Laith al-Balous, the Men of Dignity commander, has confirmed that he received threats following the outbreak of demonstrations. He added that he received a surprise phone call from Maj. Gen. Ghassan Jawdat Ismail, director of the Air Force Intelligence Division.
“Major-General Ismail’s rhetoric was very sectarian and illegal – he threatened to burn Suweida and destroy it,” Balous said. “Our response was severe, in the form of a large verbal altercation. In response to his threats, we told him that we will trample on Bashar al-Assad’s head.”
Laith is the son of Wahid al-Balous, founder of the Men of Dignity movement. Wahid was killed in 2015, when his car was targeted in the city of Suweida. Wahid’s son publicly accused the Syrian regime and Iran of being behind Wahid’s assassination.
Balous said that the regime seeks, via certain frivolous means, to drag the demonstrators before the security cordon in the city of Suweida and target them. He advised the demonstrators to remain outside the security cordon in order to preserve their safety. Balous indicated that the security forces went to Suweida a year and a half ago. At the time, the regime appointed Governor Namir Makhlouf, a relative of Assad. Since then, the governorate’s people perceive that Assad is moving towards a security-led solution.
Balous repeated his previous statements that the security forces are dragging the governorate towards violence, which is a foregone conclusion. When the people’s demands are economic and political – and when the regime is bankrupt – it will drag the regime into violence until the regime accepts the blame for its actions.
In relation to his meeting with the Russian delegation four months ago, Balous stressed that it was not his idea. He claims that Russia that asked for the meeting, which went ahead on the condition that the entire meeting would be filmed, so that the people of the south would know what is going on. Balous argues that the Russians have no real presence in Sweida and are indifferent to what is going on there. Southern Syria is left for Iran, Balous says, and there is a conflict between the two countries. Under the current situation, in reality Russia cannot intervene in Sweida.
As for Iranian influence, Balous said: “The Iranians purchase loyalty in Suweida. Raji Falhout is the biggest proof of this proposition. Iran does not exist in its official capacity or through its openly declared militias. Instead, Iran recruits vulnerable people from the governorate’s communities, pushing them to engage in clashes that have worrying implications.”
Balous concluded his interview by saying: “Whoever reads between the lines knows perfectly well that the regime is heading towards a security and military solution. I hope that God will humiliate the regime before the people of Suweida and the Syrian people more generally. We stand with every decent, free person in Syria. We stand with any real Syrian national project that preserves and defends the dignity of the Syrian people. And, in the absence of such a project, we must continue to preserve and defend our way of life in the mountains.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.