Following are excerpts
from an interview with Riad Seif, a Syrian opposition leader, which
aired on Al-Arabiya TV on August 5, 2011.
Seif: My second incarceration was more difficult. My illness affected
me more, and the injustice and hatred with which they treated me were
indescribable. They treated me very cruelly. I believe the day will
come when – as in the words of [Syrian poet] Nizar Qabbani - "I
will tell in the investigation" how they treated me in an inhumane
manner, despite my age and my illness.
Their rancor and their
baseness were... I don't know how to... I have never known how to use
words of contempt in Arabic, but those people are more contemptible
than words can express.
Despite everything, our
revolution does not stem from a desire for revenge.
I cannot imagine anything
worse than this regime. Finding an alternative is not the problem. History
has taught us that the Syrian people... An alternative cannot emerge
under tyranny, because one of the main characteristics of tyranny is
that it does not allow the emergence of any alternative.
In the Damascus Declaration,
we established a national council, with 167 members, representing most
of the political, geographical, pan-Arabist, and religious varieties.
Its composition reflected Syrian society, to a very great extent. We
convened and established a national council in a democratic way, electing
A few days later, they
arrested 12 of us – most of the leaders – and threw us
into prison for two and a half years, on charges of attempting a coup
and weakening the resolve of the nation.
So how can anyone claim
that there is no alternative? The alternative exists. But we want the
[political] climate to improve, allowing the potential of the Syrians
to be realized. We have many people with great capabilities, in Syria
and abroad. The Syrians living abroad did not emigrate in order to find
jobs. The vast majority were forced into exile. They are ready to return,
at any moment, in order to participate in the building of our country.
Finding an alternative is no problem whatsoever for a people like the
All the efforts are focused
on avoiding the loss of life and property, and on accomplishing a revolution
with minimal losses and as quickly as possible.
In my view, there is
no way back. The Syrian people has tasted the taste of its honor and
its freedom, and it will not give it up, no matter the cost. I hope
that the cost will not be high, and that we will manage to prevent bloodshed.
I believe – and
I am one of the optimists – that the fears harbored by some people
with regard to loss of life will ultimately not be realized. We can
see that the Syrian people has too much awareness to slide into a sectarian
war, and to fall into the trap set by the regime.
Dialogue cannot take
place between a hangman and his victim, between a wolf and a sheep,
or between a criminal and his victim. Dialogue could have taken place
ten years ago, and indeed, in the Damascus Spring, we proposed holding
a dialogue. The regime's response was to throw us into prison. We proposed
dialogue again in the Damascus Declaration in 2005, and in 2007, we
were imprisoned again.
Today, after all the
sacrifices made by the Syrian people, I believe that the word "dialogue"
between us and the regime has become anathema in the eyes of the entire
When I go [to a demonstration],
I don't view myself as a fighter. I go to enjoy myself. I recall that
when I was arrested on Friday, May 6, they took me from among the demonstrators,
and gave me harsh beatings. Blood was dripping from my head, and my
clothes were soaked in blood. I didn't feel any pain. The smile did
not leave my face. They dragged me by force, while I was being beaten
continuously by five or six men with clubs. Later, I saw that my entire
body was black and blue, but I didn't feel any pain.
Luckily for me, I was
taken for ten days to Adra Prison, where I met hundreds of people arrested
for taking part in demonstrations. It was an opportunity for me to experience
the tragedies of the Syrian people. In all the encounters I had during
these ten days, nobody said to me: I won't demand my freedom anymore.
They all felt the desire to be released from prison, not because they
were afraid or were suffering there, but because they wanted to go back
to demonstrate and fight for their freedom.
The basic motivation
for the Syrian revolution is the people's sense of honor, followed by
the desire for freedom. Of course, you cannot separate the two. Therefore,
when I got out of Adra Prison after ten days, I had full conviction
that the revolution would prevail.
It will prevail, and
there is not even 0.1% doubt of this. Those young men are invincible.
They are like the first followers of Islam, who built Islam out of a
deep-rooted belief in their right and in their cause.