November 6, 2013
Hazem, 27, is a Syrian Christian who fled a year and a half ago because he was wanted by the government to do military service. The rest of his family is still living in Sweida province, south of Syria. Hazem is a former student of English translation at Damascus University. He tells Mohammad Rabie why Christians fear the rebels, and why he sees Syria spiraling further into the abyss.
Q: Why did you leave Syria?
A: Because of what is happening there and because I am wanted for military service.
Q: Why don’t you want to serve in the military?
A: Because what is happening in Syria is a sectarian civil war, and I do not want to be part of it. If you serve in the military, you will kill people; this is a normal thing, there is no discussion. You will kill civilians. As a soldier, you will receive orders to open fire on people; you don’t know who you’re shooting at, whether they’re civilians or soldiers.
Q: How do you see the revolution after two and a half years?
A: After two and a half years, I do not call it a revolution at all. I call it war. A dirty war, in which all parties participate. Syrians and non-Syrians, international actors like Russia. You can no longer tell who is your enemy.
Q: What kind of society do you hope to see in Syria?
A: Purely civil. Civil society based on the principal of citizenship, where everyone has the same rights as everyone else, regardless of religion, color, or political affiliation—where we are all equal. In Syria they used to claim that there was citizenship, but, in my opinion, there was not. We didn’t have democracy back then; we were not allowed to practice our rights as citizens.
Q: As a Christian, do you feel threatened by the revolution?
A: Yes, sometimes. There are many factions, many parties in this war—there are takfiris, Syrian and foreign. When you see an ignorant, uneducated, unprincipled takfiri, of course you will be afraid of him, whether you are Christian or Muslim or whomever. That person will see you disagreeing with his point of view, and he’s armed; this is dangerous. I’m not speaking as a Christian, I’m speaking logically. Of course I’m afraid—Syria is in a state of chaos.
Q: Do you fear regime change?
A: Today we have the regime, and there is some vague semblance of what can be called a state. But if the regime goes, what choices do we have? Syria will be divided, and this is worrying.
Q: What do you think of Syrian minitories’ hesitation to join the revolution?
A: It’s natural because of the existence of extremist brigades that I mentioned before. Minorities always support a strong government to prevent extreme elements from emerging. A strong government does not mean dictatorship. We (Christians) are for a strong government and a strong civil state with active civil society organizations.
When the revolution started, we saw the army in the street. This is not its duty, why go into the streets? The army is neither diplomat nor politician, nor can it deal with peaceful protests. That was the government’s biggest mistake. If we had security in every sense of the word, we would have not seen events deteriorate.
Q: Do you wish the revolution had not happened?
A: Currently yes, after seeing so much death and so many refugees. I am not saying we used to live happily and questioning the revolution. We were living a simple life and we wanted political freedoms. But if we compare the current situation in Syria with how it was two and a half years ago, the situation was much better then.
Q: Who planted the increasing divisions among Syrians along religious and sectarian lines?
A: People who have an interest in dividing Syrians. Maybe the regime, maybe another side. You know the saying: “Divide and conquer.”
Q: There are innumerable brigades on ground in Syria such as ISIS, Jabhat a-Nusra, the FSA, etc.,” Do you fear that one of them might take over and rule?
A: I fear them all, not just one. I fear them all.