Al Khatib: victory for Syrian revolution will break chain of oppression for all Arabs

A very fine speech at the Arab League summit by Syrian opposition leader Moaz al Khatib, which ends with a call to all the gathered Arabs to release their detainees and end oppression and injustice. (English subtitles included)

In the Name of God the Most Merciful…

God’s peace and blessings be upon you all. This blessing comes from a people one quarter of whose population are now homeless, one hundred thousand are imprisoned. They have paid a heavy price for the freedom they seek, with over 100,000 martyrs and a destroyed infrastructure, at the hands of a savage oppressor.Peace and blessings upon you, from a people who are being slaughtered under the watchful eye of the world for two years, and have been bombarded with a variety of heavy weapons and ballistic missiles, while many governments continue to shake their heads and wonder what they should do.

Peace and blessings upon you, from the only people in the world where warplanes bomb bakeries, and the dough is blended with the blood of children and women.

Peace and blessings upon you, from the widows and orphans, the tortured, the wounded and the disabled, the prisoners and the detainees, the refugees and displaced, the rebels and the fighters, and the martyrs that flutter around this wretched world.

Peace and blessings upon you, from a people who will follow the path to freedom, and who posses a will that can destabilize the greatest idol, and a love that fills the world with tranquility, warmth and compassion.

We despise war and fighting, and we started a peaceful revolution; but we were forced into arms by this regime, and this resulted in great devastation and loss.

I will speak about our wounded, yet resolute people with the following points:

First: our people have become impervious to any international conference, as long as they are unable to pass minimum resolutions of support for the Syrian people. We demand resolutions regarding the right of self-defense. Should such a thing require years of consideration, while the Syrian people are systematically slaughtered?

Second: with sincere thanks to all of those who are trying to help, and they are many, we must reiterate that our people have had to pay the price for freedom with their blood, and their decisions stem from their own interests. They will reject any party who tried to make decisions on their behalf. The differing regional and international views have contributed to the complexity of the issue at hand, and while our interests and views may intersect at times, this revolution is its own creature, and the Syrian people paved the way for it and are the only ones who will decide its path.

Third: The Arab League has presented a commendable, courageous initiative in its decision of giving back the Syrian seat to its people after the seat had been seized from them for half a century. This seat is an effort at returning part of a long denied legitimacy to the Syrian people.

This decision, which does not heed to international pressures, is not only an achievement for the Syrian people, but demonstrates what can happen with collaboration and unity. I say that the negotiations and role of Arab countries and its neighbors, through mutual understanding and cooperation, is a pioneering method, which the Arab League must continue to utilize.

On behalf of the Syrian people, I thank all of our brothers for this great achievement.

Fourth: there is a consistent attempt to impede the progress of the revolution with the following issues:

The first issue is minorities. I always say that if you want to see how the regime deals with minorities, look no further than our dear friends in Lebanon when they were attacked by the Syrian regime. Look at what happened to them, across all of their diverse communities.

Look at what the regime did to our brothers the Kurds, Palestinians, and Christians, and even look at what the regime did with our Alawite brothers. Who killed General Ghazi Kanaan? And who arrested Dr. AbdulAziz Al-Khair?

Yesterday, our Alawite brothers shattered the validity of this regime, as they asserted that the regime is a brutal force that goes against the will of Syrian people as a whole.

What is happening in Syria is a struggle between freedom and slavery, between justice and injustice. I would like to share that at the beginning of the revolution, the regime tried to instigate a civil war between our people in the city of Banyaas, a city where the population is a mix between Alawites and Sunnis. These Syrian people know they are one people, and they share the same rights and responsibilities. Therefore, they each sent a delegation of their elders to meet and overcome the crisis. They proved that the Syrian people do not need the Assad Mafia. They are a people that live together in harmony, and will continue doing so, God willing.

The second issue is chemical weapons. Everything that has happened to the Syrian people has not attracted attention, and there are those who made timid comments. However, I speak frankly to our people about this topic and ask: is it possible to destroy these weapons? This is a matter that must be decided upon in a national conference, and in my opinion, can have an impact on the entire region and can result in eliminating all types of nuclear and weapons of mass destruction. Oh brothers and governments of the world, the opposition will not sell their nation short.

The third issue is that of terrorism. Is it acceptable for a country to terrorize its own people for two years? Does anyone have face to speak of terrorism, while the Syrian people are being slaughtered daily under the watchful eye and ear of the world?

They say, we are not against the Syrian people, but we are against the foreign extremists. And I ponder whether this has to do with the fact that he is a foreigner or that he has a beard? And what of the thousands of Russians, Iranians, and Hezobollah guerilla fighters? Are all these people from our country? They must all leave our country, and we will apologize to our brothers and dignified guests.

There are many Syrian, French and Dutch mothers, that have sent me letters asking about their sons that have gone to fight against Assad, and whether or not I agree or think it is permissible. I tell them, your sons are people of great conscience and clearly they can no longer tolerate the slaughter of an entire people. But I say to all of these young people as well: if your family needs you, do not come. The service of your parents, even if they are non-Muslims, is at the heart of the holy struggle for God.

They ask as well, who will govern Syria? Only the Syrian people will decide who and how they will be governed. No country in the world can make that decision. The Syrian people will live together. They will understand the meaning of the verse: “There is no compulsion in religion,” because extremist ideologies are the result of injustice and corruption, and we must address these issues, and not blame those whose conscience can no longer tolerate the ongoing slaughter of the Syrian people.

The fifth issue is the question of a solution to this crisis. The regime has rejected any solution, although we welcome any political solution that will preserve the blood of the innocent and spare the country of further destruction. We presented a humanitarian initiative to the regime that did not include any political or military points. We just asked for the release of the innocent prisoners, however the regime strongly rejected this.

Forgive me for mentioning this example: I just want you to get a picture of some of the horrors that occur in the Assad prisons. There is a hotel by the name of Carlton, which is across the street from a security branch 215, and for those Syrian officials that do not know it, I ask them to go and visit it before the blood is washed from its floors.

A while ago, one of my students was detained. They hung him from his hands for 7 days and tortured him brutally until he reached the point of insanity. He was being tortured in a room where blood and urine stained the floors; and dead, decayed, worm infested bodies littered the ground. They forced him to sleep atop the bodies. He fear drove him to insanity, but they were not done with him. They slaughtered him with knives in front of the other prisoners. Can any human accept this treatment and torture of another human being?

We just asked for the freedom of the prisoners, especially the children and women. You may wonder, are there children prisoners? Yes, oh guests, and I can mention names. There was a one-year old child that was detained at the Yaafor checkpoint two weeks ago, and he remains with no food or help.

We presented the political initiative to spare further bloodshed and destruction, and the Syrian revolution does not own warplanes and scud missiles. This regime is the first and last one responsible. We want freedom, and do not wish for our country to fall into further ruin. We desire transitional legitimacies, national understanding, and a clear political solution, which puts a stop to this regime’s continued savagery and destruction.

Here is the sixth issue: the Syrian society is a civilized society, but its people suffer from the fact that they have not dialogued with each other before. They discovered themselves through this revolution, building and creating civil administrations, police services, courts, hospitals operating underground, and schools, all while they are under constant fire. There have been obstacles and difficulties along the way, but equally great achievements and an insistence to succeed. One of our great achievements was the creation of the Interim Government, and the choosing of its president, Mr. Ghassan Hitto, whom we all trust. We await now the General Assembly for the Syrian Coalition to discuss Mr. Hitto’s appointment and program, as well as the development of the Syrian Coalition into a National Conference.

Seventh: in the name of our oppressed people, we ask for support in all forms. We demand the full right to self-defense, the Syrian seat in the United Nations, and the freezing of the assets of the regime. These assets belong to the Syrian people, and will be used for rebuilding and reconstructing our country.

Eighth: We thank all nations and governments that have supported the Syrian people, and call on everyone to stay true and loyal to the commitments they have made, as there are dozens of countries that have offered aid.

An American Official said to me: Are you ashamed to mention that the United States helped you with $365 million for humanitarian relief? I said: we are not ashamed, and we thank all governments for their aid. However, the role of the United States is greater than the aid. I had requested from the Secretary of State, Kerry, to help us with creating a No-Fly Zone in northern Syria, and he promised to study this matter. We are still awaiting for that decision from NATO to help save the lives of the innocent, and allow the refugees to return to their land. This step would not be one to instigate more fighting, but rather to protect people and allow them to return to their homes and to some normalcy.

Dozens of countries have offered aid and assistance, and a special thanks goes to the state of Qatar, which hosted this conference, and our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and our brothers in Jordon, Lebonon, Kurdistan region of Iraq, who have all assumed a great burden.

My special thanks to our brothers in Turkey and Libya, and to the Anonymous Soldier who opened his arms to Syrians, our brothers in Egypt.

I thank our dear brothers in the UAE, Tunisia, Morocco, and all countries that took part in our meeting today, and all those that supported the Syrian people’s right to freedom, and I ask them to please make transactions easy for refugees and to support them during this time, as much as possible.

Ninth: brothers forgive me if I have veered away from the diplomatic terms and norms, but there are words that I’d like to say in front of all of our people:

Omar Bin Khattab, May God be pleased with him, was stopped by a woman on a road, and she said to him: fear God, Oh Omar. They said to her: How dare you say this to the Caliph? Omar said: leaver her, for there is no good in you if you do not say it, and there is no good in us if we do not hear her. And I say to you as I am the newest amongst you: fear God while governing your people, and fortify your countries with equality and justice, and plant love everywhere.

Our people yearn for dignity, justice and equality. I am sure if we walked amongst them they would embrace us, and put their heads on our shoulders, and weep from the weight of the burdens and suffering they carry. Our people are a great responsibility and we ask God to help us all carry this responsibility.

There is a request I received from hundreds of letters. Even if it does not comply with the diplomatic norms, I ask that if you find it appropriate, to adopt a resolution during this conference, within the conditions that each country finds appropriate, to release all detainees across the Arab world. This way, the victory of the Syrian Revolution, will be a victory and a day of joy for all, breaking the cycle of injustice for all of our people.

“By Asr, Verily Man is in loss, Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and advise one another to truth which God has ordained, and advise on another to patience.”

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

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