[Marxism] New interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian Communist
mkaradjis at gmail.com
Tue Jan 17 08:13:36 MST 2017
Interview with Yassin al Haj Saleh, long-time Syrian dissident
Communist, jailed for 16 years under Assad senior, including time in
Tadmour, which he describes as a concentration camp. Worth reading right
through, as always, but a few relevant extracts here - particularly
relevant from someone whose brother was kidnapped by Daesh, and hose
wife, Samira Khalil, another revolutionary, was kidnapped along with
three other revolutionaries in Douma in late 2013, most suspect by the
Islamist group Jaysh al-Islam.
Interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh, translated from Flemish into English
by: Jorn Decock.
DS: You know many people there. Do they still long for freedom? Or do
they mainly hope that the war would finish now?
YHS: Do they have to chose? They long for the end of this war and they
long for freedom.
DS: You don’t think there are Syrians who would accept Assad again, as
long as the bombs will stop falling?
YHS: No, a large majority of Syrians wants him out. Even the people who
ostensibly are loyal to Assad, do not respect him. They, too, want
political change. And that change is only possible if the Assad dynasty
disappears. One needs to bear in mind that Syria had a very special form
of dictatorship: the Assad clan didn’t rule the country, they owned it.
We, the citizens, were their slaves. Their strategy for Syria is clear:
Assad, or no-one. If Assad can’t cling to his power, then the whole
country – which they have been plundering for decades already – should
disappear from the map.
DS: Your wife and brother were abducted by radical Islamists. Did you
see that danger coming?
YHS: In May 2012 I wrote a long essay in which I warned for the rise of,
what I called at the time, ‘’militant nihilism’’. At first, the
revolution in Syria was largely non-violent. But because the regime
responded so violently and because international help didn’t
materialise, the model of the jihadists gained ground. The more dead
bodies appeared in the streets – once in Douma in 2013 I saw 26 bodies
in the same day – the more attractive an ever more militant Islamism
became. Especially in a country like Syria, where the Sunni religious
majority had already been repressed for years.
That’s how we ended up in an escalation of fear and violence. Syrians
got ever more angry, frustrated, desperate. The salafists provided an
answer to a desire to destruct. Destruct the regime, and the whole
world. And the self. Salafi jihadi organizations are self destruction
manifestations in our contemporary societies. Suicide bombers are the
embodiment of this tendency.
DS: Do you think that the ‘War on Terror’, now defined as the fight
against Islamic State, has become too much of a priority for the West?
YHS: It’s a post-democratic war. There’s no clear beginning, no clearly
defined enemy, no clear end game. It’s a war that leads to a perpetual
state of emergency. Western democracies are already suffering greatly
from this. And it’s very dangerous.
At the same time, the man who between March 2011 and August 2013 had
over ten thousand people tortured to death, is allowed to proceed. Why
is the war against IS so much more important than the fight against
Bashar al-Assad? In fact, the message the West sends to the people of
Syria is very clear: we think our lives are far more important than
DS: Do you feel like the West sacrifices you?
YHS: No, worse, we have been sacrificed and dismissed as irrelevant. In
August 2013, Assad committed mass murder against his own population,
with chemical weapons. Afterwards the United States and Russia concluded
a cowardly deal. The perpetrator was allowed to go free in exchange for
the destruction of his chemical weapons. Both sides saved face, but the
very people who lost 1.466 lives just weeks before, were let down. It
got worse: the regime got a laissez-passer to continue its massacre with
other weapons. That’s exactly what Assad did: he dropped massive amounts
of barrel bombs and bunker busters. He even continued to use chemical
weapons, because somehow he managed never to hand them over completely.
In my view, the reaction to that poison gas attack is the worst
international crime of the past decades. It was a gigantic attack on the
truth. Nobody can say they didn’t know. It happened right before the
eyes of the international community.
DS: Western critics often argue that the Syrian opposition didn’t get
the necessary support because Assad’s opponents were hopelessly divided
amongst themselves. Do you understand that argument?
YHS: No. Of course the opposition was divided. How else could it be,
after decades of dictatorship? Did anyone truly expect that suddenly a
united opposition with an open mind, a moderate discourse and a powerful
plan of action would appear on stage? Such hypocrisy: are we going to
blame the victims for being weak? You may also recall that before the
revolution not one world leader had anything critical to say about
Bashar occupying his father’s post. (Former US Secretary of State)
Madeleine Albright even went to Damascus to shake his hand. And not one
leftist or communist party made any noise in all those years about the
fate of the republic in Syria. Not one of them.
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