SOHR exclusive | “America’s godfathers are the ones who created this opposition, and we will never allow for Syrians to be used as mercenaries in Ukraine,” says Ibrahim Al-Jebbawi
After they have been hit hard with hunger, death and displacement during a protracted war which has been raging for over 11 years, Syrian people are dreaming of a political settlement which can potentially enable them to obtain peace.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, the regime opponent politician, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Jebbawi sees that the role of the opposition remains ineffective and that it has been unable to reach a middle ground to put an end to the crisis, despite its diverse potentials, where the Syrian regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, exploited the crisis to service their narrow interests. Al-Jebbawi has also pointed out that all signs in the past years prove that the solution in Syria will never be a military one.
Q: 11 years have passed since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, what is your evaluation of the current situation? And why have all parties failed so far to apply the UN resolutions?
A: The Revolution reached its peak in 2015, when the Syrian regime was about to face defeat, but the Russian intervention has changed the game and altered all equations. Weapons have been pumped into Syria with the aim of killing Syrian people, dividing and destroying Syria. Even the strict measures have harmed the weak and poor Syrians only. It is common knowledge which party to be blamed for the failure of applying the UN resolutions.
Q: Do you think there will be any other channels to the solution of the Syrian crisis away from the international resolutions which aim to find a political and peaceful settlement?
A: The Syrian opposition and the society of the Syrian Revolution believe that the political settlement will be reached only when any proposals of military solution and any other solutions leading to violence are put aside. These powers have been forced to take up arms to defend the country and people. We hoped that the peaceful revolution would not be armed by gangs, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias. However, self-defence is legal, even according to the law, and that is why the revolutionary parties interfered and took up arms. We comply with the international resolution, especially Resolution No. 2254. We demand the international community undertake its responsibility to implement this resolution or even impose an urgent working mechanism for applying the resolution. Until now, we have not felt any tangible efforts or decisive decisions by Geir Pedersen. At the same time, we know that Russia does not want this resolution to be implemented, especially since Russia attempted to circumvent this resolution through Astana and Sochi conferences against the will of the Syrians who have called for freedom and equality and trusted the UN resolutions.
Q: After 11 years since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, the file of detainees is still being ignored and the fate of thousands remains unknown, how can this issue be addressed earnestly with the aim of forcing the warring parties to work on solving it and disclose the fate of detainees in their custody?
A: Despite efforts and attempts by all local, regional and international powers which stressed the importance of finding a solution for this complex issue which touched every Syrian family, the Syrian regime will never accept to open it, even after the sanctions imposed on the regime under “Caesar Act” over the death of 11,000 people in regime prisons. Caesar had leaked 55,000 pictures portraying the tragedy of detainees in the regime’s prisons and blatant violations and massacres displayed by international media outlets and documented by international human rights organisations. We consider that the file of detainees is above negotiations, especially since most of the detainees have been arrested arbitrarily for opposing the ruling class which remained in power for decades. As soon as people took to the streets, expressed their demands and called for freedom and democracy, they were driven to prisons which violated all international standards. So, we appeal to the United Nations to undertake its responsibility and intensify its efforts to disclose the fate of detainees and forcibly disappeared people.
Q: Reports have been circulated about readiness of 40,000 Syrian fighters to fight in Ukraine alongside Russian forces. Are not you concerned about repeating the scenario of Libya by exploiting Syrians and turning them into human shields in that war which Damascus described as a fight against the Nazi in that region?
A: Yes, many reports have stated that thousands of Syrian people would join the fight in Ukraine. Sadly, many accept Syrian people to be used as mercenaries to support Russia, which is an enemy of the Syrians, as Russia has used its chemical weapons against us for years. Morally and politically, we refuse this step and see Damascus authorities’ statement a new immoral fault. We oppose the policy of Tashbih (from Shabiha; the abuse of power) and practices by the National Defence Forces. We never accept sending any Syrians to Ukraine. On the contrary, we have been condemning the use of our people in Libya, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Putin is attempting to bring back the glory of the Soviet Union and the old Russian Empire, and this is an unreachable dream.
Q: Members of the opposition “Syrian Negotiation Commission” have appealed to the “Friends of the Syrian People Group” to put an end to the Russa’s deep-penetration and expansion in the Syrian crisis and the repression by the ruling class. How can this expansion be brought to an end?
A: Yes, I was a member of the group which sent a letter to the Friends of the Syrian People Group, aka the “Small Group,” during its participation in a meeting in Washington, in which we called for putting an end to Russia’s deep-penetration and expansion in the Syrian crisis and forcing Russia to be neutral, as it, the Syrian regime and Iran have been accused of committing crimes against Syrian people. Moscow has not come to Syria to find a solution for the crisis, as its intervention was harmful and destructive. Russia has prevented Al-Assad’s regime from being defeated, as the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov said “without our intervention, Bashar Al-Assad would be defeated in two weeks.” The Russians came only to side with Al-Assad’s regime, and they could not care less about the people of Syria who have been grappling with oppression, injustice and arbitrary arrests. The Russians’ reprehensible practices and intervention in Syria can be stopped only when the international community does its part.
Q: After 11 years of the ongoing war, can we say that Al-Assad has gained a victory, since he has not been defeated?
A: What gains Al-Assad has brought with a rate of poverty having reached 95%, a country threatened of imminent unprecedented famine in light of acute shortage of food, water, medicine and basic essentials, millions of people being displaced in and outside Syria, and considerable destruction erasing features of civilisation, as if it is still in the middle ages?! If we count the deaths and complete destruction of infrastructure as victory, then yes, Al-Assad has won only by arrests, killings and destruction.
Al-Assad has defeated morals, patriotism and Syria’s sovereignty and allowed division of Syria and segments of Syrian society just to stay in power. The Syrian regime had to welcome the people’s demands, especially after it lost 70% from the Syrian geography, but it chose the way to death and destruction. Moreover, people in the areas which regime regained control over, after the Russian intervention in 2015, remained hungry and deprived of decent standards of living. Not to mention the almost-daily assassinations, ongoing violence and smuggling operations. To gain a victory is to promote morals, enforce justice and equality and fulfil the people’s rightful demands.
Q: What is the role of the opposition in the incoming stage?
A: The Syrian crisis is international, and it is in the hands of the United Nations. Two major rival powers, USA and Russia, control the crisis, leaving the role of the opposition on hold. However, the major figures of the Syrian opposition are too weak to ask the Friends of the Syrian People Group and other countries concerned with that issue to address the Syrian crisis according to the UN rules. Recently, the word “opposition” has been turned into an accusation of supporting a specific country like in a statement by the former Prime Minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim when he said “the opposition is a mix of the ruling authority.” I would like to address this question to bin Jassim: who created this opposition? Was it not you who did this during Doha Conference which came out with the coalition you headed, with support by the USA? All of you have created and supported such opposition which has been never served the Syrian Revolution.