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Syrians reject sectarianism and foreign intervention

Interview with Dr. Khaled Khoja

26. October 2011
by Mustafa Ilhan and Wilhelm Langthaler

Khaled Khoja is a vocal activist of the Syrian opposition based in Turkey. Belonging to the Islamic current he was a member of the “Damascus Declaration” and today is part of the Syrian National Council (SNC).


Editorial comment: As Anti-imperialist Camp we absolutely refuse any foreign military intervention as an attempt to destroy the revolutionary popular movement in Syria. It is the Muslim Brotherhood which has asked for such an intervention by Turkey. Following interview does not express our opinion. (Nov 20, 2011)

Q: How you refer to the democratic demands and its highest expression, the constituent assembly?

A: By burning himself, Mr. Mohammad Bouzizi lit the torch of freedom in the entire Arab world and opened a window of hope in the public mind. He encouraged the Arab youth to fight for the freedom and dignity that the Arab world has been dreaming of for decades. Since then, thousands of citizens in Syria have sacrificed their lives peacefully against the regime’s death machine to have Syria democratic and to establish a plural system based on civil rights, refusing any compromise. The opposition parties under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council should not diverge from the street movement’s demands; they so far have been the echo of their voice and should continue until the Syrian people gain all of their rights.

Q: How you relate to the secular and leftist forces on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical Salafis? How strong are these forces?

A: None of the mentioned parties were prepared for such a critical case like this, but the street movement inside Syria has enforced the traditional opposition to unify their efforts. It took 6 months to have most of the effective parties sit on round table and discuss how to come up with a road map in order to save Syria from the dictatorship and manage this historical turning point. The Muslim Brotherhood has become more pragmatic and less ideological throughout 30 years in exile; this is also true for the leftist groups. Yet, there is no appearance of Salafis in the opposition so far. Because the mentioned groups are working underground inside Syria, it’s hard to compare their forces though it’s obvious that the street movement which led by Syrian youth has no organic relation with any of the traditional forces, bearing in mind that the major opposition forces in diasporas have support from the activists inside Syria.

Q: What you think of an Islamic state and the Sharia?

A: First I have to unclose some misunderstood terms about Islam: The word “Sharia” has been used deliberately to scare people, either by the orientalists or by the extremist Muslims, but it simply means “path” or “law”. According to Islam there is only one “religion” and different “sharias”, so all prophets and messengers from Adam to Muhammad have called for the same religion, but different “sharias” have been practiced. The word “Islam” means surrendering based on:
1) perception, 2) imagination and 3) affection. While the aim of Islam is to protect: 1) the self, 2) the religion, 3) the mind, 4) the generation, 5) the assets.

So any system or state which can provide these five aims as whole will be compatible with Islamic principles.

Q: Which conditions need to be fulfilled in order that the revolution can win?

The Syrian revolution will keep its peaceful manner and insist on its rightful demands. Lately, we have seen more defections from Syrian army as well as the security services. Those defectors are protecting innocent people and take the risk of being killed. This phenomenon is positive but any fight within the Syrian army will threaten the Syrians’ unity and that will not be acceptable. The Syrian revolution has passed seven months patiently and pricked the bubble of the regime’s black propaganda. The regime tried to provoke the masses in order to push them towards a sectarian war or to make them desperately call for a foreign intervention, but the street movement could overcome all of the regime’s games by a public consciousness. Carrying on in this manner and strengthening this awareness will surely bring the revolution to the victory.

Q: What you think of the role of Turkey? Does Ankara want to intervene? Is there something which can be called neo-Ottomanism?

A: Turkey has had an exceptional relationship with Assad’s regime, Mr. Erdoğan has supported Assad in the international arena and saved him from being questioned many times especially after the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. This exceptional relationship enabled Turkey to play a role as a mediator between the opposition and Assad’s regime. Turkey supported the demands of Syrian people from the beginning and asked Assad many time to respond to his people. But Mr. Assad has ignored all the demands and has called the people who asked for democracy “terrorists”, “Salafis”, “American collaborationists”, “germs” etc and started killing them. This situation has brought Turkey closer to the opposition and led Mr. Erdoğan to announce sanctions against the Syrian regime. Neo-Ottomanism is not the exact word to explain Turkey’s trial for repositioning itself in the rapidly changing world. Turkey wants to change its position from being a bridge between east and west to becoming a considerable player in the area. Mr Davutoğlu has expressed his strategy as follows: pulling the bow string strongly toward the east will let the arrow goes faster to the west.

Q: What you think of the demand for a foreign military intervention and of the Libyan experience?

A: Unlike the Libyan revolutionists, the Syrian street movement didn’t call for a foreign military intervention. Lately Syrians are calling on the international community to protect them and there is a major difference between the military intervention and the international protection within the frame of the international law.

Q: and sanctions?

A: Sanctions such like financial ones or on arms which can prevent killing the innocent peaceful protesters are requested. But any sanctions which may weaken Syria as a state will not be welcomed by the Syrian people.

Q: Which rights you want to grand to the Kurds?

A: In democratic Syria no one will have to be grant any special rights since all citizens will be equal by law. The new Syria will present the mosaic of the Syrian society in all aspects.

Q: What you think of Hezbollah and in which way the relationship will be administered in the future after the fall of Assad?

A: Maybe history can be distorted, but geography can’t. The good relations with our neighbours will be maintained. Supporting Assad’s dictatorial regime as Hezbollah has done is not the right attitude. We hope that the supporters of Assad’s dictatorship will understand that the dictators are transient and that nations are lasting.

Q: Which role does Riyadh and the Gulf play?

A: At the beginning of the protest, Saudi Arabia declared its support to Assad but later on, when Bashar al-Assad started the massacres in many cities, they stopped supporting him. On the other hand, the Syrian revolution initially had no support but it has started step by step getting solidarity and sympathy from the Gulf countries.