmor Prison, and for all the other massacres of those days?

Rif'at Al-Assad: The Tadmor Prison massacre occurred after the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.

Interviewer: His assassination?

Rif'at Al-Assad: That's right. The Muslim Brotherhood assassinated him. They attacked with bombs.

Interviewer: You mean the assassination attempt…

Rif'at Al-Assad: No, they wounded him, but his bodyguards managed to surround him and push him forward.

Interviewer: It sounds as if you are justifying the Tadmor Prison massacre…

Rif'at Al-Assad: No, I'm not justifying it. I am saying that I went to the president's home and I begged him to show restraint. But he was worked up and said to me: "How can I show restraint when they are slaughtering people day after day?"


[Former Defense Minister] Mustafa Tlass did not say a thing about Hama. The only thing he said was: I would sign daily execution orders for no less than 10,000 people… or rather, 1,500… I don't remember. He would say how many execution orders he would sign every day.

Interviewer: You would sign them? Who would sign the execution orders?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Mustafa Tlass.

Interviewer: That is what you are now saying about him?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Yes.

Interviewer: Do you have any documentation of this?

Rif'at Al-Assad: It can be found on the Internet.

Interviewer: Information on the Internet is published by experts, but you were part of the regime.

Rif'at Al-Assad: Tlass was the deputy general commander. He was the deputy of Hafez Al-Assad, who was the president and the commander of the army. [Al-Assad] delegated Mustafa Tlass and [former chief-of-staff] Hekmat Al-Shihabi to take care of the matter.


I left everything behind in Damascus. Even my clothes. If you went to my home in Damascus, you would find my clothes, my children's clothes, and all the household effects that we collected over the years. I didn't take a thing with me, and I didn't let my family take a thing. That is the truth.


Interviewer: You have said that President Bashar Al-Assad must step down. It sounds like you are saying that the time for dialogue with the regime is over, right?

Rif'at Al-Assad: It is over. Dialogue with the regime is impossible.

Interviewer: You believe in change, right?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Yes. I have worked extensively for change, and all my friends in the Arab world know my position on this.


I would like an investigation into the events at Hama.

Interviewer: You want an investigation?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Yes.

Interviewer: Who would conduct such an investigation?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Any neutral body.

Interviewer: And you, personally, would submit to such an investigation?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Yes, of course. I want things to reach the courts.


I love [Bashar Al-Assad], and I tried, time and again, to send him my children, or intermediaries from Arab countries, but he had a negative approach. He was afraid to have Rif'at Al-Assad in Damascus, because Rif'at Al-Assad would continue his opposition. If I returned to Damascus today, I would continue to serve as an opposition to any government. Throughout my life, I have not served in any capacity but opposition.

Interviewer: Are you planning to return to Damascus some day? Are you thinking about it?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Yes, I am an oppositionist…

Interviewer: Regardless of how you would return, are you thinking about it?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Yes, I am planning to return to Damascus, but in order to serve as an opposition, not as part of the regime.


I believe that the Syrian army is a patriotic army, which does not want anarchy or destruction, and which is seeking a peaceful solution, one way or another.

Interviewer: You say that it seeks a peaceful solution, but an army that attacks towns, kills civilians, and sends tanks to the streets of Homs, Daraa, Deir Al-Zour, and other towns in Syria… Can it be said to be seeking peace in Syria?

Rif'at Al-Assad: This is done by some units, not all the army.

Interviewer: Who gives the orders to these units, in your view?

Rif'at Al-Assad: The defense minister, without a doubt, because President Bashar is not a military man in the military sense.

Interviewer: That is something I wanted to ask you about. From all your statements, it sounds as if you want to absolve Bashar Al-Assad of responsibility.

Rif'at Al-Assad: Brother, why would I not absolve him, when he was appointed president within half an hour, and the constitution was changed for this purpose in half an hour?

Interviewer: Those are the grounds on which you absolve him of responsibility?

Rif'at Al-Assad: He was dragged into this position of responsibility by his defense and foreign ministers.

Interviewer: As president, doesn't he bear responsibility for what happened in Homs, even if he didn't pull the trigger himself?

Rif'at Al-Assad: He does not know how to bear responsibility. He is no good at it. He is not qualified to bear responsibility.


When President [Hafez Al-Assad] died, they appointed Bashar, because they feared that someone else would come along.

Interviewer: That somebody was you?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Some people think so, but it isn't.

Interviewer: Have you abandoned all hope of becoming the Syrian president? Before we move on to another issue…

Rif'at Al-Assad: If I had wanted the presidency, I would have become president long ago.

Interviewer: How come?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Because the people and the army supported me.

Interviewer: If you ran for president in the elections to be held after the regime change, do you think that anyone in Syria would vote for you?

Rif'at Al-Assad: I will not present my candidacy. I will present a different candidate.

Interviewer: Who, for example?

Rif'at Al-Assad: I cannot tell you because I don't know.


Interviewer: Do you think that the main part of the army that has not defected yet will conduct a coup d'état against President Al-Assad in the near future?

Rif'at Al-Assad: No, I don't think so.

Interviewer: Why not?

Rif'at Al-Assad: Because the opposition has not reached the point where it is accepted by the army or the people.


I do not know what role Maher [Al-Assad] plays today, but I am convinced that the propaganda had done him an injustice, because they were looking for a scapegoat on whom to pin the responsibility, so that they would not be held responsibility themselves. They do not dare to pin the responsibility on the president, so they turned to his brother.

Interviewer: In brief, who is trying to pin the responsibility on him?

Rif'at Al-Assad: The defense minister, the chief of staff, the deputy chief of staff, the deputy defense minister, the airforce intelligence, the military intelligence…


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