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

Afghan Government: Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Died in 2013

President Ashraf Ghani's office confirms reclusive Taliban leader died in 2013, but Taliban itself claim Omar is still alive More

Erdogan in China Amid Tensions on Uighurs, Missile System

Turkey's president has criticized China's heavy-handed policies toward Uighurs in violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where China says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists More

Critics: China’s President Using Law to Tighten Grip on Power

President Xi, who has stressed importance of 'rule of law' and law-based governance, has exerted increasingly tighter grip over society since coming to office 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs