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.
On January19th Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem gave an apparently conciliatory interview to state TV. “I tell the young men who carried arms to change and reform, take part in the dialogue for a new Syria and you will be a partner in building it. Why carry arms?” In the southern and eastern suburbs of Damascus his voice was drowned out by the continuing roar of the regime’s rocket, artillery and air strikes.
The UN and parts of the media have also called for negotiations. Until late January this year, however, the Syrian National Coalition – the widely-recognised opposition umbrella group – opposed the notion absolutely. But then SNC leader Moaz al-Khatib announced that he would talk directly to regime representatives (not Bashaar al-Assad himself) on condition that the regime releases 160, 000 detainees and renews the expired passports of exiled Syrians.
In the context of Moallem’s media offensive (and in the absence of concerted international financial or military support for either the SNC or the revolutionary militias) al-Khatib’s announcement calls the regime’s bluff. It doesn’t, of course, mean that negotiations are about to be launched. For a start, the regime only intends to negotiate with, as it puts it, those “who have not betrayed Syria”. Like successive Israeli regimes, it will only talk with the ‘opposition’ it chooses to recognise. This includes, as well as pro-regime people posing as oppositionists, Haytham Manaa’s National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, a group which has no influence whatsoever on the revolutionary fighters setting the agenda. The SNC – which does have some influence on the ground, and would have far more if it were sufficiently funded – is definitely not invited.
Rabi Tawil of the excellent Levantine Dreamhouse blog translates Syrian National Coalition head Shaikh Moaz al-Khatib’s important speech of 11/11/2012, in which he addresses issues of violence, sectarianism, revenge and independence in the Syrian revolution.
The Syrian people are the product of 10,000 years of civilization. The great people of Syria are facing daily, a programmed war of extermination and savage destruction. It can be safely said that there is not a citizen that has not been harmed by this regime. Many parties have exerted effort to pull this regime out of its primitiveness, its savagery and its stupidity but have been put off by its stubbornness and its arrogance. The regime has destroyed all aspects of normal life and turned Syria into ruins; it has worked for fifty years to negate the will of the people and to play on its contradictions using them to tear apart our people.
After a long struggle, numerous patriotic groups have now united as one to stop the massacre to which our people are being subjected daily as the rest of world passively listens and watches. Our primary task is to provide emergent humanitarian relief to our people and to stop the torrent of blood that runs day and night, as we unite our ranks to remove this tyrannical regime with all its symbols and build a righteous society based on justice and the dignity that is bestowed by God on every human being.
I would like to alert you to certain issues, even if I deviate a little from the norms of diplomatic protocol. The first issue is that our revolution is a peaceful revolution from its beginning to its end and it is the regime alone that bears the moral and legal responsibility; for it is the regime that forced our people to resort to armed resistance to defend themselves, their families, their property and their religion. In dozens of cities flowers were carried during demonstrations by thousands of young men and women. They carried flowers and cold water to give to members of the security forces to ask for their right, to simply express themselves. This monstrous regime responded with arrests, jail and torture and then proceeded to destroy the physical, social and economic structure of the country after destroying its intellectual and moral fabric for the past fifty years.