Voltaire Network

Speech Delivered by H.E. President Bashar al-Assad At the People’s Assembly

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At the beginning of this legislative course, we remember brothers of ours who should have been with us under the roof of this parliament taking part in this great national workshop, but the bullets of treachery prevented them from doing so. They fell martyrs merely because they were determined to shoulder national responsibility by putting themselves forward as candidates for the elections of the People’s Assembly; and so they haven’t been able to share with us this historic day.

In respect for their souls and the souls of all innocent civilian martyrs and military martyrs who fell since the early days of these events, we stand with great veneration and send their families our love and say to them that their blood was not spilled in vain. I am not saying this to indicate seeking revenge but in terms of upholding right because a right is never forgotten unless it is forfeited by its owner.

Our only solace – and here I’m not only offering condolences to their families; I am rather talking about the larger Syrian family – is that our country will be once again sound and healthy and that the children of this homeland will enjoy security, peace and stability.

Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, members of the People’s Assembly, it gives me pleasure to congratulate you on the trust the people has put in you, and to particularly congratulate the new members who have joined this national institution to provide new blood and creative ideas which renew and invigorate the homeland and which fulfil the Syrians’ aspirations in a safe and prosperous future.

I highly appreciate your determination to take part in these elections under the critical circumstances which require more courage, perseverance and a high sense of responsibility. This is only evidence of your willingness to give and to sacrifice at a time where many individuals toil under national responsibilities which are only shouldered by those who believe in the sacredness of national work and those who have committed themselves to serve the people and defend it.

The People’s Assembly is an Assembly for all the Syrian people. It is the Assembly of the farmer dreaming of getting better crops and a better future. It is the Assembly of the peasant sweating to feed his children and extended family. It is the Assembly of the public sector employee taking his children to school to ensure a safer and more stable and prosperous future for his children. It is the Assembly of the soldier sacrificing his life in defence of his homeland. It is the Assembly of the intellectual, the educated, the doctor, the engineer, the lawyer, the journalist, the worker. It is the Assembly of the women who have always contributed to the development and progress of Syrian society. It is the Assembly of the people from whom it takes inspiration and for whom it lives, legislates and oversees the performance of the executive authority.

Members of the People’s Assembly cannot carry out their legislative and oversight functions in an optimal manner without possessing a clear development vision. For this vision to mature, it needs two factors: the first is constructive dialogue under the roof of this Assembly and among its members; and the second is continual communication with the citizens in order to know the challenges and the difficulties which they face or to listen from them to solutions and proposals which could enrich the programs and plans of the Assembly and make them closer to reality and better adapted to citizens’ concerns.

Communication between officials, whether in the legislative or executive authorities is essential for the citizens who need to express their concerns; but it is a greater need for officials because their success, whether they are part of the executive or the legislative branch, is directly linked and strongly relevant to their relationship with citizens and their ability to draw ideas, plans and visions based on the aspirations and proposals of the citizens and their need for a better life.

If the Syrian citizen is our objective, he should be our starting point. And if we are working for the Syrian citizen, and if our objective is to serve the citizen’s interests, then the citizen’s views should be our guiding light. Focusing on the oversight role of the Assembly shouldn’t undermine its participatory role with the executive authority. Those who are charged with oversight and accountability should be able to propose solutions; and this requires this institution to be turned into a beehive for work and dialogue so that it becomes the generator and the locomotive of the development process in Syria.

The relationship between the legislative authority and the executive authority – whether it is the government or other institutions – is often described as good or bad. I believe that this description is not accurate, because this relationship is not based on paying lip service to each other nor is it based on competition. It is based on integration, and such a relationship should only be described as methodological or non-methodological. When we say that it should be methodological, this means that we need mechanisms which are the most important thing for any institution at the beginning of its work at a particular stage.

When we talk about the oversight role of the People’s Assembly – which is its most important role – over the executive authority, it shouldn’t start with bringing to account the executive official who failed to deliver, it should start by planning. When the executive authority starts the planning process, there should be direct dialogue with the legislative authority which discusses these plans with the relevant authorities. The process starts when the government makes its statement, and later every minister is required to present his plan and his vision for the sector he is responsible for. Then comes the role of the Assembly in terms of follow-up and oversight, and later on when there is any failure on the part of any official, it should bring them to account. And here the assembly has a responsibility in front of the electorate and the citizens to hold discussions; and members should be able to discuss and approve a plan for which they will be responsible, together with the executive authority. Of course they are not responsible for implementation. This requires that a member is not simply a channel connecting the citizens and state institutions, they should interact with the citizens and propose ideas and plans and discuss them with the executive authority to see whether such plans are feasible and implementable. Just imagine instead of having tens of ministers thinking and planning, having hundreds of members discussing, planning, thinking and implementing. The development process will certainly be more effective and will make more achievements.

Today you start your legislative role at a critical juncture whose dangers go beyond all the dangers faced by Syria since the evacuation of the French occupation. This gives you an exceptional role in dealing with two forces going in opposite directions. The first force pushes backward and tries to weaken Syria and violate its sovereignty and perpetrate acts of killing, sabotage, ignorance, backwardness and serve the interests of foreign powers. The second force pushes forward and is fully determined to implement reforms which have materialized in a package of laws and a new constitution and which has broadened popular participation in managing the affairs of the homeland.

If standing in the face of the regional and global attack against our country is not an easy task, accommodating ourselves to the reforms and strengthening them is not easy either. Through these reforms we counter a significant part of this attack and build strong fortifications against regional and international ambitions in our country. Our success depends on our understanding of the requirements of reform on the official and popular levels. The people who were able to understand the magnitude of the plans drawn against Syria and the region and faced with great determination and patriotism are able to understand the requirements of reform. We owe this people because it proved its capabilities in extremely difficult national tests and it passed them; so we owe it upgrading our performance and bringing it to a par with its intelligence and steadfastness so that we can be proud to represent it and honoured to work for it.

Since the early days of this crisis, we announced a number of clear political steps to enhance the development process through popular participation in order to undercut all those who tried to hide under slogans of reform and make use of the events for unpatriotic and dishonourable objectives. These steps have been achieved within the announced timeframe contrary to the expectations of our foes and enemies who doubted our intentions. Despite the denials of these achievements in the political sphere on the part of foreign and domestic powers which have wagered on the crisis, and despite continuing attempts to undermine the political process, we have never stopped carrying out what we announced and what we started. Laws have been passed, local administration elections have been held, and later on there was a referendum on the constitution in response to those attempts. Holding the People’s Assembly elections on time despite the killing, the threats and the terrorism was the decisive response of the people against the killers and the criminals and their masters and financiers. This constitutional and democratic step came as a slap on the face of all those who wanted Syria to be closed onto itself and to swim in the blood of its children and go backward decades into the past. Here is Syria with a new parliament completing the process that we have promised before the crisis and during it and moving towards the future with a great deal of hope, determination and defiance.

These events have caused a great deal of suffering to our homeland and consumed a great deal of its material and non-material resources. In my first speech under the roof of this Assembly, and when the crisis was in its first weeks, I talked about the outside factor without emphasizing it since the greatest responsibility of any failure in any house is that of the owners of the house and those who live in it before it is the responsibility of foreigners. But at that time, some people went as far as denying the existence of the foreign factor altogether and considered this argument an escape from internal obligations. They argued that the gist of the problem a disagreement between Syrian parties and that what is happening on the ground is a purely peaceful movement and that the source of any violence is the state. Some people made this argument in malice and bad faith and others made it with naivety, lack of knowledge, and as a result of media forgeries. Now, and after more than a year from the beginning of these events, things are clearer and masks have been lifted. The international role in what is happening is already well-known not only for decades, but for centuries past. And I don’t think it’s going to change in the foreseeable future. Colonialism is still colonialism. It only changed in terms of methods and ways of attack. The regional role has exposed itself when it moved from one failure to another in the plans of its perpetrators. It had to declare the truth of its positions and intentions through its own officials. As for local figures and forces, who have appointed themselves agents of the people, they saw the people expressing themselves on the streets without any need for guardians or agents taking the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of an ephemeral wave and seeking to build glories for themselves at the expense of the people’s blood. The people have despised and categorically rejected all those who have planted their bodies in the country while their hearts and brains lay outside. On the other hand, there were those who proposed ideas in order to reach solutions from the beginning of the crisis. Some based their views on an emotional reaction to a crisis which has been planned by pure reason. Others based their arguments on available information without deeper examination of a crisis built on a solid foundation of forgery. We highly appreciate good intentions, but what is happening is more complicated and dangerous than allowing to be dealt with in a simplistic analysis or emotional reactions or utopian ideas. After all these starkly clear facts and after all the innocent blood which has been spilled and the innocent souls which have been lost, we are in need of a tremendous amount of reason. We need to learn from the people to which we belong and which was able to decipher the conspiracy from its early beginnings and expose the highly complicated forgeries based on people’s instinct which is never mistaken and a national memory feeding on a heritage rich in experience and a moral accumulation which has fortified our society against deviation and protected our traditions and our identity from annihilation. What we have learned from the people is a simple, old and deep principle. If we want to solve a problem, all we have to do is face this problem and not run away from it. Most of the proposed solutions have expressed an unconscious case of escaping forward. Facing the problem might be painful in most cases, but in the end it will provide the cure, while running away from the problem is similar to the case of an addict who feels a false ecstasy while in real fact is moving towards death.

A lot has been said about the political solution since the beginning of the crisis. There are those who talk about a political solution and other points and details related to it, but none of those has pointed out the link between the political solution and the terrorism which has grown since the beginning of the crisis. Does dialogue and the political solution we are talking about prevent terrorists from doing what they have been doing so far? And have those terrorists cut heads, caused explosions, committed assassinations and all forms of ugly terrorism because there are two Syrian parties who have politically disagreed with each other? Does this mean that when we conduct a dialogue and agree to a political solution, these terrorists will come and say that since the causes have been removed, we give up terrorism? This talk is illogical.

Terrorism has struck all parties without exception; it hasn’t struck one party and spared another. It hasn’t been part of political differences, and hasn’t stood with one party against another, and hasn’t decided to be on the scene as part of this political problem.

The political process is moving forward, but terrorism is growing and hasn’t subsided. The laws which have been passed since the beginning of the crisis haven’t made an impact on terrorism and made it subside. At the beginning they said that the problem is that there are no political parties. The political parties law was passed; or said that the problem lied in article 8 of the constitution. The whole constitution was changed. There were other pretexts and justifications, but reality has never changed as far as terrorist acts are concerned. We are neither analysing nor inventing something new. Reality itself is providing the clear answer.

Terrorists are concerned neither with reform nor with dialogue. They are criminals who have set themselves a task; and they are not concerned with condemnation or denunciation. They do not care about the tears of wives who have lost their husbands and mothers who have lost their children. They will never stop until they complete their task regardless of anything. They will never stop unless we stop them. Not distinguishing between terrorism and the political process is a great error made by some people. It lends legitimacy to terrorism sought by terrorists and their masters from the first day of the events. Making this distinction between terrorism and the political process is essential in order to understand and know how to move towards improving the conditions we live under.

To start with, we should know the problem, dissect it, identify the forces affecting it so that our ideas do not exist in a vacuum and consequently propose partial, imaginary or wrong solutions and lose time, blood and the homeland. First of all, we should know that we are not facing a political problem, because had it been a political problem, there should be one party proposing a political or economic program and then we face this party with our own political or economic program. This is what we have done despite our knowledge, from the beginning, that the problem is not a political one.

What we are facing is a project of internal sedition aiming at the destruction of the homeland. The instrument of this sedition is terrorism. So, how can we make the link between political action and terrorism? This distinction is essential. Nevertheless, from the beginning, we haven’t left any political method without trying it. I’m saying this because some people might expect that the president, in every speech, will come out with a miracle or a magic wand which I always speak about.

We don’t have a magic wand; and we have tried all political methods like passing laws, changing the constitution, and passing amnesties for those who have been involved in the violence and we have continued to do so. Even concerning national dialogue, we said that we don’t have a problem as a matter of principle, but such a dialogue needs preparations and requires known parties that can reach agreement. Then we can have national dialogue. We have agreed to all political proposals and have been very flexible. But there is a difference between embarking on a political process believing that it will succeed, and then get disappointed, while terrorism has made headway, and knowing that we need this political process regardless of the issue of terrorism. When we say that the issue is that of terrorism, then we are no longer in the internal political sphere. We are now facing a real war waged from outside. And dealing with a war is different from dealing with an internal conflict or dealing with Syrian parties. This point should be very clear.

A lot has been said about dialogue. Some of those who do not like slogans say that they are mere empty slogans and some have unknowingly turned dialogue into an empty slogan. Where are the plans or visions for such a dialogue, and who are the parties concerned with dialogue. Who conducts dialogue with whom? What are the issues that the parties discuss in this dialogue? Who are these parties and what is their relationship to the events? Do they have a real impact on the daily events, or are they simply parties jumping on the bandwagon in order to make personal gains? Should these parties be representative in order to take part in the dialogue, or not? If the answer is that it is not important, so what is the value of a dialogue which is of no importance to the people? I think the answer has been clear. And if the answer is yes, how can we ensure that these parties represent the people or a certain segment of the people?

In principle, the only basis is the elections. Have these forces which will take part in the dialogue stood in the elections, or have they claimed to speak on behalf of the people or defend the people, and when the elections were held, they ran away so that we do not see the real size of these forces?

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These forces have run away from elections claiming that they have boycotted them. When you boycott the elections, you do not boycott the state, the government or the ruling party. You boycott the people because elections are the right of the people and because the voter is the citizen, not the state and not the party. Consequently, how can any person stand in front of people and say I represent the people yet I boycott the people. This is an impossible contradiction. It cannot happen even in an imaginary movie.

Any political process which is not based on popular support doesn’t have any value in reality. Popular feelings were expressed when millions of people got on the streets, men, women, young people, children, elderly people expressed very clearly their rejection of foreign intervention and any infringement on national unity, territorial integrity and the unity of the social fabric of the homeland. Popular feelings were expressed through taking part in the elections in these difficult circumstances, and even before, in the local administration elections and in the broad participation in the referendum over the constitution despite threats and terrorism.

Any political act we do should be based on the principles identified by the people, including the national dialogue we are talking about. The upcoming national dialogue should be based on these principles so that it doesn’t remain a superficial dialogue that does not produce any results for the citizens and the homeland. That is why I said a political process not a political solution. When we say a political solution, this means that what we do now will lead to an improvement in conditions; and we have said that terrorism is separate from political action. That’s why I’m saying it’s a political process.

A citizen might say you have given me a solution which hasn’t worked. Didn’t you know? No, we have known from day one that the solution we are proposing, or this political process, will not lead to a solution. But we have started this political process because we talked about it and approved it in 2005 and because Syrian society needs this political process regardless of the crisis.

This process started with the laws which have been passed and the parties which have been formed and the political pluralism enshrined in the constitution, which has been implemented, and continued through local administration, the referendum over the constitution and the recent elections for the People’s Assembly. The upcoming dialogue, regardless of what form it takes, and regardless of the results it will produce, should be ultimately endorsed by the people. This can take place in one of two ways: either through the representatives of the people, IE the People’s Assembly, or through a direct referendum on the part of the population like what happened in the referendum over the constitution. This will also depend on the type of proposal in the national dialogue.

Since we are talking about the people’s dialogue with its representatives, the People’s Assembly should have a role in this dialogue. Some people might ask at what stage has the dialogue arrived? In my last speech in January I talked about dialogue. We have always said that we are prepared and our doors are open for dialogue, and there are different opposition forces. Some of them have declared their willingness to take part in the dialogue and some have not declared that. A part of the patriotic opposition has taken part in the elections and expressed a real desire and willingness to take part in the dialogue and they are with us in this room. They came to the People’s Assembly though their popular support base which they represent.

But there is another part of the opposition which is still waiting for the foreign balance of power. I’m speaking candidly without being diplomatic. They are waiting the foreign balance of power, and some are waiting signs from outside the country. Nevertheless, we say that the doors are still open and we are always ready to start dialogue without conditions, except with the forces which are dealing with foreign powers and which have turned themselves into agents of these powers and those who have called for foreign intervention or those who have directly engaged in supporting terrorism.

Obviously the political process culminates with the subject of the government. In my last speech I talked about the government. The current constitution provides that the government resigns after the People’s Assembly elections; and soon we will have a new government taking into account the new political forces, and particularly the new balance in the People’s Assembly.

Syria’s doors are open to all those who want real reform and genuine dialogue. Our hearts are open to engage every true Syrian in the process of raising the standard of our state. There is no going back on the reforms and the openness we have carried out. Syria is moving forward towards the future despite its wounds. Syria is the homeland of all its children no matter how much their opinion differed as long as the differences remains peaceful and democratic and for the sake of the country, not against it.

Terrorism is not related to the political process. It targets all the homeland, its institutions and its parties. It is a separate case and its treatment is different and cannot be subject to any of the standards I have mentioned. We must fight terrorism to cure the homeland. Consequently, there is no tolerance and no leniency towards terrorism or those who support it. There is no tolerance except with those who have abandoned it. We will continue to confront it decisively while opening the door for all those who abandon it, provided that they do not have blood on their hands. Thousands of those who have carried arms have responded to our call and the state has forgiven them.

This shows that the approach of the state was the right one in this regard and its shows the state’s credibility despite all attempts at undermining this credibility. There are many people who have hesitated to take this step because of the doubts implanted in them by others who want them to continue to be involved in terrorism. And now I encourage those who have been hesitant to take the step; and once again I stress that the state does not take revenge, as they tell them, and as they claim that if the state does not take revenge now, it will do so later after the end of the crisis. I assure them that we will not take revenge, neither now nor in the future. And we have actually, at different points in the past, forgiven non-Syrians who have done a great deal of harm to Syria. S,o how can we not be tolerant and forgiving towards our compatriots.

National security is a red line; and the price could be high. It has been high so far; but regardless of the price, we should be prepared to pay it in order to maintain the unity of Syrian society and Syria’s strength.

After talking about the political process, what is the political solution? The process does not solve the current crisis. Neither does it reduce terrorism. The political solution is more comprehensive than passing a number of laws or a new constitution. It is related to all the causes which led to this crisis which allowed the foreigners – assuming that some of the so-called Arabs are foreigners – to interfere in internal Syrian matters. This crisis has created a number of problems and gaps from which we will suffer in the future. That’s why we need a political solution for all these issues. The legislation we have passed help, but to a certain degree. The political solution doesn’t start with laws or with the constitution or with all these measures. It starts with the concepts and the gaps which have appeared during the crisis, something which we haven’t seen before but we should deal with, particularly at this stage. The political solution starts when we distinguish between a difference in opinion, which means richness, and differing about the homeland which means destruction. Pluralism doesn’t mean conflict or confrontation. It means integration without the parties necessarily becoming identical. Pluralism is a state of mind before being a party issue, when we accept ideas different from ours, when they do not undermine the interest or the safety of the homeland. The solution starts when we know that when ancient nations face crises their differences disappear in favour of the homeland and the case becomes with the homeland or against it, not with the state or the government or against them, when priorities are based on national interest not on personal emotions and feelings, when we distinguish in our discussions between opinions and facts, between aspiration and reality and understand the relationship between beliefs and interests. Then we know that tactics without a strategy leading and directing them lead to inevitable failure.

Some people confuse being against the policy of the state or against the performance of a certain official and being against the homeland. This is what happens in many cases. There are those who distinguished between the two cases, those who took part in massive supportive demonstrations despite the fact that they disagreed with the state and opposed the performance of many state officials. These are patriotic people who know how to distinguish between the two cases and went on the streets to show their support for their homeland and their concern for it.

There are those who have been badly treated by a state employee or a member of a certain security institution or whatever. This does not justify that this person seek revenge against state institutions or against the homeland. It is like the proverbial cutting his nose to spite his face. We cannot apply this proverb to the homeland. On the other hand, there are those like the families of the martyrs, their children, brothers and sisters whom I have met. The martyrs fell not in battle; they were not members of the army or the police. They were killed by mistake somewhere. They told me personally, or told others, that the condition of the homeland is a priority and that the cause of the homeland is more important than our personal causes. We will talk about our personal causes when we overcome this crisis. These are patriotic people, and most of the Syrian people are like them. That’s why we should promote this condition in order not to confuse the small errors with the big challenges.

In times of crises we should be above small things. We should live up to the challenge. We may say something which might be true for another time, but at this particular time it is wrong. When we understand these concepts and follow this approach we will be able to save the homeland. It is not sufficient to love the homeland in order to make it strong. We should know how to love it. There are mothers and fathers who have produced failing children because their education was based only on love but lacked knowledge and rational thinking. Hating blood is not sufficient to prevent it from being spilled. We should know how to prevent this from happening. There are those who build their political positions on hating violence and hating blood. I say that no rational human being likes blood. This is self-evident. But when a surgeon goes into the operation room, cuts a wound, the wound bleeds, the surgeon cuts and amputates. Do we condemn the surgeon because his hands are bloodstained or do we praise him for saving a human being’s life? When resistance men carry arms, do they do so because they like blood? Did the Prophet (peace be upon him) wage his wars for the love of blood or in defence of a message? The same applies to the wars of al-Rashidoon. Today we are defending a cause and a homeland. We are not doing what we are doing because we love blood. A battle has been forced on us, and the result was the blood which has been spilled. Some people might say we wish the blood was shed on the national borders and on the frontlines. This is true, but the enemy is now inside and is no longer on the borders. The enemy has changed its methods and tactics.

Despite the fact that the enemy has become within, we still hate blood, but we are dealing with reality, and I hope that we base our ideas on reality and not on feelings. Then, we no longer fear a criminal, a mercenary, or a plan led by frenzied colonizers and financed by sick rulers. Then, we do not fear the confusion which has struck some people who wanted to mould the crisis in a manner that suits their ideas instead of reshaping their ideas and their logic to be in line with the reality surrounding us.

I’m not talking about an internal agent or a conspirator outside the country, for this is their natural position to do everything that harms this homeland. In this speech I will not talk about the regional or the international situation. I will not waste your time by such talk. I always believe that the problem starts here and in every word I say I’ll focus on the internal situation. I’m not talking about an agent inside the country or a conspirator outside the country, but I reproach the Syrians who loved their country but didn’t know how to protect it and didn’t understand the situation around it, so they were swept by the wave and the shining slogans, and without knowing it, they contributed to the damage to their country whether because they are overwhelmed by their individuality or because of the hatred, short-sightedness and limited vision.

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Some of those assume that they know our society very well. I tell them, learn from the people instead of teaching them. They are better educated and more knowledgeable and possess the more correct vision. Walk behind the people in order not to miss the road of patriotism. Learn from the people how we build the homeland and how to protect it. Learn from their instinctive good sense how to draw priorities and how not to replace fundamentals with marginal issues. Learn from them how to see the homeland in its real size not in terms of geographical measurements in order to know that the real political fault lines are between us and our foes and enemies and in order to be qualified to take part in the great national battles.

The Syrian people are intelligent and the region is complicated. And every people is intelligent in its own region. But this region has been complicated for thousands of years, and there is a great mix and conflict of interests. And a people like the Syrian people which is the product of a great civilization does not imitate parrot-like everything they receive from outside, particularly when the messages and the ideas come through channels which are the mouthpieces of countries which I don’t want to say are new to civilization, but rather haven’t yet been initiated into the era of civilization and are still living on the margins of history.

When we ask some of those who have fell for such channels, why have you taken such a position, they say because they oppose the mistakes being made. Now, did the millions of Syrians who marched on the streets do so in support of the mistakes, or did they do so because they are against freedom, or because they support corruption and bribery? These millions are the greatest sufferers of these mistakes and they oppose them more than anybody else, but they distinguish between good timing and bad timing, and they knew that this is not the right time to talk about these things, and they knew that the objective is to replace these mistakes with huge catastrophes. This is what the millions of people who went on the streets understood. Now, and after 14 months, the vision of the vast majority of the Syrians has proved to be correct.

Here we ask those people, have you been able to correct these mistakes? Is the situation now better than it used to be at the beginning of the crisis? The answer also comes from reality, but the mistake these people have made is that they gave a pretext to all those who wanted to interfere, even by speaking from the outside. And of course you know that interference did not stop at talking.

The problem is that we have people, fortunately they are a minority, who do not learn except on a backdrop of blood and mutilated bodies. And the problem is that some people do not see things coming. They only see them in retrospect. In other words, they cannot see the future, even when it is very clear.

They didn’t understand that the issue is much larger than difference among political parties. They didn’t understand that the issue isn’t about reform and democracy, as was suggested in the beginning, but about Syria’s resistant role and its support of resistance and its upholding its rights. What is required now is to undermine this role and/or to destroy or divide this country, or both at the same time. The strange thing is that there were clear things from the beginning promoted by sectarian channels. It is strange that they didn’t understand what sectarianism means. It means division, fragmentation, and destruction of society. How could they not have seen these things, clear as they were?

I raise a question: why didn’t this terrorism that we see today strike so violently before the crisis although Syria is surrounded by countries which have known this kind of terrorism for over ten years? The answer is that chaos is the natural environment for terrorism and those who have promoted a new age of freedom and prosperity, without knowing what they are talking about, have embraced chaos, and chaos embraced terrorism; and consequently, and without knowing it, these people have become involved in, in one way or another, in terrorism. Today we see, as a result of short-sightedness, that the freedom they have chanted slogans for is about the blood and the dead bodies of our children and that the democracy they talked about is soaked with our blood. We have paid a high price, but I expect that the price we are going to pay after the end of the crisis might be higher, not in terms of security, but in terms of moral values. You are aware of the new concepts which have invaded the minds of a large segment of Syrian youth, concepts like terrorism, violence, robbery and mercenary fighting.

Some unemployed people take money in order to take part in demonstrations. We all know this fact. But some people used to have work, but they left it because they found the other job easier, they go out for an hour or half an hour and take money in return. There are adolescents aged 14 or 15 who were given about 2000 Syrian Pounds for every person they kill. What is the price, the time, and the effort required of us in order to clean the minds and the hearts of those young people? How can we re-educate these people to know that chaos only brings chaos, and that society cannot be built except on good moral values. I believe that we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us in this context.

As you see, I have talked a lot about the internal situation, and I have reproached those who have made mistakes, because everyone talks about foreign intervention and a foreign conspiracy. Everyone is talking about the terrorists inside the country, but we haven’t talked about the responsibility of those who love their country, but as I said didn’t know how to love it. This is a big problem which is not less dangerous. That’s why I talked a lot about this issue today.

There have been three clear factors since the beginning of the crisis, but I talked about this now for a number of reasons: 1- the time since the beginning of the crisis is long enough for any person to learn, and those who have not learned the facts and have not understood the reality of the crisis, in my opinion, cannot learn, even if the crisis lasted for years; 2- the price we have paid is very high, and it is much higher than the lessons learned from the crisis or the benefits which we might gain, assuming that there are benefits which might be gained from this crisis; 3- this speech is the first one after changing the constitution and completing the package of reforms. As you know, everything that has been proposed before the crisis used to be considered by some forces as an attempt to find excuses and avoid the reform process. Now we are free: we have a new constitution, and the laws have been passed, and our credibility in terms of our desire to introduce reform is beyond doubt as a state. And now we are able to say clearly, and to get out from the atmosphere of hypocrisy which prevailed in Syria at the beginning of the crisis, when everybody, despite their inclinations, used to call themselves patriots. In other words, everyone was a patriot even though they were stooges of foreign powers. This is no longer acceptable. Now we can tell the patriot, you are a patriot, and to those who are not patriots, we can tell them that they are not.

The colour gray in patriotism is no longer acceptable. I say this because in my previous speech at Damascus University I said that the colour gray is no longer acceptable. Some people understood that I am obliterating the different colours of the political spectrum which means either black or white. The fact is that these people did not distinguish between political greyness and patriotic greyness. When there are Syrian political parties or movements or individuals who differ, compete against or oppose each other, I can stand in the gray area, not with the first, not with the second, not with the third, not with the fourth; but when there is a national issue, when the issue is between my homeland and other countries, I am certainly with my homeland; otherwise I would be a traitor. So, patriotic greyness is not acceptable, and I’m not talking about political grayness. Some people stand in the patriotic grey area and claim that it is a political position. And that is why I am making the distinction. In this context, and from the beginning of the crisis, some people have said that the president should be the president of all the Syrian people. To be precise, I say that the president is the president of all those who stand under the roof of the homeland, the constitution, and the law. Otherwise, I would be equating between foreign agents and patriots, between the victim and the killer, between the corrupt and the honest, between the destroyers and the builders. Consequently, this patriotic grayness violates the constitution and is an abrogation of the constitutional oath, a detriment to public interest, and a betrayal of national trust.

For those who are looking for a president without a colour, a taste, or a smell, for a country the richest in colour and the best endowed with the taste and odour of its ancient history, I tell them that my colour is that of this people which encompasses the spectrum of sovereignty, resistance, dignity and love. All the other colours related to terrorism, sectarianism and the other things which we have seen recently are alien and do not belong to us and they will ultimately diminish and disappear.

At the heart of these events were our brave armed forces at the centre of the attack which targeted its reputation, role and image which they have made through decades of sacrifice. No institution could have offered the sacrifices which have been offered by our armed forces; and they wouldn’t have been able to do so without the doctrine which moves its members in the right direction. So the target was the doctrine which expresses the people’s identity in turn targeted because it is the institution of which they are most proud.

This institution has made tremendous sacrifices, and its members have shown rare courage in facing killing and terrorism so that each one of us feels safe. Through their valour, they expressed the valour of the people they belong to and protected with their souls and blood around the hour. The least we can offer them is to embrace and protect them, something which is evidently tangible and without which they wouldn’t have been able to express our national unity through their steadfastness and coherence. This will make the enemies focus more on distorting the history of our armed forces relying on the simplicity of those who take information without much scrutiny.

Everyone knew the numerous cases of forgery which were done in order to tarnish the reputation of this national institution by associating it with heinous terrorist acts. Mistakes which happened from time to time were manipulated by certain individuals and exaggerated to make them look like a methodological approach endorsed by the state and its institutions in general. Here we need to distinguish between mistakes made by individuals who belong to any state institution and mistakes made by the institution itself. So, we cannot generalize a mistake made by one individual or a group of individuals to accuse all their colleagues. Responsibility lies with the individual who makes the mistake because he expresses himself, not others and not the instructions of his superiors nor the policies of his institution.

Our armed forces constitute an ancient and proud edifice which contributed to building the country, defending it and protecting its independence. It is not allowed to tarnish the image of a symbol which expresses our patriotism, unity and honour. On your behalf, I would like to express the highest sentiments of respect and appreciation to all the brave soldiers who have committed themselves to the cause of the country and to sacrificing themselves for its sake. They have vowed to defend it, and they have lived up to that vow.

Last week, after the atrocious al-Houla massacre, they accused the armed forces of committing it. In the beginning they said that it is the result of artillery and tank shelling, but later they retreated because they felt the amount of popular support for the armed forces had and because accusing the armed forces is an accusation to every Syrian citizen without exception of being a criminal and a terrorist. That’s why they started talking about pro-government militias, as they describe them.

What happened in al-Houla, al-Qazzaz, al-Midan, Deir Ezzour, Aleppo, and many other places in Syria, and which we described as brutal, heinous and ugly massacres, is in real fact very difficult to describe. Even beasts do not do such things, particularly what happened in al-Houla. I believe that neither the Arabic language nor any other human language can describe what we saw. We, the Syrians who lived this period, will continue to feel shame whenever we remember it as long as we live. We hope that it will not remain in the memory of our children and grandchildren. Still I hope that we will retain the lessons learned from this crisis but without the feelings and the images associated with it.

Hadn’t we felt the pain and the anger which reached boiling point for me personally and for all of those who have seen these cruel scenes on television, particularly the children, we wouldn’t be human beings. This is the natural human feeling and the patriotic feeling too. If we wanted to offer condolences, it is hard to offer them to families and relatives because whole families were killed. We better commiserate with ourselves for the levels that some Syrians have reached, we commiserate with ourselves for the level of criminality that we have seen, which is as painful as the crime itself.

Do these feelings move us, or should we harness them? Do they give us direction, or should we decide in which direction to move? The problem is that some people’s anger pushes them towards destroying the country. This is what we saw in the first days of the crisis. We have a group of people, regrettably, although it is a small group who fall in the same trap again and again. Every time they hear a lie or a rumour on a certain TV station or on the internet, they base their position on that and they are pushed towards destroying the country. So, do we use these feelings in order to prevent more bloodshed and protect children, particularly that the criminals who committed this crime and other crimes are not criminals for one day or one hour, they are permanent criminals, and there is no doubt that they are planning for other crimes when the opportunity arises. Do we protect our children from more crimes or shall we prepare ourselves for more of the same? Here we see the difference between national awareness and the lack thereof. We do not want to be led by our instincts nor by channels which speak on behalf of foreign powers.

This is what happened to us in 1980s, and they tried to repeat it now. Some lived through that period and maybe there is a generation who doesn’t recall that period. I’m referring to an incident which happened in 1979 or 1980, when two religious leaders from two different sects in one city were killed, and sectarian strife would have followed had it not been for the wisdom of most of the population. That is what they are trying to do now. The self-evident question which we raise in this case is, who is the beneficiary, and has the state or pro-state groups done this before Kofi Annan’s visit to ensure the failure of the Annan plan? We know who wants to foil the Annan plan and the Annan visit. Have the state or state supporters done this in order to bring more hostility in the Security Council which is dominated anyway by hostile powers? This is illogical. The case is simple and self evident. They started this crisis in stages. They started with a popular uprising which they expected to break out in a matter of weeks. They failed until Ramadan. After Ramadan, they started with armed action through which they wanted to confront the army, the security forces and the police. They failed. After that they moved to the stage of assassinations and explosive devices and terrorizing the citizens directly. The people stood fast and they failed. So they had to move to create sectarian sedition. I believe that is the last card they have, and it shows their bankruptcy. I call upon all those who react emotionally in such cases to think deep and hard about what happened and about all the events since the beginning of the crisis.

We live in an atmosphere of forgery. Some people might be good-hearted and say that everything that is being said is true until proven otherwise, or they say that is it reasonable that everything surrounding us is mere forgery. We should say that all these things are forgeries and fake until proven otherwise. That’s why I call on all these people who react emotionally to the maximum limit to change the way they think. And here I would like to stress a very important point related to this crisis. Crises show the real element of civilized peoples and nations. If we are civilized, the first attribute of a civilized nation is that when there is a severe national crisis, people unite, not the opposite. Uncivilized nations reveal their gaps, problems and divisions during crises. I truly hope to prove what we always say that we are a civilized people who belong to one or several of the oldest civilizations on Earth.

What is required today is that we stand together with the homeland. Every one of us should feel responsible for carrying out his or her duty to save the country as if they were soldiers or policemen. Relying on the state alone is not sufficient because it is not an internal crisis but rather a foreign war fought with internal tools; and every citizen is concerned with defending his homeland. If we put our hands together today, I am sure that the end of the crisis is in sight regardless of foreign conspiracies. We will not allow those who have come from outside history to write something that has never been written in history before, that the Syrians, once upon a time, destroyed their country with their own hands. Throughout history, we have defeated all those who hated and conspired against us; and here we are today drawing together with the arms of all honest Syrians, with our national institutions, and with the courage of our soldiers the lines of inevitable victory.

Our steadfast people has undergone attempts to starve and besiege it and play with its daily livelihood. You must rest assured that all this will disappear when we work together to meet citizens’ needs of social justice which manifests itself through fair distribution of wealth, equal opportunities, access to basic services, balanced development between the country and the city, promoting social support networks in order to strengthen and broaden the middle classes in society.

All this needs administrative reform which puts an end to waste, corruption, nepotism, indifference, and a weak sense of responsibility. We have to bring to account all those who try to exploit this crisis in order to play with people’s livelihood. We have to support agriculture as a strategic sector and as a main pillar of stability in our society and in the independence of national decisions while continuing to strengthen and modernize our industry, in addition to supporting small and medium enterprises as a factor of maintaining social balance and as an important tributary to national product and which should form the widest base of our economy, without ignoring the energies which have been exhausted by the current conditions and which have gravely obstructed the development process. They damaged vital projects and led to bottlenecks in providing some materials as a result of the foreign economic embargo, in addition to acts of sabotage by terrorists which targeted the infrastructure which led to a decline in the provision of basic services needed by the population.

We need to work on a daily basis to find alternative resources, rationalize spending, rearrange our priorities and repair damage to the infrastructure. But these conditions will not undermine our determination. They will be an incentive for more work. They shouldn’t be used as a pretext for those who fail to do their duty.

Young people constitute the main pillar and foundation of the homeland. We have started to activate their role in a number of social, economic and even legislative structures; and I believe that the youngest member of this assembly is under 30 years of age. Without the energy and the bright minds of these young people, we wouldn’t have been able to confront this vengeful attack. As they went out on the streets united and fully confident in their homeland, they should do the same in building and modernizing their homeland.

The tasks ahead of us go beyond national borders. If some outside Syria have sent our people death and destruction, we will provide their people with a civilized model to use as an example in gaining their freedom and becoming partners in their countries instead of having rulers who own the land and the people. Then, we will receive messages of humanity from our brothers in free countries instead of receiving advice about democracy from countries of slavery.

With our will we shall overcome this crisis, with our unity we shall vanquish our enemies, and all the noise will not be able to suppress the voice of right. All the vengeful distortion will not be able to cover up the truth which is spoken by the facts. Terrorism will not be able to break our people’s will; and proud Syria will remain the heart of pan-Arabism and the castle of steadfastness. It will regain its health and foil the attempts of haters and conspirators and will again witness their disgraceful defeat.

The citizens who elected you want you to remain close to them, not to feel superior to them. They want you to feel their pain and suffering, to achieve their aspirations, not to seek personal benefit and honour. Let’s stand hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder to raise the standard of our homeland and to make the first legislative course the starting point of the great workshop that we wanted for the Syria of the future.

Be united for the sake of the national interest and the citizens, even when you have different views and opinions. The real official is that whose heart beats to the rhythm of his people. Our guiding light is always Syria’s sovereignty, independent decision, territorial integrity and the dignity of its people. Always remember that individuals are ephemeral while the people is eternal; and that state positions come and go while the homeland is always there. I wish you every possible success in the tasks you are charged with in this first legislative course.

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