June 26, 2013
Sondous Sulaiman, 35, is an independent member of the Syrian National Coalition. She originally comes from Hama, and is currently residing in Germany. She is also a member of the Modernity and Change for Syria Party, established in Syria in 2001. Sulaiman tells Nuha Shabaan why the regime will hang on until the bitter end, and why she believes the creation of an Alawite state is “almost impossible.”
Q: Did you believe in the Syrian regime’s slogans of freedom, Arab unity and socialism?
A: The Baath Party’s slogans are tied to the period when the party was established. Union, freedom and socialism were connected with the nationalism that spread during the colonialist era, and it aimed for liberty.
Hafez al-Assad’s regime knew how to use these slogans to present its military rule as civilian. He came to power through a military coup, so he used al-Baath Party as a civilian entity to legitimize its rule. In addition to that, these slogans were popular back then.
Hafez al-Assad’s rule fought all types of freedom. It was described as one of the most violent dictatorships in the world. They had many conflicts with neighboring and distant Arab states. Even though al-Baath Party was ruling in Iraq too, they had a conflict with that country.
There were many contradictions between these slogans and Hafez al-Assad’s political practices.
Q: Does establishing an Alawite state on the Syrian coast provide a real solution for the Syrian crisis?
A: I think the majority of Syrians don’t take the idea of an Alawite state seriously. Besides that, I personally think there are a lot of obstacles that would make turning that idea into reality almost impossible.
The international community doesn’t lean towards a situation like this, and Syrians are not willing to divide their country. I don’t think that the revolution’s supporters are willing to give up one of the main objectives, which is to liberate the entire country from dictatorship and establish a free state on all Syrian land. We hear some people talk about an Alawite state, but that doesn’t reflect the general public opinion.
Q: Are there groups or figures among the opposition talk about the regime’s attempts to divide the country on daily basis, because they are the ones who actually want that?
A: The repetition of an idea, no matter how rejected it might be, leads to making people getting used to it, and therefore accepting it. I think repeating this idea might make it acceptable at some point. Yes, we have seen some members of the opposition unintentionally stressing this idea, as they criticize the regime’s criminality, and make it stick in Syrians’ minds. Some might consider it at critical moments.
I think the Syrian regime wants to promote this idea, but considering the policy they’ve adopted, they won’t give up Damascus unless they face the fate of Qaddafi or Saddam Hussain. Perhaps they will then try to shelter in some area on the Syrian coast.
Q: Tell us what you think of the Assad family’s ideological approach to ruling Syria. As a Syrian Alawite, how do you see it?
A: The regime of [al-Assad], father and son, doesn’t have any ideological references. All they care for is staying in power, which is why they were good at playing the sectarian card. The Syrian regime isolated the Syrian sects from one another and empowered negative feelings among them in an indirect but accurate way. They did so by not allowing a normal political life to emerge in Syria, so there are no political parties or civil organizations or society where Syrian can get to know one another and discover their common interests. They made individuals feel they only belong in their own sects, which contradict the rest of Syrians at critical times, as we see today.
Like father, like son; both are dictators who only care for power, for which they committed the most savage acts, without considering any race or ideology.