Interview with a label: Maysaloon
Syria might possibly be the country with the most unlocked potential worldwide, and most people who have met us would agree. Our place in the world is much lower than it should be, and we all know we are capable of doing so much better.
The advantages of this is that every Syrian who loves his country knows just what it must be, and as this projects show, their vision will mostly unite.
The only thing we differ on is how we’re supposed to get there.
Today’s interview is with maysaloon, who I must admit is my favorite Syrian blogger out there. Not least because of his outspoken attitude and capability of taking blows as hard as he dishes out.
1-Where do you see Syria in one year?
Quite chaotic and messy. Socially and domestically, Syrians are going to witness great upheavals and the Syria that emerges from this period will be unlike anything we imagine. No, I do not believe we are on the same road as Iraq. The Iraqi tragedy was caused as much by the Syrian and Iranian regimes as it was by the American occupation forces. What we saw was a battle between these forces over Iraq and the carnage was a by-product. So democracy per se is not the cause, let alone the fact that in Syria it is the people and not American tanks that are forcing change.
2-In brief, what were your positions regarding the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt?
Unequivocally supportive and from the very beginning.
3-What’s your opinion on the government response to protests?
Stupid. The regime has made every mistake in the book, almost as if it wanted to have a full scale uprising on its hands. I was surprised and almost disappointed with their response. I had really expected them to handle the situation ‘better’ than other Arab countries.
4-How do you feel about the media wars in Syria, the blackout, and the conduct of local and regional media?
I think ‘media wars’ is an exaggeration, Syria has no private or public media worthy of the name and their narrative is more like something you would expect from Winnie the Pooh. Whilst regional media have been accused of a certain bias, it is not hard to sympathise with them considering the Syrian [lack of] alternative and the ridiculous blackout. I don’t think regional media are any more or less professional than other media world wide, ultimately it is the viewer that has to exercise their discretion and critically examine what they are being presented with.
5-What’s your opinion on legally recognized foreign parties in Syria?
I don’t understand the question.
6-Are you with or against article 8, assigning the Baath party as leader of the nation and the people?
7-Are you with or against the information ministry, and its job of guiding public debate
I think every “Information Ministry” in the Arab world should be abolished in a post-dictatorship era. Just like in Orwell’s 1984, Arab Ministries of “Information” are really about disseminating “Mis-Information”.
8-Syrian riot control groups are known for being heavy handed, using plainclothed policemen, mass arrests, visible brutality. Do you consider it necessary, or do you think the current riot control tactics must be modernized?
I would not describe what these groups are doing as “riot control tactics”. Such a term implies that Syrians have a legitimate state that is governed by institutions, norms and laws, and that the executive is accountable for its actions – far from it. Syria has a ruling family and a state apparatus that has been merged with one political party, all of which are subservient to the interests of the ruling regime and to maintaining its grip on power. It is not so much that tactics need to be modernized but rather that the entire edifice must be abolished especially that it requires brutality to exist.
9- Syria uses many extra-legal forces, units considered outside the government structure. For example there are thugs, paramilitary, businessmen. Do you think these forces are necessary? Or should be dismantled or incorporated into the official system?
They are necessary insofar as the regime requires them to maintain its grip on power. Any state will need auxiliaries in order to survive, but, as Aristotle said, every care must be taken that these same auxiliaries do not take power. The result of failing to do this is apparent in Assad’s Syria today.
10-Are you with or against holding government officials and security under state law?
I’ve often wondered whether having something similar to the French droit administratif would be useful for the Syrians. They are certainly closer in spirit (for historical reasons) to the French model of state building and having such a decentralised system would mean it is more difficult for future governments or rulers to interfere with civil and criminal law. Such a system could also make the individual legal bodies more effective at dealing only with constitutional or administrative legal problems. I think such an idea deserves some serious consideration in the post-regime phase.
11- Many Syrians have been jailed for publicly stating the opinions they hold, under laws such as weakening public spirit, and enticing strife. What’s your position on the prisoners of opinion?
Imprisoning anybody for their opinion is unacceptable.
12-What’s your position regarding external pressure on your own country.
Every country has external pressure. A strong country with strong institutions knows how to deal appropriately with such pressures according to its own interests.
13-What’s your opinion regarding the Syrian economy? What would you like to see?
I’m not an economist, but it is clear to most that the Syrian economy is weak and badly managed. Syria needs to find a way of moving away from a franchise based and commodities based economy. It is unlikely Syrians can compete effectively by manufacturing as they don’t have a big enough domestic market to allow the economies of scale that would help them export. What Syrians can contribute in is in the financial services or service based economy. Tourism has enormous scope for development too.
14- What’s your opinion on the protesters throughout Syria? Do you agree with those who say they should go back home and give the leadership a chance?
If the protesters retreat from their position then they will lose everything. The regime knows that and it is desperate to get people off the streets.
15- How do you prefer to solve the problem of bloodshed? Will you agree to an amnesty or do you want to see all those who commit murder prosecuted?
An amnesty would be the ideal way forward, something like truth and reconciliation courts in South Africa. When the Nazis were put on trial after the war, they were told they were being tried for the crimes they did, not for losing the war. In Syria today there are two narratives and it needs to be made clear that regardless of whether they were with or against the regime, defendants are going to be prosecuted for their crimes against humanity.
16- Are you afraid of sectarian conflict?
Very much so.
17-Do you think the regime could reform?
No, to reform would be ipso facto the end of the regime.
18-Who are the writers on Syrian affairs that best reflect your views.
Unlike other countries there is a genuine poverty of good writers on Syrian affairs. They are either incredibly dry and academic or bordering on the absurd. Having said that I think Azmi Bishara has done some very good analysis of the state of Syrian affairs and I’d like to see more of his thoughts on the country in the future.
19-Are you worried about secularism in future Syria?
20- From 1-10, how hopeful are you of the future of Syria.
If 1 is the worst and 10 being the best, then 10. If not, then the opposite.
Maysaloon was called a “dog” and a “son of a bitch” recently for sporting a “Free Syria” badge.