This article was written following a speech given by the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. The following was published by SANA and has not been altered.
President Bashar al-Assad stressed that thanks to our armed forces, the supporting forces, allies, friends and brothers, Syria managed to defeat terrorism, stressing that protecting the homeland would not have been achieved without a unified popular will of all the elements of the Syrian society.
In a speech during his meeting with heads of local councils from all provinces on Monday, President al-Assad said that holding local councils elections proves the strength of the Syrian people and the state, adding that the elections proves the failure of enemies’ bet to turn the Syrian state into a failed state unable to perform its tasks.
His Excellency underlined the importance of the local administration experience, which had positive and negative aspects like any other experience, stressing that issuing law no. 107 was a significant step for enhancing the effectiveness of local administration by giving municipalities more independence and expanding decentralization.
The President noted that law no. 107 should have been implemented within five years, but it was issued at the time when the war began on Syria, so its implementation was delayed and the elections were postponed as a natural result of there being areas outside the control of the state.
He said that the essence of the local administration law is achieving balance in development across all areas by giving local administrative units the authority to develop their areas in terms of economy, urban development, culture, and services, thereby improving citizens’ living conditions by launching projects, providing job opportunities, and providing services locally, particularly in remote areas.
President al-Assad said it is no longer practical to manage the affairs of the society and state and achieved balanced development in the same centralized way that had been used for decades, noting that the population of Syria in 1971 when the previous law was issued was around 7 million, while the population in 2011 when law 107 was issued had reached around 22 million.
He noted that the number of people with advanced scientific qualifications also doubled three times in that time, which makes local units more capable of performing their tasks without referring or relying fully on central authorities, although there still are differences in the numbers of people with qualifications between certain areas, and this is why the law must be applied gradually so that there are no discrepancies in development between areas.
His Excellency said that as local units manage day-to-day affairs in their areas, the central establishments can focus on its overseeing role and on comprehensive strategies and policies instead of being tangled in daily details.
He said that the launch of development projects locally will complement the strategic projects of the state and this in itself is an investment of financial and human resources.
The President noted that local units are the most capable of perceiving details in society, and therefore can provide accurate statistics which is vital for the central authority in terms of devising more realistic plans that suit the needs of citizens and the country.
He added that another important aspect of the local administration law is broadening the participation in the development of the local community which would specify its needs and manage its resources, in addition to allowing citizens to oversee the performance of local administration and correct any flaws, thereby expanding the citizens’ partnership with state establishments in decision-making.
President al-Assad said that while solutions are usually requested from the top, in this case the solutions may come from both the top and the base, as the base can be more capable of proposing tactical solutions, which makes citizens more than critics; it makes them critics, participants in the solution, and bearers of responsibility.
His Excellency said this means partnership between everyone in society and state, which is the true expression of democratic practice based on comprehensive and continuous dialogue, which transforms democracy from mere words to action and achievements.
He said that the studies issued during the war on Syria by research centers in the countries that support terrorism, as well as the statements of officials in these countries, it could be seen that these countries’ policies towards Syria are based on two pillars: the first is supporting terrorism which is a temporary pillar, and the second is applying a type of decentralization that is different from the one law 107 proposes; a decentralization that weakens the state’s authority and marginalizes it, thereby weakening sovereignty, nationalism, and social cohesion, which would lead to social division and ultimately geographic division.
The President said that those who pursued these plans are limited in their way of thinking, as their goals could not be achieved without true social division in Syria, which never existed, otherwise Syria would have become divided during the first years or even months of the war.
“But our enemies don’t learn lessons, and maybe it’s a good thing that they don’t learn lessons, because that will make them repeat the same mistakes,” he said, adding “there are two truths that never changed: the first is the plot to control not only Syria but the whole world, which is carried out by Western state led by the United States, and the second is our people’s will for resistance which remained firm and became more ingrained and deep-rooted.”
President al-Assad said that today, terrorism is suffering defeats in one area after the other, and security is being restored to millions of Syrians in liberated areas, adding “with every inch that is liberated, there is an enemy that is thwarted, and with every inch that is cleansed there is an agent and a traitor and a mercenary who complains. Why do they complain? According to their statements, they complain because their sponsors failed them.”
“From the beginning, you offered yourselves and the homeland for sale. I wouldn’t say you offered your principles, because you had none to begin with. You offered yourselves and the homeland for sale, and there was demand for this kind of goods at the time, and you were paid handsomely and bought, but after the new owners tried you out, and despite all the plastic surgery and improvements and upgrading and modifications, you failed to achieve the required tasks, so they decided to sell you at a discount after demand for you decreased in the international slave market, but at a low price, and they won’t find a buyer and they’ll probably give you away for free, and no-one will take you.
“But you were sold without the homeland , because the homeland has actual owners, not thieves. The homeland has a people who view their homeland as their soul whose death would mean their death, while brokers consider the homeland a commodity that they can replace if it’s gone after they pay the price. The homeland is like a soul; these are phrases you don’t understand… the homeland is sacred; these are words whose meaning you don’t know, because you are cheap brokers who understand nothing but humiliation and disgrace and who deserve only contempt and disdain.”
His Excellency said that after all these years, those who betrayed their homeland haven’t learned the self-evident rule which is that the only value is given by the real people, while the illusory people they invented in their sick imagination doesn’t really exist, adding that the only path to reach the real people is through honesty and clarity, not through betrayal and hypocrisy, nor through other states’ officials and intelligence agencies.
President al-Assad stressed that the only forward for these individuals is through reconciliation, handing over their weapons, and recanting their sins, and the Syrian people with their big heart will forgive those who are honest in their repentance, and the Syrian people look to the future.
He stressed that nations and countries are built and made strong by lessons and experiences, and Syria will become stronger and better because it persevered and confronted the war with bravery, adding that those who expressed Syria’s strength are the Armed Forces who, with the aid of allies and friends, managed to defeat terrorism, which couldn’t have been possible without wide-scale popular support.
The President said that while some would interpret wide-scale popular support as the support of the majority that was in the areas controlled by the state, the fact is that there were also supporters in the areas where militants were present, who could not leave for fear of being killed by the militants.
He stressed that the unified public will of the entire Syrian society refuted the enemies’ narrative that sought to depict what is happening in Syria as a civil war and a clash among religious or sectarian or ethnic groups, adding “today, and in the future, we must realize the fact that the war was between us the Syrians and terrorists exclusively. We triumph together, not against each other, and any victory is exclusively over terrorism, regardless of its nationality.”
His Excellency added that the involvement of a number of Syrians in terrorism and treason doesn’t mean they represent Syrian society; rather they represent the dark side of any society caused by the lack of values, principles, and morals, which produces crime, extremism, and corruption, leading to the absence of affiliation to the homeland, which is exploited by enemies inside and abroad to fragment the country.
President al-Assad said Syrians have suffered a lot during the war, and part of this suffering is the terrorism-imposed displacement of millions of Syrians abroad, stressing that the state has worked hard to alleviate the suffering of internally-displaced Syrians and to facilitate the return of refugees from abroad, but certain states hinder this return.
He noted that the issue of refugees was being set up a year prior to the war when camps were built in neighboring countries, with the goal being to create humanitarian suffering and draw condemnation of the Syrian state using refugees, which would turn the international public opinion against Syria and thereby impose stricter sanctions, regardless of whether such sanctions comply with international law or not.
The President noted that the issue of refugees was a source of corruption exploited by the states that support terrorism, and officials of organizations that were supposed to send humanitarian aid but instead sent them to terrorists, as well as officials in the countries where there were refugees.
He said that resolving the refugees issue means that those sides would lose their political excuses and the financial benefits, which is why they are clinging to this issue, and this is why European and American officials make audacious statements openly opposing the return of refugees under silly and unconvincing excuses, adding that there are constant attempts to convince refugees and expatriates that they are wanted and would be arrested if they enter Syria, which caused many to avoid returning to Syria out of fear for those rumors, with some of those who came sensing that they’re on an adventure and couldn’t believe that they didn’t get arrested.
President al-Assad said that in the past years, tens of thousands of refugees returned to Syria and settled in their areas after they were secured, stressing that the sponsors of terrorism mustn’t be allowed to exploit the refugees’ suffering in their political games.
“As I did before, I call on all those who left the country because of terrorism to return and carry out their national duties and contribute to building the homeland,” he said.
His Excellency noted that there are some who still fall for division plots concocted by Syria’s enemies who seek to create social division that would achieve swift division, and those people helped promote destructive concepts without knowing it and with good intentions, but these concepts actually resulted in social division regarding a number of issues, with some of these concepts being created locally while some were promoted from abroad through social media.
President al-Assad asserted that dialogue is necessary, but there is a difference between the proposals that create dialogue and others which create division, and we should focus on the common denominators.
He pointed out to the recent discussions in Syrian society regarding the recent crisis related to cooking gas and other materials, beginning by emphasizing three self-evident points: the first is that the complaints that were heard expressed actual suffering that wasn’t fabricated or exaggerated, which affected most Syrians.
The President said that second point is criticism, which is necessary when there are shortcomings, but it should be objective, while the third point is dialogue, which should be productive and based on facts, not emotions.
His Excellency said that such dialogue allows us to distinguish those who have real problems from those who are opportunistic and seek to gather as much applause or admiration or likes on social media, at which point it would be become possible to distinguish the real problems that we have in Syria from what is being marketed from abroad.
He said that he isn’t trying to attack opportunists, enemies, or social media, nor is he trying to deny shortcomings, corruption, or the blockade, all of which are elements that are sometimes lumped together and dealt with as a single problem, while each element has different causes and needs to be addressed with different but parallel solutions.
President al-Assad said there are those from outside the country who exaggerate small problems or downplay big problems to divert attention from them, or even create small marginal problems to distract us, and they also try to confuse the causes of problems, sometimes depicting corruption as negligence, or negligence is attributed to the blockade, or the corrupt are painted as victims.
He went on to say that all of this causes a loss of insight into details and leads to struggling with issues and confronting them in the wrong way, getting us nowhere, which is called “tilting at windmills” in reference to Don Quixote, and this results in more tension and frustration, making it easy to market any idea.
His Excellency said that we shouldn’t think that war is over like what happened last year, and this is addressed to both citizens and officials alike.
The President said that we are waging four wars: the first war is a military one, the second is the blockade, the third is via the internet and social media, and the forth is the war launched by corrupt people whose interests are affected and therefore try to market themselves as victims to serve their personal interests.
He noted that discussing these four wars isn’t an attempt to justify shortcomings, adding that the most significant one that happened recently in relation to shortage of gas cylinders is due to the lack of transparency on the part of the concerned institutions towards the citizens, because without information citizens cannot be objective in their criticism nor can they discern false information, adding that the lack of correct information doesn’t mean we should take for granted any information without verification.
His Excellency said we are currently facing the fourth generation of internet wars which is based on spreading misinformation via pages or sites that assume national identities or claim to represent a local village or city or neighborhood, while the ones writing on them are actually abroad, and they start to spread misinformation about the security situation, like rumors of abduction and assault, or they falsify exchange rates and spread stories about the economy that affect citizens’ trust in their country.
He stressed that the current situation demands great caution, explaining that since the enemies have failed through supporting terrorism and through their proxies and agents, they will seek to create chaos from inside the Syrian society.
President al-Assad said that those who are suffering don’t have the luxury of listening to rhetoric; they need a solution, much like a patient who goes to the doctor for a cure, not for sympathy or denouncing the disease.
He said that the main issues that need to be addressed are providing goods, monopolies, and prices, and the main challenge is providing goods, which itself is affected by three elements, the first being the blockade imposed on Syria.
“The blockade is a battle in and of itself. It is a battle of attack and retreat similar to the military battles,” the President said, adding that this battle involved successes and setbacks, because Syria’s enemies keep changing their methods, and some goods are affected by various conditions.
He said the second element of this issue is distribution, which sometimes results in partial solutions in some areas while the problem would escalate in others, and under the current conditions the distribution mechanism needs to be changed to take into account factors like population, industry, agriculture, and number of vehicles.
His Excellency went on to say the third element is related to administrative units starting from governorates and units below them, where there cases of corruption, infringing upon others right, selfishness, and fraud, adding that with a country with a population of over ten million, such details cannot be managed with a centralized approach, and this is where local administration comes into play.
He elaborated by saying that social administration should propose ideas that would result in laws and possibly legislation, thereby finding actual solutions to problems.
“We have laws, but we lack the standards and mechanisms, and even if they exist, they are weak or not correct… without standards or mechanisms we will not be able to solve any problems, therefore we have to be practical in our dialogue,” the President said.
His Excellency said suffering is the justification and cause for looking for solutions, but it cannot be a justification for treating the truth unfairly, and the truth says that there is war, terrorism, and blockade, and the truth is that there is a lack of morality and there is selfishness and corruption, and part of these facts are out of our hands partially but not entirely, and this makes rebuilding and reforming the minds the biggest challenge, not the reconstruction of the infrastructure.
He noted that reconstruction began since the first days of liberating the first area, and this has continued whenever the army entered a new area, while zoning plans are underway for damaged areas, with progress having already been made in several areas in Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs.
“When our enemies started the war, they knew that they would leave us a destroyed infrastructure, and they know today that we will reconstruct it, but the hardest thing is to deal with the destroyed and destructive intellectual structure,” the President said, stressing that we must not fail in that.
The President stressed that the future of Syria is decided exclusively by the Syrians, and friends provide advice and assistance, while the UN is welcome to play a role when it does so based on its Charter which is based on the sovereignty of states.
He said the sovereignty of states is a sacred thing, and that if this sovereignty is violated through aggression and terrorism, this does not mean abandoning its essence, which is the independent national decision.
The President stressed that the constitution is not subject to bargaining, and Syria will not allow the hostile states to achieve any of their objectives through their agents who hold the Syrian nationality.
He added that what is called the political process, which started in 2012, hasn’t achieved anything because hostile countries are still insisting on their aggression and obstruction of any special process if it is serious like Sochi and Astana.
President al-Assad said that regarding forming the constitutional committee, there is a side that represents the viewpoint of the Syrian government and the Syrian people who agree with that viewpoint, but the other side doesn’t represent the Syrians who do not agree with that viewpoint; rather it represent the Turkish state.
His Excellency said that after Syria’s enemies failed in all the previous stages, they moved to the phase of involving their Turkish proxy in the northern area, which is what happened in 2018, noting that the “safe zone” Turkey is pushing for is the same they had been calling for since the first year of the war, but the Americans didn’t allow them and told them to stay put, because back then they had terrorists to carry out their plans, and after the liberation of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Damascus Countryside, Homs countryside, part of Hama countryside, and the southern region towards Daraa, things became bad for the Americans who had only Idleb and some areas where groups were fighting on their behalf, so the Turkish role became essential to reshuffle the cards.
“Regardless of these plots, every territory or inch of Syria will be liberated, and anyone who interferes is an enemy, and any occupying force will be dealt with as an enemy,” the President affirmed.
He said that the problem lies with the Syrians who worked with the West, the US, and Turkey, and who gave justifications for Turkey to interfere, all the way back since the beginning of the events when these groups were talking about “freedom, dignity, and democracy” then became armed groups that became called “the Free Army,” and when al-Nusra came they became part of it, and when Daesh came they joined it, and now that the Americans decided to appear to be fighting Daesh, these groups became with the Americans.
“The question today is: where is freedom? It seems the freedom they had been talking about is only in the bosom of the Americans or the occupiers, and it seems they only feel their dignity when it’s trampled, and it seems that democracy is giving foreigners free rein in their lands. To them we would say: why do you act like lions against your state, and act like a bunch of cats against the occupier?
“The Americans will not protect you… you will be a bargaining chip in their pocket along with the dollars they have, and they have already started bargaining. If you don’t prepare yourselves to defend your country, you will be mere slaves for the Ottomans. Only your state will protect you and only the Syrian Arab Army will defend you when you join it and fight under its banner.
“When we stand in one position and in the same trench, face a single enemy, and aim in the same direction instead of aiming at each other, there will be no worry of any threat no matter how big, His Excellency said.
President al-Assad said the time has come for those groups to decide how history will judge them, and that they have a choice: to be masters in their own land, or slaves and pawns in the hand of occupiers.
“As you noticed, I will not name these groups, but as usual, for a few hours or maybe for a few days, they will issue statements attacking this speech, then you will know who I’m talking about,” he added.
The President said that in every Syrian family, there is a martyr who sacrificed his life so that other families could live, and there are injured people who lost parts of their bodies to protect others, and Syria’s state and people have an obligation towards them to support them in deeds, not just words.
“We will not forget our kidnapped citizens, hundreds of whom have been liberated, but for every instance of joy for the liberation of an abductee, there is the sorrow of a family whose loved ones haven’t returned yet. We will never stop working to liberate them or uncover their fate, and when we know where they are, we will spare no opportunity or method to ensure their return” he said.
His Excellency said that while holding the local administration elections was a sign of recover, full recovery and stability will only be achieved through eliminating all the terrorists to the last one.
President al-Assad concluded by urging the heads of local administration councils to show dedication and to work diligently in order to earn the citizens’ trust, wishing them success in carrying out their duties.
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