Exiled Syrian businessman and activist Ribal Al-Assad, the first cousin of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, said in a December 2, 2020 show on Rudaw TV (Iraqi Kurdistan) that Syria should be a Western-style democracy with a modern constitution under which all sects and religions are equal. He said that he supports a gradual and peaceful progression to such a system, and that radical Islamists had hijacked the Arab Spring revolution, which he said had the same goal. Al-Assad also said that Turkey is an occupier of Syrian land just like Israel is. He claimed that his father, Rifaat Al-Assad, had always advocated democracy.
Ribal Al-Assad: "In my opinion, there should be real democracy in Syria – a democracy in which the people are those who choose the ruler. This should be the choice of the people. Syria is not a monarchy, and Al-Assad family does not rule the country as a royal dynasty. The Ba'ath party came to power, and then my uncle, Hafez Al-Assad, may he rest in peace, became [President]. My father had always been by his side. There were disagreements within the Ba'ath party in Syria. My father had always been among those who advocated democracy and freedom. I was brought up according to these values, and I cannot change... I am not against Bashar Al-Assad as a person, but as I've said, I support democracy and a gradual and peaceful change, and I am against violence. There should be a modern constitution in Syria that would stipulate that all citizens are equal before the law. There must not be any differences between the various groups within the Syrian people. There should be no differences between men and women, between sects, between religions, between the Arabs and the Kurds, and so on. There is no other way to build modern Syria, the Syria of the future.
"However, this must happen peacefully, and not by the kind of opposition we have witnessed in the past decade – an opposition that bears arms and kills anyone who does not subscribe to their deviant ideology. For example, they have killed some of our Kurdish brothers and members of other sects, they have killed some of our Christian brothers, and [people from] all the different groups within the Syrian people. Nobody has been spared by them. We certainly do not want to replace a dictatorship with religious rule. We do not want to see in Syria what has been happening in Iran for 40 years, where the Shah was replaced by a religious regime. This is certainly not what the Syrian people hope for. When the Syrian people took to the streets in 2011, they aspired for the kind of democracy they see in Western countries.
"Unfortunately, the extremist Islamists hijacked the so-called revolution, and therefore, most of the people who had opposed the dictatorial regime decided to stand by it, because they saw it as the lesser of two evils.
"The most important countries in the world today – America, Russia, Germany, and Switzerland – have federal systems. There is nothing wrong with that.
"I always say that there is no difference between one occupier and another. There is no difference between the Golan Heights and the Province of Alexandretta which is much larger than the Golan Heights. Both [Israel and Turkey] occupy our lands and we must regain these lands."