Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Assad to the German Bild: "I see the West moving away from Turkey ..."

Our friend Guthman Bey writes:
"... The fact that Bild's editor-in-chief, Diekmann, himself ventured out to Damascus to do the interview (accompanied by the former editor of Hurriyet,  Özkök) is rather remarkable all
in itself. Whatever one may otherwise think of the Baathists in Syria, Assad is very sharp
in interviews. They don't have it up in English on their website, unfortunately.
Here are some excerpts (rather amazing how good Google translations have become; I had to change some stuff, but really not all that much):
BILD: You have been the president of Syria for ten years. How do you perceive the image of
your country in the world?
President Assad: Are you speaking of the West or of the world? I ask this because the problem
lies in the west, not in the entire world. The problem with the West is that imagines itself as the whole world and forgets the rest of the world easily. The West can not continue to pursue its ostrich policy, simply putting your head in the sand and not see what is going on in the rest of the world. Syria's image in the world is very good. We have very good
international relations and have never had problems with South America, East Asia, Africa.
But our relationship with the West has been troubled. It has become a bit better but not much better....
Bild: Mr. President, let's talk about a country between east and west - Turkey.
From our European perspective, we have the impression that Turkey is moving from the west,
NATO and the United States and towards the Islamic world. Would you agree?
President Assad: "I rather see the West as moving away from Turkey. However I believe that
the role that Turkey has been playing in the region for the last three years is vital.
It has created a degree of balance in this turbulent region. Especially after the events of September 11, after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, one could not possibly wish for bad relations between Turkey and Syria, and between Turkey and Iran. One wouldn't even want to think of the impact that that would have."
Bild: Should Turkey be allowed to join the EU?
President Assad: "You should literally beg Turkey to join the EU, because the EU needs a
Muslim country as a member, so that the EU is not merely a Christian club.
They talk always about openness, about the dialogue between different cultures.
How can you lead a dialogue, if you isolate yourself and limit yourself to one culture
and social order...."
Bild: It's pretty obvious that since September 11 there has been infinitely more distrust
 between the West and the Islamic world. What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding between the West and the Islamic world? Is there something we do not understand that we need to learn?
President Assad: "This is precisely the problem: when we talk about "the West"
and "Islam". This is wrong, because this already constitutes the basic misinformation,
the misunderstanding.
it meant that on one hand there is "the" West and its Christianity and Islam exists only in the East. But in my country we have Christians and Jews and then a majority of Muslims. We live here together. As Christians, you have to learn from Christians in the Middle East, because they have been living together for over 1400 years with the Muslims. Yes, you need to learn more about this religion. Otherwise you will forever have problems integrating Muslims into your society."
Bild: In Germany, people have been shocked by a case in Iran in which a woman was sentenced
to death by stoning because she is said to have cheated on her husband. This may not be the
image you want for the Islamic world.
President Assad: "We could also ask a different question: to kill half a million people in
 Iraq - is this the image that the West wants for itself? I could ask the same question about Afghanistan. That is another way to look at the situation. Just because you do not agree with one thing that still doesn't represent a whole country or an entire culture. In Syria, there may be things that you do not agree with, but surely those do not form a complete picture of my country. You can not say that you care about one woman, while you miss a half a million people in Iraq."
Bild: Could you explain to us why the overwhelming majority of all victims of suicide attacks
are themselves Muslims? Muslims kill Muslims - many people in the West have trouble understanding that.
President Assad: "Again - let us talk about the realities. There are two opposing sides here.
One side has missiles and aircraft, which throw bombs. The other side has none of that,
but will fight anyway, so this fighter can only use his body. That is the reason why people blow themselves up. To some of them Islamist ideology doesn't even matter. There was a suicide bomber, three years ago, a girl from a secular family. She was not Islamist. She acted solely out of desperation. If we want to stop suicide bombings, we must put an end to this despair. And despair is completed, by giving people their rights or give them at least hope
that one day they will come to their right. That is the solution."..."

1 comment:

Guthman said...

Postscript: Assad on the world cup in Qatar. I think he is right on the money here too: this will logically become the biggest pan-Arabic event since Nasser's death, precisely because Qatar is so small. And as such, politically very subversive. In the best Qatari tradition. A lot of people will get very nervous, as this comes closer. (Me too because I will be so unspeakably old by then!).
Bild: In 2022 the World Football Championship will be held in in Qatar - it will be the first World Cup on Arab soil. What does this mean for the Arab world?
President Assad: "This is truly an achievement! If a small country like Qatar hosts a major event, it is certainly extraordinary. And of course we are all passionate about it, as Arabs we have sympathy for Qatar. We are proud of it. I think that every Arab feels as if he had won this competition."