Interview | Syrian opposition activist, Habib Saleh: "heir of Hafez al-Assad runs for the presidency" • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Interview | Syrian opposition activist, Habib Saleh: “heir of Hafez al-Assad runs for the presidency”

“Half a century has passed since a family inherited and passed the power in Syria,” said Syrian journalist, political activist Habib Saleh, commenting on the presidential election that will take place by end of May.

“From a father to a son, the al-Assad family has torn the country into pieces and turned it into a chess game, where its member practiced a political role that was odd to the public, rights and life laws,” Saleh told SOHR in an exclusive interview.


He added, “in addition to getting involved in the Syrian military institution, Hafez al-Assad has been a prominent figure in the Ba’ath Party that usurped the power by a military coup on March 8, 1963.”

“At that time, Hafez al-Assad has declared the state of emergency, and the martial laws that abolished the political parties, and prohibited the peaceful transfer of power,” he said.


The late Syrian regime president has also established the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (SRCC) that was formed of a group of generals who lacked any experience in political life, Saleh explained adding that these generals’ national backgrounds have been generated from their party loyalty and their sectarian and military affiliation which entrapped the country into individual ambitions, personal interests and hierarchal competitions.


He highlighted, “the generals’ conflicts and mixture have resulted in military movements and coups that brought Hafez al-Assad to the presidency in 1966 with his sect’s close allies, in addition to new faces like Salah Gadid, Mohamed Omran, Abdel Kareem al-Gendy, Ahmad Abdel Kareem, Ahmad Suwidan, and others affiliated to minorities like Salem Hatoum al-Derzi.” “That stage in the Syrian political life has ended by a large war that led to the defeat of the Syrian army on June 5, 1967 when al-Assad was the country’s minister of defense,” he added.


“Al-Assad’s fellows attempted to hold him accountable for the defeat, the matter that he completely denied,” Saleh said adding al-Assad rejected to resign and started to prosecute his fellows, who failed to tackle the reasons of defeat, and protested his post as a defense minister, and his membership in the SRCC. The failure to hold al-Assad accountable in the 1967 war, was a big victory for a defeated general who, in few years, managed to hold his own, control the country, arrest his thirty fellows who were members in the SRCC, the regional and national Ba’ath leadership until all of them passed away in prisons except for five who were pardoned late when they were old and parlayed, according to the Syrian politician.


He reiterated, ”al-Assad has been turned into a dictator who controlled the Syrian society, Ba’ath party and leaders of the religious communities, and the so-called ‘National Progressive Front’ that was composed of remnants of the weakened leftist and national parties who joined al-Assad party over the bodies of Ba’ath members and against the aspirations of the Syrian people and the necessities of democratic transfer of power where a state of emergency and martial laws continued.”


Saleh added “between 1979 and 1982 al-Assad turned against the Muslim Brotherhood group, as he built a fateful alliance with the Khomeini regime in Iran, occupied Lebanon and destroyed the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) with a US-Israeli green light. In those years, al-Assad destroyed Syrian and Lebanese cities like Hama, Palmyra, Jisr ash-Shugu, Tripoli, and Mount Lebanon. “When all the forces recognized and obeyed al-Assad, the remaining members of (PLO) joined a national front he launched,” said Saleh adding the Syrian president has assassinated and jailed most of the PLO’s officials.


Al-Assad’s regime also arrested figures of the Lebanese National Movement like Kamal Jumblatt, Mufti Hassan Khaled, and the chairman of the Lebanese Press Syndicate Riyad Taha, added the Syrian political activist. Saleh added “Syria remained without political, party life or free elections. The President became the supreme leader of the armed forces, the secretary-general, the supreme guide, and the sole dictator who resembled the leader of North Korea, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Augusto Pinochet in Chili. However, the Syrian people did experience no victory, transfer of power or national unity in a country that was capable to continue.”


Al-Assad has replaced the posts of nation, party, and state, where personal loyalty to the president came first before the nation, the patriotic values and dreams.


“With no difference to his father, Bashar has deepened alliances with Hezbollah, Iran, and Turkey while stifling the forces of liberty and change in Syria,” he added.


When the people protested in 2011 in southern Syria and in Damascus, al-Assad used the blatant forces against the popular movement, arrested and jailed his opponents, he added.


Meanwhile, the protests expanded to overwhelm other areas in Syria provoking Bashar al-Assad to strike the protesters with airstrikes and heavy weapons, he added. At that time, the Islamic fronts started to emerge, took advantage of the protestor’s efforts and took credit for themselves, and militant forces and militia backed by some Gulf countries, Iran and Turkey claiming the launch of a long-awaited “Arab Spring”.


Since 2012, the international and national organizations have recorded al-Assad chemical, military missiles and random barrels attacks.


The UNSC has issued resolution number 2254 out of other nine binding resolutions that necessitated the democratic transfer of power political reform, ceasefire, sacking the foreign forces that were invited by the regime for protection since the beginning of 2013.


“Iran, Hezbollah, and Turkey have entered and are still remaining in Syria, while the Russian forces interfered strongly in 2015,” he added.

He added, “the results of the war, holocaust, that was launched by the regime and its allies have left half of the Syrian people displaced internally and abroad. It has destroyed the hospitals and millions of buildings, murdered more than 700,000 persons, while prisoners exceeded 160,000.”


The regime used the demographic change concept when thousands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbullah, and the Russian have inhabited the houses of the Syrians who have been accused of terrorism and opposing the regime.


Until today, the state of emergency and martial laws are still enforced, he said, adding after 60 years, the rights of expression are still confiscated.

There is no press, no parties, no power transfer in Syria, he said adding all the regime-established institutions, which are basically diversified militia as a deep state and structure of the spiteful regime, are selected not elected.


Saleh added, “it’s difficult to run elections that seek to legalize the current regime that murdered, displaced people, and caused political, urban and economic destruction.”


The elected regime’s components, documents, secrets aren’t subject to the national public opinion, he said, questioning “the authenticity of the coming elections in a country where there are no people, no Syrian sovereign decisions, no elected democratic institutions have existed.”

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