The Government is not able to manage the country anymore
The woman is the eternally oppressed.
ِHussain Al-'Odat is a writer and an outstanding journalist, the founder of the Syrian Press agency "Sana", a member of the council of the Union of Syrian Journalists, and the man responsible for the monitoring of the Union's freedoms. He is also an active member of the boards for the revival of civil society, and a member of the administrative board for the group "Jamal Al'itasy", the national discussion, a member of the board of Syrian publishers, and one of the most important advisors of the Arab human rights board.
He has a number of publications including, "Death in eastern religions" , "Christian Arabs", and "The Arabic woman in religion and society", and a number of articles in many Arab newspapers. "Al-Thara" met him, and had with him the following discussion:
What is your opinion of the internal and external situation in Syria?
The general situation in Syria is extremely difficult. There are many difficulties, both from inside Syria and coming from outside. Internal difficulties are most definitely economic as well as administrative difficulties, in which the state administration is no longer coping with municipal administration. The administration is weak and perhaps also corrupt. We see corruption gradually increasing day after day in the state to the point it has become a way of life. There are contradictions in approaches Syria takes in development, such as in economics you find more than one decision or clash in decision making and practices. There are also very many things that must be dealt with, such as issues of education and upbringing and changes in the national curricular and cultural education, press and looking at the economic reality. Indeed, all aspects of life in Syria are not effective and need a real, new plan and serious, truthful and realistic approaches. There is also the political side, in which is in real need of discussion between all political factions and between all political currents, whether they may be in opposition or supporters. It needs nationalistic stances so we can reach a national stance together which will be on track for a positive future.
As for the external issues: There is America, Israeli and perhaps also Arabic pressures. The pressure on Syria is ubiquitous, and we still haven't found a real effective plan with which to face these pressures ever mounting on our country.
1) Is this pressure on the authorities a result of foreign policy?
This is not the only reason, although there is no doubt there has been mistakes made in foreign policies. However, this is not the only reason. There are also regional policies and world wide policies, and a world filled with self interest and contradiction. Out foreign policy has, at times, made many mistakes, and these mistakes make up one aspect of the reasons for pressure which we now face.
2) Six Years has gone by since with "Speech of Promise" (The speech which Bashar Asad gave on his investment as president). Where are we now in relation to this promise?
Even before we discuss that there is another priority, a year has passes since the national conference of the Ba'th Party and the decisions made then are still secret. Although we have been told that there are political reforms, party laws, regulations for publications and reform of emergency laws and sentence without trial, there has not been published anything so far. It is as if the issues are in waiting, and for what? I donít know.
What is your opinion of the project for the party laws, and how do you thing it will be different from the current publication laws for instance? And will the articles forbidding parties arranged on religious and racial grounds be exploited to preclude the fate of any party, or even idea for a new party?
A year has passed and no project has been organized! It has not been suggested to the people, and no one has any idea about it. We can discuss it when it is in our hands. But a year has gone by and the preliminary studies have not finished, which probably means it will need many years before it can be published.
3) In the recent period many important events of "the Damascus declaration", and "The Damascus Ė Beirut declaration" have taken place, which have both been subjected to disapproval and subsequent arrests. Why?
In relation to the arrests, I do not see, in my personal opinion, any excuse for arrest of a citizen who signed the statement, as long as he did not actually do anything active such take part in secret organizations or carry weapons or did not take part in armed operations. Are there still in this day and age arrests or citizens for merely holding certain opinions?...
3) You were one of those subjected to arrest for your participation as a member of the administrative council of the "Al-Atasy group". Can you speak a little about this experience and the conditions you faced?
Conditions of arrest of are most terrible; everything is forbidden, daily life becomes most awful, there is no food, washing, shaving, tea coffee, smoking, sleeping is on the floor. But as for the other aspect, there were no insults, indeed the opposite, there were discussions, and there was no torture, and no disgrace and no harsh words.
4) It is said that in you meeting with the president of the republic, in the meeting of the union of journalists, you received a speech about the position of leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood. What was this speech, in particular with relation to the "Al-Atasy forum"?
I haven't permission to comment on that, but the state policy is still clear with what concerns law 49 which executes members of the Muslim Brotherhood and is severe with those who are in contact with them. Although he said that the speech of the Brothers in the "Al-Atasy forum" was against the law, his words were brief.
7) Does this authoritarian behavior result from an excess of power, or an excess of weakness?
In our day and age no political system can behave like this. In today's world we cannot find a balanced, forward thinking political regime that arrests people for a mere view point and acts with great contradiction, such as we saw when many people were dismissed from service for merely signing a statement. But is this a display of power of weakness? I do not know but I think that this a wrong.
8) So what is the fate of the Syrian opposition in relation to change and reform?
Up till this moment, the Syrian opposition say that they do not want the toppling of the regime, and they do not work with this aim, nor do they extend their hands hoping for foreign intervention in any circumstances, and they refuse violence. They say they want reform and peaceful development.
10) And where are the Syrian Youth in all this?
The problem is that the Syrian youth make up to eighty percent of the population. This means that young people, not pensioners and not middle aged adults, are absent from the political arena. And it is most unfortunate that we do not find youth organizations, nor do we find parties that are concerned with youths, even official parties. They have no organizations or social activities, or cultural organizations. They are left to television and forms of entertainment. And although this is natural there is another aspect, a cultural aspect which needs to be addressed. We notice through their relationship with culture and press and political work that the majority of the leaders of parties are old men; in the front line parties and the Ba'th party and even the opposition parties there is neglect and perhaps even distrust in young people.
11) What is your advice for the absent youth?
Get involved in public life, such as in cultural activities and social activities Who is preventing them from taking part in organizations from a young age, both political and non-political, cultural and from all sides of society?
12) In this case, they will face arrests and unjust decisions?
They may face this and indeed it is their duty even if they took part in a cultural group and attended lectures and were arrested, this can't be helped. Syrian youth should no wait for a solution to come from other sources, whether it may be the society or foreign powers. The solution lies within the young people themselves. Why do they not take the issue in their hands and participate in public life, developing themselves and adding to their cultural education as well as educating others culturally and getting to know the issues of their society. For instance, they are silent when it comes to teaching in universities in a curricular without benefit. This is there problem, why do they not form a society to develop the curriculum or develop the system of exams or indeed anything in general and cultural or political life.
12) With the loss of participation and democracy, society suffers from many illnesses, including violence and ill-will even inside the home, and this is more harmful to the woman. So what can we do about this neglected human?
When democracy disappears and discussion disappears, nothing remains except violence, whether it may be in the family or in public. The woman, in my opinion, is eternally oppressed, and secondary in society. First of all she does not participate, and secondly, laws relating to
personal status law in the rest of the Arabic and Islamic countries oppresses the rights of women and does not leave her any room for participation in politics and does not take her work seriously and she is looked down upon by the man. But the issue is not only an issue of the male and female. Let us remember that is a social issue based on traditions and laws that are preserved.
12) Is there a solution for the problems of women irrespective of the problems of general change or lack of it.
It is hard, without democracy the issue of women will not be solved. Without participation in political life the issue will not be solved; without really throwing up this social issue, and without allowing the foundation of men and women's associations to defend women's rights, and without the a real social rising up to change the personal laws, and without institutes and organizations and cultural currents demanding a solution to the problem of women. But even women's magazines or women's associations are not a solution to the problem. Oppression occurs in society and on women. She is oppressed twice: one as a member of society and once because she is a woman.
12) Being a member of the board for the revival of civil society, how to do see the future? And how will you face with future stages with all its complexities?
None of us has the right to be pessimistic when there are always peoples able to solve their problems even if there are big mistakes, and injustice and repression. In the end, the people must be able to solve their problem themselves. A foreign charity will not solve it for them, and the reasonable condition which is created in their country is what allows them to solve this problem and prevent it occurring.
13) An edict referring to publication has been passed in the last year, are there obstacles which you suffer today in the field of publishing?
There are mistakes and problems and weak points, but this does not limit the role of publication. As for the obstacles, there is not doubt that they are a result of the cultural situation of the country, as there is censorship and a lack of help, and there are custom fees and the problem of funding, as well as transport fees. Nobody from public or private institutions is concerned, nor any ministry. The state policy is not concerned in the circulation of books and their development and publication, not are they concerned in solving current practical problems. And so as a result, we have a crisis of publishing and a book crisis as well as a cultural crisis.
In your opinion, what is the most successful way to get out of this situation, in brief?
Opening the door to discussion and democracy and allowing people their opinions, as well as opening the door of that allows people to discuss their issues and choose their own paths in life. Accepting the other view and allowing the press freedoms of discussion and criticism. When real issues are thrown up, we will reach agreements and will seriously battle corruption. Let this fresh air enter public life! As for keeping the tight dictatorial grip on society, this is not a solution to the problem.