News / Middle East

Syrian Reform Activist Calls Assad Ouster Inevitable

Ammar Abdulhamid says protesters have broken the barrier of fear and that President Assad’s removal is a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if’.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the country's parliament in Damascus, March 30, 2011
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the country's parliament in Damascus, March 30, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a speech before parliament and the nation Wednesday, blamed foreigners and social media for creating a "conspiracy" to bring down his regime. His address came amid deadly opposition protests representing the most serious threat to Assad's 11-year-rule and the long-standing authority of his family. More than 160 people died as a result of a government crackdown on demonstrators in recent weeks.

To better understand what has been driving the apparent change of attitude toward Assad’s rule, we spoke to Syrian reform activist Ammar Abdulhamid, who has been meeting with members of the U.S. Congress this week in Washington. The interview, conducted by VOA's Mohamed Elshinnawi, was recorded before President Assad’s speech.

Listen to the full interview with Syrian reform activist Ammar Abdulhamid:


Elshinnawi: How would you describe the situation in Syria today?

Abdulhamid: The situation is really both full of promise and a little dread as well. A promise, because the barrier of fear has been broken. The young people of Syria, the young demographic, have decided to take over the initiative and to dictate the pace of change rather than wait for the old establishment or the opposition or the government under Bashar Assad to reform. They decided to force the issue, to take to the streets and break the barrier of fear and make their demands known. That is really the source and the seed of the victory to come, because that’s inevitable. That is something that is going to happen; we have no doubt about that. It is a matter of “when,” not a matter of “if.” The dread is – how much will we need to sacrifice, how long will it take, how much blood will be spilled because of the regime’s entrenched authoritarian style and tactics.

Watch our interview with Ammar Abdulhamid



Elshinnawi:
Does the announcement of the Syrian government’s resignation indicate that Assad’s government is weakening?

Abdulhamid: Of course. It took us two weeks to achieve what years and years of begging and petitioning did not accomplish. Two weeks of protests toppled the government, and I think that Assad staged these pro-government demonstrations [Tuesday] in order to put a brave face on a concession that he is making. But what he does not understand is that this is not enough anyway, and regardless of how [many] concessions he is willing to make, the only concession that will satisfy us is his resignation or he can stand trial.

He is no longer wanted. The people have said it, they have torn down his posters; they tore down a statue of his father. The symbols of power and legitimacy of the Assad dynasty are being scuffed and torn up in the streets in many cities. We have two cities in full rebellion right now. And they are staging [their protests] peacefully. The only violence is coming from the direction of the authorities, but it is not working….

Elshinnawi: Do you think that the Syrian opposition is strong enough to continue and to reach the level of regime change?

Abdulhamid: What you have to understand, the people that began this are not the opposition. They are young people, activists and revolutionaries in the streets. And, so far, this movement has proven to be very contagious. And the current [pro-Assad] demonstrations that the regime has orchestrated, we know how they happen. They force students, university students to take part, they force public sector employees to take part, but on the day after a lot of anger takes place. A lot of people feel really sickened by being forced to do things like this…. People are producing an alternative not only to the regime, but an alternative to the stale opposition. So now, the opposition that has been existing for a long time in the streets wants to have some relevance, they have to play “catch-up” with the people.

Elshinnawi: You have been busy meeting [members of Congress] and discussing the situation in Syria. What kind of feedback and responses are you getting? Positive? Negative?

Abdulhamid: So far we are getting very positive [feedback]. I think the idea, the image of Assad as a reformer to which [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton referred is actually changing. Things change on a dime sometimes in Congress. The reality of revolution is really making a lot of people in Congress taking a moment to think. Even when [Senator] John Kerry said a positive statement about Assad, I think he said them basically because the full impact of the revolution and how serious it is had not yet hit home. But now that it has, I think a lot of people, including Kerry himself, will begin to look and say: we need to be on the right side of history and to reexamine our entire relationship and image of [Bashar Assad] and his regime and whether they are indeed that important to our interests or not. So I think, right now we are going through a moment where a lot of people are going to re-chart America’s vision for its role in the Middle East. And I really believe that neither this administration nor the Congress, whether it's Democrats or Republicans, want to be caught again on the wrong side of history….


[Listen to the soundfile above for the full interview]

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More