[Marxism] New interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian Communist

Michael Karadjis 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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