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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid