Dr. Abdul Basset Seida
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ARA News - Exclusive
Qamishli, Syria – Dr. Abdul Basset Seida, former president of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and current member of the SNC’s political council, said that the “Syrian revolution” is currently undergoing the most difficult phase since its beginning in March 2011.
“A number of factors contributed to the deteriorating situation of the Syrian revolution, including the endless rifts among the opposition blocs, and the decreasing communication between the political opposition and the armed forces operating on ground,” Seida told ARA News in an exclusive interview, pointing out that the rebel forces were exposed to fierce military campaigns by the regime and extremist groups.
Seida said that the international focus towards the Syrian situation declined recently and the focus has turned to anti-extremism, “especially with the mobilization of efforts to eliminate the Islamic State group (IS/ISIS)”, pointing out that the Western powers didn’t apply anymore pressure on the Syrian regime to stop its “brutal attacks against its own people”.
“What we hear from the West regarding the regime’s violations are merely media statements, no more,” Seida told ARA News, stressing that the opposition should have recognized that IS terrorism and brutality have undercut and weakened the Syrian revolution on ground and in the media.
“The efforts of the opposition were defensive. The opposition factions couldn’t build real trust among the international powers about the post-Assad era,” the former head of the SNC said.
Syrian Revolt’s Image in the West
Seida also pointed out that the Syrian revolution, according to the majority of Western citizens, has now been diverted by the extremists and radical groups. “Therefore, Assad remaining in power seems the lesser evil, according to the West”.
“This explains why Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guards supporting Assad troops are seen as better than Islamists who fight on the other side,” Seida stated.
“The majority of Western citizens, who constitute the prevalent public opinion there, do not have time and willingness to make the effort and thoroughly seek the actual reality of the complexity of the Syrian situation. Western governments usually take advantage of public opinion, especially if it is in favor of their interests and consistent with their agendas,” Seida argued.
Despite Hardships, Destined to Stay Optimistic
Furthermore, Seida said that the “revolution” suffers from major hardships in terms of humanitarian needs.
“Half of the Syrian people are displaced, and half the country is destroyed. Millions of children do not have access to education, and if education is found, it suffers from severe problems,” Sieda added.
Additionally, there are huge health needs, especially for those who are suffering from chronic or serious diseases as well as major social problems. So, all of these factors would constitute a heavy burden over the shoulders of the rebels and the revolution, according to Seida.
“Despite all these hardships, the Syrian people will not give up. They will not surrender to a solution obliging them to accept the Assad’s rule again. Therefore sincere international efforts have to be made to find a political solution to reassure everyone about the future, and guarantee punishing the murderers; at least deporting them from the political process. Without this, things will remain open to all possibilities,” Saida stated to ARA News.
‘Kurdish Political Reference’, Positive Step Forward
Speaking to ARA News about the Kurdish affairs in Syria, Seida stressed the importance of establishing the so-called “Kurdish Political Reference” –which includes rival political forces including the Kurdish National Council and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
“Under the sponsorship of Kurdistan Region’s President Massoud Barzani, an agreement was reached between the rival forces, and it was crowned by the establishing of the Political Reference in Syria. We recognize this as a significant step towards a Kurdish unity in the face of all the current challenges in this sensitive phase of the Syrian history,” Sieda said.
“However, this reference couldn’t yet bear its responsibilities towards the Kurdish people,” he argued. “There is a lack of coordination between the rival parties despite the announced agreement. We believe there should be some consensus regarding the situation in Syria’s Kurdish areas; a unified political vision is required to cope with the ongoing crisis.”
Seida blamed the Democratic Union Party (PYD) –affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)– for preventing other Kurdish political parties from conducting their activities and participating in the decision-making process.
“The PYD is the only armed party in the Syrian Kurdish region, and it apparently tries to impose its authority as a de facto power,” Seida stated to ARA News, after accusing the PYD of having some confidential cooperation with the Assad regime.
“This group (in reference to the PYD) will have nothing to do with the Syrian Kurds and their future relationship with the other components of Syrian social fabric,” he argued.
PYD Restricts other Kurdish Political Parties
Seida also discussed the PYD’s practices against members of the Kurdish National Council in Syria (KNC) –a coalition of 16 Kurdish parties, known for their links to the opposition.
“Leaders of the KNC were repeatedly targeted by the PYD-linked armed groups,” Seida told ARA News.
According to Seida, the PYD has some ties with the Syrian regime, while the SNC is close to the opposition factions, “which makes the activation of any agreement between both sides a real challenge”.
“The KNC does not have power on the ground, but it has the political legitimacy and recognition by the Kurdish, Syrian, regional and international powers,” Seida compared the SNC parties with the PYD.
“The PYD is a direct extension to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while the KNC completely committed to the aspirations of the Syrian Kurds within the framework of the unity of the country.”
Seida stressed that the Kurdish Political Reference could play a role in suspending a possible Kurdish-Kurdish conflict in Syria. “However, with the current differences between its members, it will most likely dissolve within months.”
Moscow Peace Talks
Speaking to ARA News about the upcoming peace talks in Moscow, Seida said that such talks could only be fruitful if Russia could practice some pressures on the Assad regime to show flexibility concerning a political solution in the war-torn county.
“Russia has continuously supported the Syrian regime, and if the Russian government is serious about its efforts to bring about real results following the upcoming talks, it should put pressures on Assad to give up power and open the path for change in Syria. This way, Moscow will be guaranteed some future role in Syria,” Seida told ARA News.
According to Seida, the Syrian opposition’s main umbrella of the SNC made clear to Russia that any negotiations should be based on Geneva 1 talks.
Delegations from the Syrian regime and the opposition held two rounds of talks in Geneva in early 2014, without coming up with any remarkable results. They are expected to head to Moscow at the end of January to hold a new round of negotiations under Russian sponsorship.
“Before participating in Moscow talks, representatives of major opposition factions are expected to hold a meeting in Cairo,” Seida revealed.
The Cairo meeting is aimed at gathering the different opposition forces at one table in order to unify their demands on the basis of a compromise, putting aside previous rifts for the sake of reaching a political solution when meeting the pro-Assad delegation in Moscow, according to Seida.
“The expected meeting in Cairo will be held under the umbrella of the Arab League,” he added.
Dr. Seida concluded his interview with ARA News by raising a number of questions.
“We all know that the Assad regime is suffering acute economic difficulties. Does it want to bypass its difficulties? Does it want to gain more time? Or is it serious about finding a political solution as no power can overcome the People’s will? Does Moscow want to ease the pressure on itself by finding a solution to the nearly four-year crisis in Syria amid mounting challenges? Legitimate questions: perhaps we find convincing answers in the coming days.”
Interview by: ARA News