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Suleiman: I Want to See More Syrians Run for President

In part two of The Syrian Observer's interview, Jamal Suleiman discusses sectarianism in Syria, electoral law and his hopes for the constitutional committee.
Suleiman: I Want to See More Syrians Run for President

Opposition figure and presidential hopeful Jamal Suleiman sat down with The Syrian Observer for an interview to discuss his decision to run for president, the constitutional committee and the Turkish invasion of the northeast.

Jamal Suleiman is a member of the constitutional committee and was also elected to be a member of the smaller drafting team with  14 other opposition members who represent the opposition in the committee.

Suleiman is a well-known actor and director across the Arab world and is widely admired by his audience. Suleiman studied in the acting department of the Higher Theatrical Arts Institute in Damascus. He started his career acting on stage and producing television shows. Suleiman then continued his studies in London and obtained a Masters degree in theatrical studies from Leeds University in the UK.

In the first part of this interview, published Oct. 23, 2019, Suleiman rejected, “any military invasion of my country, including the Turkish invasion,” and reiterated that there will be no solution in Syria, of any kind, without regional and international consensus, mainly led by America and Russia.


What follows is part two of The Syrian Observer’s interview.


What electoral law do we need in Syria and how we can ensure that all Syrians, both at home and abroad, can and will vote?

First we need to draft a new constitution based on political freedom and equal citizenship. That is why we consider the establishment of the constitutional committee as a major step forwards. Hopefully, when the new constitution is approved by Syrians, we will move to write electoral law that allows for all eligible Syrians, including immigrants, displaced people and those who live in the diaspora, to practice their right as candidates or voters.


Are you optimistic that the constitutional committee  will be able to produce a new constitution?

Yes, but with great caution. Of course, with a regime in Damascus that led the country into eight years war in order to stay in power the process is going to be difficult and complicated, but it can’t be credible without the supervision and surety of the UN. To a great extent, it depends on whether the key players will be able to create a consensus and what momentum there is backing the committee.   We all know that, much like the Geneva process, the regime will attempt disrupt events and make it an exercise of time wasting.  

In the current situation, standing militarily against the Assad regime is suicide, that’s why we insist on resuming political negotiation and the full implementation of UNSC resolution 2254, including a “neutral and safe environment.” Without this, there will be no credibility of any sort.


You are a famous, popular artist. Did you take that in consideration when you decided to run for president? How, do you think, this will affect you popularity? Will it be a dividing power of the Syrian people or a unifying one? 

When I decided to stand with Syrians calling for freedom and democracy I did not think of my popularity or personal interest. I knew that I was risking my professional career, but I still believe that I did what I must do. It was an exceptional moment in our modern history, and I had to stand on the right side.

I know it is not part of our tradition to see an actor playing an active political role, that is why many denied my role.

However, in case everything goes well, I sincerely hope that my actions will unify Syrians. I believe the majority of Syrians search for a new life. They long for a democratic state where no dictator will take the whole country into a destructive war because he wants to rule forever. Among Syrian women and men you will find many brilliant candidates capable of leading the country according to democratic principles and values. Maybe I am the first to publicly declare my intentions, but I am not the only potential. I hope my actions will encourage other men and women who believe that they have the capability to win people’s trust and lead Syria to a new future.


You come from an Alawite father and a Sunni mother. Do you think this will be a uniting factor to encourage reconciliation and forgiveness among the Syrian people? Or will it make both communities renounce you?

All Syrians know these facts about me, and from the feedback I got, I realized how much that means to many people. Sadly, the war has divided Syrians, sometime on sectarian bases, but most Syrians denounce sectarianism. I am sure when the war stops and ceases to dominate their thinking, they will find that they have a new hope for living in democratic state. When they see that their great sacrifices were not in vein, they will look for reconciliation, they will reach to each other to start new future. Here, the leadership, the public figures, the activists and good politicians must play their part, and I will be happy to be one of them.


You are a secular person and you do not try to hide this. How would address the increasingly conservative communities in Syria?

That is a big challenge, not only for me, but for all secular activists in Syria. We have to persuade the conservatives that secularism is not against their religious beliefs. For me secularism means the neutrality of the state towards people’s spiritual believes. And this is the state we need in a country with multiple religions and sects. We have to explain that to conservative Syrians, and help them to realize the benefit of such a state.


In the same vein, how would you convince the Muslim Brothers and other Islamist that you are the right person to run?

Neither me nor any person that adopts the same vision and thinking will be able to convince the Muslim Brothers or the radical Islamist that I am the right person. They will consider me as their adversary. It is going to be a hard political battle.


Do you think the opposition can reach a place where they choose one candidate for running?

I hope that they can and will do, but judging by our experience of the last eight years, I doubt it.


If another opposition figure decides to run, what will do?

If I find that he is a better choice I will stand behind him. If not I will accept the challenge. This is the democracy we’ve longed for.


If for any reason, you decide to give up on this idea, who would endorse as your candidate?

It is too early to point to one individual. I hope, in the near future, more figures will emerge. 


This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Syrian Observer.

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