Syrian Activist in Hiding: "We’re Not Looking for Intervention, We’re Looking for Support"
Syria’s 16-month uprising has entered uncharted territory after Wednesday’s bombing that killed three members of President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle, including his defense secretary, interior minister and brother-in-law. Fighting between government troops and opposition rebels has been reported across Damascus, including locations within sight of the presidential palace. We’re joined from Syria by an activist who requested anonymity to protect her safety. "They’re losing control," she says of the regime. "A lot of people were glad about [the bombing] yesterday, but it just makes us, deep inside, scared. What is the regime going to do next?" [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin our show in Syria, where the 16-month uprising has entered uncharted territory after Wednesday’s bombing that killed three members of President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle, including his defense secretary and brother-in-law. Fighting between government troops and opposition rebels has been reported across Damascus, including locations within sight of the presidential palace. President Assad has not been seen publicly since before the bombing, but it has been reported that he is in the coastal city of Latakia.
Syrian rebels applauded Wednesday’s bombing. Reuters obtained in an amateur video a leader of the Free Syrian Army, Abdel Jabar al-Akaedi.
ABDEL JABAR AL-AKAEDI: [translated] I send my greetings to the heroes of the Free Syrian Army who were able to hit the fortress of this criminal and target heads of this criminal regime. Thank God. And soon, God willing, we will hit him in Qassioun. Soon, we will be at the republican palace, because these heroes, who were able to reach den of these criminals, will reach, God willing, to the den of this criminal, Bashar.
AMY GOODMAN: Bashar al-Assad’s government said Wednesday’s attacks were sparked by outside forces and internal terrorists. This is Syria’s information minister, Omran Zoabi, speaking on Syrian state TV.
OMRAN ZOABI: [translated] Today’s bombing and all that happened in Syria are acts of murder, sabotage, bombings and assassinations. Their political, ethical and legal responsibilities fall directly in the hands of the Arab and Western governments, their intelligence agencies and their spies. And these people are responsible for what happened today. All the countries who send even one bullet to Syria are all responsible—not just a bunch of bullets, but even one bullet. Even those countries who send even one dollar are responsible. So all these people are responsible, and they will all be punished. They will be punished.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go directly to Damascus, Syria. We’re joined by a Syrian activist who agreed to speak on the program on the condition we do not disclose her name. She’s joining us by Democracy Now! audio stream. Listen carefully. It may not be that easy to understand.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you explain what’s happening right now in the streets of Damascus and your response to the bombing yesterday that killed three of Assad’s top inner circle?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Hi. Thank you very much for having me. Well, to be honest, today, the city of Damascus is very empty. It’s very quiet. When it comes to people walking, the cars, you don’t see a normal way of life, like the Syrian and the Damascian life, it’s pretty much not that—it’s not normal. But this morning at 8:00 a.m., when I got out of home, there were a lot of—a lot of refugees. Apparently, they have left the areas where there is shelling and bombing, and they are being distributed in the streets, waiting for cars or buses to take them to a safe place. There were tens of them this morning. And it was—to be honest, it’s a kind of very—it’s a very new scene to see in Damascus.
And we—I’m pretty much away. In Damascus, there are several areas that are witnessing shelling and bombing, but it’s not for me here, so I cannot share information that I don’t know exactly what is going on there. But, you know, since I’m in Damascus, and I have friends, and they can tell me that, for example, in Midan, the shelling hasn’t stopped. I was in Midan today 'til 7:30 a.m., and the shelling would not stop at all, all night. We managed to leave, because it was getting dangerous. And now, we've just learned that it’s getting even more dangerous. A lot of—there are reports. We’re not sure yet. I mean, I’m not sure yet. There are reports that over 300 in—martyred.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of how the Syrian media—television and newspapers—have been reporting what happened yesterday, can you give us an idea about that?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: To give you an idea of what the—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: How the Syrian media has been reporting the latest incidents, the killings of the defense minister and other members of the president’s inner circle in the bombing, how they’ve been portraying this action?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: I’m sorry to disappoint you, but, to be honest, I don’t watch the regime media at all. And today, ever since we woke up 'til now, we were trying to aid the refugees. We're trying to send doctors. We’re trying to send food and medicine. And we’re trying to find safe places. We’re just—I think it’s important for you guys to know that we’re not watching news anymore, because it’s getting tense here, that there’s no time. And if you want to watch news, you watch the news that tells you what’s happening, what the regime is doing, not what it’s saying, because, honestly, I don’t care. We don’t care. So, I’m sorry, I don’t know.
AMY GOODMAN: What about what it means that the defense minister was killed, that Assad’s brother-in-law was killed, his deputy? The significance of these figures dying and what it means for the escalation of what—the attacks in Damascus?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: I can tell you what people are saying here. I’m personally confused about it, I mean confused about the fact that the regime actually admitted, for the first time, that such huge news is told exactly as it is. And I think people—you know, here, from friends and close people are saying that—some people are saying it just—it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, before, when we—there was an attempt to kill these—it’s their people, just a few months ago. The regime made it very—made many—they worked hard to hide the news, and there were rumors about being—these—their men being killed. And just yesterday, a bomb happened, an explosion happened, and these people just died. So, it raises questions about people. Why is the regime right now telling the truth of what happened today—yesterday? I mean, I don’t want to talk about how there’s a sense of conspiracy going on, but just—let’s just say that we do not trust this regime at all, to the extent that if something—if some people from them died, we raise questions. I mean, how can they say such thing? It would hurt a lot of their supporters. It would just mean that they’re losing control. It would mean they’re—Assad is leaving very soon. It just means all that. And I don’t know. I mean, a lot of people were glad about what happened yesterday, but it just makes us some—it makes us, deep inside, scared. What is the regime going to do next? And we—and also, we kind of anticipate massacres, because yesterday’s was huge, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next in the coming weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: How are you keeping yourself safe? And why have you agreed to do this interview?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Well, first, anonymously, I don’t think it’s going to be—you know, it’s kind of safe. And I am keeping myself safe by moving around from one place to another. I don’t stay in any one place for a long time. I don’t use my phone a lot, because sometimes they track your—where you are, with mobile phones. I always use proxies while I use the internet, like right now, for example. I try my best to be very careful while talking on the phone and choose carefully people I spend my time with. You know, stuff like that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what would you like people in the United States and the outside world to know, the main message that you want to get out to other people around the world, even now as the United Nations’ failed monitoring effort is—there’s a new discussion as to whether to extend that monitoring effort?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: I personally have a lot of things to say, and I’m sure the street was trying to say a lot of things over the past 16 months. But I think we reached a point—and I can sense that from spending a whole night in Midan yesterday—we can—I can sense that people here do not look for other states’ support, you know, countries, states. We look for people support. We value people’s solidarity. We want the people to go on the streets and to support the revolutions anywhere in the world, not just in Syria. We don’t trust governments. We don’t trust politicians. And this has been very clear over the very last six months, when protesters are taking to the streets and raising the banners, saying that we don’t even care about your statements, Kofi Annan or people like Clinton. We only care about the people, the people of the world—the Egyptian people, the Yemeni people, the Bahraini people and other people in the world. I think people support is meaningful, the most, at this moment. The people here—and let’s not just say the people, let’s just say the street, the rebel street—have given up on the world support, and they’re not even looking for them anymore. They just—I mean, I’m just going to say it frankly—they’re just looking for armed support. I mean, there has been a decision. It is [inaudible], but just it has become clear, I think, four or five months ago, that we want to get rid of this regime alone. We want do it alone. Just give us arms, and let’s just finish our job. That’s the kind of general street, you know, feeling. Yeah, that [inaudible]—
AMY GOODMAN: So you don’t want to see outside intervention?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: No. You know, some people were. I mean, even the Syrian street, some of the areas in the Syrian street were looking for intervention, but that’s because they’ve seen the Libyan model, and they think that it’s going to be happening very soon. And people don’t know the—you know, what happens in Libya afterwards. But now, I think it’s very—at the moment that the Syrian street had known very well how politicians and powerful countries think and act, and they only care about their interests in the region, and we know exactly what we mean by that. So—and, to be honest here, I have to say this, very important. People here think that the United States and Turkey and some powerful countries in the world will get into Syria after Assad falls. This is the general feeling here in the Syrian—in Syria. And that—I’m saying this to let you know that this is how far the Syrian street has become suspicious of the calls of intervention. So, yeah, no, we are—we’re not—we’re definitely not looking for intervention. We’re just looking for support.
AMY GOODMAN: And how—how organized is the street? Are you with other people, as you talk about moving from place to place, not wanting to use your cell phone so you can’t be identified, using proxies when you’re using the internet, etc.?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: No, it’s not very organized, to be honest. It’s not organized because there are problems, security problems, safety problems. You have—I don’t know how to say this. It’s just, the more you have—you are scared to be tracked and to be taken, detained, the more you don’t know how to organize yourself. I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t know if I’m trying to say this right. But because of the very pressure on us, activists on the streets, there isn’t room, a lot of room for us to organize. But we’re trying our best. We’re trying our best to organize ourselves. And I don’t think we’re at—perfect activists [inaudible]. But there are heroes on the street. There are beautiful heroes on the street. There are doctors who know that by just crossing the street—there’s a sniper in the street. They know they might get hit, but there’s no way but to cross the street to help, to help an injured person.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally—
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you said you’re against intervention, you’re looking for support. What do you mean by that?
SYRIAN ACTIVIST: No, I am against intervention. I mean, if here—look, the battle now has—there is no demonstration right now in Damascus. There is no way we can demonstrate and protest peacefully. The battle has become military. It’s not just between the Free Syrian Army and the regime, but also with the neighborhoods that are protecting and welcoming the Free Syrian Army. And this is something that maybe a lot of people in the West don’t understand, the relationship between the Free Syrian Army and the neighborhoods, the rebel neighborhoods. But that’s maybe another topic to talk about.
But what I mean is, no, not just me, but the people here in Syria, the rebel street, the revolutionaries, are against intervention, but what they want is arms support, to send us guns, weapons, to defend ourselves, to get rid—or to protect the families, to protect the neighborhoods, and to finish this regime. I mean, this is—we’re talking about a regime that is bombing, has been shelling neighborhoods. It’s just not a joke. So we need weapons to protect ourselves. There’s just no other way. And in that sense, what we look for, we don’t want people to come into our poor country; we just want people to send us guns and protect our own country. That’s what we’re looking for.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us, for risking this interview. You have had a difficult history in Syria. Thank you very much.
When we come back, we’re going to go to a reporter who’s just returned from Syria, David Enders, and we’ll be speaking with a professor who has written a book about Bashar al-Assad. Stay with us.