4 min read  | Damascus, Interviews, Politics

‘Going to Geneva is defeat; it is early to admit defeat.’


November 27, 2013

November 27, 2011

Directly contradicting the opposition-in-exile Syrian National Coalition’s precondition for attendance, the Syrian Foreign Ministry reiterated Wednesday that its delegation to the Geneva II conference will not go to “hand over the power.” As the conference, scheduled for January 22nd, approaches, the Syrian government has touted the role of the National Opposition, comprised of internally-based groups who are tolerated, and in some cases affiliated, with the regime.

Kamal al-Labwani-SNCAfter spending six years in Adra Prison 25 kilometers north of Damascus between 2001 and 2011, longtime dissident Kamal al-Labwani fled Syria for Sweden in 2011. Today, he serves as a political member of the Syrian National Coalition. In a conversation with Syria Direct’s Abdulrahman al-Masri, al-Labwani spoke about the deal he was offered in prison and why he believes that Geneva II is a dead-end for the opposition.

Q: Who is making decisions for the Syrian National Coalition today?

A: The coalition has been hijacked by a gang. They do not want to allow any public committee, they do not vote. In the statement which formed the coalition, it says the coalition cannot negotiate with the regime. Why can it now? How can it disagree with that statement?

The Coalition has been hijacked by its [financial] supporters and does not make decisions. The balance of power [in Syria] does not favor us. It is bad to go to Geneva II when we are in a weak military position. We should at least go from a strong military position, so the regime understands that it cannot refuse our terms. Going to Geneva is defeat. It is early to admit defeat.  

Q: What is the role of the internal opposition in Geneva? Will the internal opposition have a positive role?

A: Geneva is designed to fail. It is just a framework for an international meeting. In the end, a solution will be imposed on us that we do not agree to. All these messengers are going just to give legitimacy to the conference, to present Syria to the United Nations. Then, neither the regime nor the people will decide the future of Syria. Geneva II will only produce a Geneva III, to enforce a solution in Syria. This will benefit Russia, Iran and the U.S., not the Syrian people.

Geneva is here to end Syria’s role as a major player in Middle East. The only other option lies with the Syrian people. The Syrian people will go toward the extremes. Only extremism can help the region and the nation’s identity. I’m not with extremism, but it’s the only solution. We can not go straight from a civil war to a democracy.

Q: What is your opinion about the developments about the regime and the so-called National Opposition? Qadri Jamil, for example?

A: The question is, does an oppressive regime allow an opposition among its people?  I was in the opposition, and I spent all my time in jail. Every opposition member meets the same fate unless they make a deal and do not exceed red lines.

In July 2011, I was in prison. A messenger from the national palace came and asked, “How would you feel if you could leave today?” “How?” I asked. He said, “You can leave, but we want to ask you to not talk about two things: reject international intervention and armed operations [against the regime]. Oppose us as you like, you can go on TV, we will give you a roof larger than we give to anyone.”

This is the deal Qadri Jamil took. By saying, we don’t want military intervention and we refuse any armed movement against the regime, that means the regime won’t fall. Any opposition that doesn’t talk about the overthrowing the regime, or changing it, that is not an opposition on the ground. The internal opposition is made up of activists working with the regime, working on the margins to preserve the regime. That is not an opposition.

Q: What do you think of Hasan Abdulazim and his meeting with Lakhdar Ibrahimi?

A: Hasan Abdulazim should be the mayor of a neighborhood. He is not a political man he is an honest and good person, but he is not in the opposition. He is benefiting from his relationship with Jamal Atasi, the nationalist communist who founded the Ba’ath Party with Michael Aflaq and Salah Blatar, who died in 2000. He’s the father of Suhair Atasi, a member of the Syrian National Coalition. Atasi was the right hand man for Hafiz al-Assad during the Corrective Movement. He is not any different from the regime, not in their ideas nor in their behavior.

Hasan Abdulazim was supported by Saddam Hussain, so he’s not far from the Ba’ath party or the regime’s oppression.

I think the show they’ve put on about [recently-fired former Deputy Prime Minister of Economic Affairs] Qadri Jamil is just to prepare him for Geneva II, to increase the number of agents in the opposition. Qadri Jamil is a live agent for Syrian intelligence. He is communist, Kurdish, in power and also an opposition figure. How can that be? How can he be in the government and in the government’s opposition?

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