SOHR exclusive | “Banning Syrian opposition meetings comes as a part of ongoing oppression,” says Hassan Abdel Azim • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | “Banning Syrian opposition meetings comes as a part of ongoing oppression,” says Hassan Abdel Azim

Systematic policy: Regime starves people, oppresses opposition and impedes international resolutions

In an exclusive SOHR interview with the prominent regime opponent and leader in the National Coordination Body (NCB), Hassan Abdel Azim has commented on the latest successive incidents of banning Syrian opposition meetings by the Syrian regime, referring to the fact that the National Coordination Body publicly held its periodical meetings every two weeks in the headquarters of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change since it was established on June 3, 2011, after the body’s meetings were held secretly during the period of Hafez Al-Assad’s rule.


Abdel Azim adds, “since July 2000, under Bashar Al-Assad’s rule and during the period of Damascus Spring, and after the establishment of NCB, meetings were held publicly without being oppressed, while state media covered these meetings. In March 2021, the physics meeting of the founding conference of the “National Democratic Front” was banned. Since then, activities by the internal opposition have been obstructed over accusations of “wreaking havoc and disturbing public order.”


Abdel Azim has noted out that the banning of the joint meeting between the Central Commission and Executive Commission, which was later held via video conference on August 28, 2022, was an escalating step by the Syrian regime.


Abdel Azim says, “during that meeting, Reyadh Zahr Al-Din was elected as the president of the Central Commission, Hind Bozo as the vice president and Anawr Youssif as the commission’s secretary in a democratic environment, where all the members accepted the elections’ results and congratulated each other.”


The prominent opponent has recalled, “the eighth session of the Central Council was also held via video conference with the participation of over 93 members, during which Izzat Muhasin was elected as the president of the council, the poet Yasser Towaysh Abu Alaa as the vice president and Azzo Fulaytani and Tharaw Othman as rapporteurs of the council in a democratic and friendly environment. During this session, the working plan and mechanism of developing the political vision and internal system of the council were discussed.”


Mr. Hassan explained that only violations by some military and political services to the constitution of 2012 disturb such meeting, especially since this constitution was drafted and ratified by the Syrian regime to match its interests, while the laws included in this constitution were designed to oppress the opposition democratic national bodies. Ironically, the regime’s political and military commanders, in the last decade of the rule of Hafez Al-Assad, respected the others’ opinions and the democratic national opposition, led at that time by Dr. Jamal Al-Atasi the Secretary General of the Democratic Arab Socialist Union.”


Commenting on the rejection of some Arab countries of the restoration of Syria’s membership in the Arab League, such as Egypt, Hassan Abdel Azim says, “Egypt has not rejected Syria’s return to the Arab League, but it rejects the return of Al-Assad’s regime. Syria’s membership will be restored after proceeding with a political transition in accordance with the Resolution No. 2254 of 2015 and establishing a ruling commission, with full executive powers, representing the opposition led by the Syrian Negotiation Committee, supports and all civil society activists of all backgrounds (cultural, social, ethnic and sectarian), so that the role of the ruling commission will be empowered as a legislative and executive authority, as well as ensuring the independence of the judiciary.”


Responding to SOHR question about the suspension of the Constitutional Committee’s activities, Mr. Hassan says, “talking about the failure of the committee’s activities is too early, as the Negotiating Syrian Committee was one of the outcomes of Riyadh Conference on November 25, 2017, following a consensus by the permanent member states in the Security Council, including the Russian Federation. In addition, the Group of 17 Plus Countries, the European Union, United Nations, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen and his deputy and Turkey comply with implementing the Resolution No. 2254 of 2015 and recognise the Negotiating Syrian Committee. This decision stipulates the formation of a non-sectarian ruling committee, the expanded and small constitutional committees which are affiliated to the negotiating committee, the committee formed by the Syrian government and the committee of social activists.”


Abdel Azim has pointed out to the attempts by the Syrian regime and Iran to abort the work of the committee without consensus with the international actors, confirming that these attempts have failed to do so. He has called for intensifying efforts to activate the Negotiating Syrian Committee with its seven parties and to exert pressure on the Syrian regime to force its constitutional committee to join the constitutional principles under the penalty of referring the cause to the Security Council to issue a decision based on the sixth term for forming a ruling committee and securing a safe and neutral environment.


Abdel Azim sees that the implementation of the clauses 11, 12 and 13 of the Resolution No. 2254 comes under confidence-building measures for the release of detainees and disclosure of the fate of the missing and forcibly disappeared. The NCB leader referred to the opposition’s compliance with unifying the paths of Cairo and Moscow in Riyadh Second Conference without asking for something in return as these issues are unquestionably above negotiations. In addition, the opposition complies with controlling the security situation, countering terrorism and reforming the army and security institutions, as well as starting preparations for holding elections under complete supervision by the United Nations and the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria to ensure reaching effective and neutral standards, as Mr. Hassan has described.


Abdel Azim has clarified that according to these agreements, a safe return of displaced people to their areas could potentially come to the fore, so that the legislative and executive authorities of a parliament de-central administrative regime based on pluralism and diversity can be elected.


 Responding to a question about the recent mass immigration of Syrians to Europe, after selling their properties at low prices, fleeing hunger and poverty, the prominent opponent has confirmed that the fact that the negotiating-political settlement has reached a deadlock, the regime’s diligent efforts to obstructed sessions of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva and its disability to secure the basic livelihood for civilians, the ongoing corruption, thefts and looting, the running out of petroleum products at petrol stations at a time when they are available on black markets at high prices with the aim of securing higher income for the corrupt authorities, are all factors spurring Syrians to forego their properties and travel abroad, especially since the state authorities themselves encourage and facilitate their immigration.


Commenting on the astronomically inflated prices, Hassan Abdel Azim says, “the soaring prices and decline in the amounts of goods have been turned into a phenomenon in most of the countries around the world because of the war in Ukraine. However, wise governments in several other countries have dealt with the crisis transparently, and they managed to secure decent standard of living and stability under democratic measures. Those governments really care about their people, unlike the governing authority in Syria, which could not care less about the Syrian people and seems satisfied with oppressing them through the security solution and impeding the opposition’s activities.”