A panel including Minister for Development and International Relations for the Central Tibetan Administration, Dicki Chhoyang; Franco-Syrian politician, journalist, anthropologist, and leading figure in the opposition to Bashar Al Assad’s Syrian regime, Randa Kassis; Cuban pro-democracy activist and member of the Coordination Team of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Rosa Maria Paya; Cuban activist, former prisoner of conscience, and member the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Regis Iglesias Ramirez; and Director General of Calmann-Lévy Books and founder and President of Kero Books, Philippe Robinet, address the 5th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy remotely via a video message– see below for full prepared remarks.
Philippe Robinet, CEO of éditions Kero: We’ll be fielding some questions. There’s one here to Rosa Maria Paya. Do you think that Cuba is now moving to democracy and an abundant society?
Rosa Maria Acevado Paya: I think that these new reforms actually improve some sectors of society. But these do not mean that the Cuban government is actually opening a democratic process. I think that my presence here maybe means that they want the international community to think that they are doing exactly that, that they are being open. But their repression and the violation of human rights there, which are realities in my own country, doesn’t change. So, I cannot believe in this change; I think that is a fraud change.
I think that we are working for legal changes. I think that people support those legal changes. We are working and we have delivered a proposal to make that change possible. The change that we believe, and the change that Cubans want, is the change who recognize[s] the rise of all of all Cubans, without exclusions, without privilege. And this has not happened still.
Philippe Robinet, CEO of éditions Kero: Another question for you. Do you plan to stay in Europe? Do you want to come back to Cuba?
Rosa Maria Acevado Paya: I want to come back.
Philippe Robinet, CEO of éditions Kero: When?
Rosa Maria Acevado Paya: In a few weeks.
Philippe Robinet, CEO of éditions Kero: Thank you. A question to Mrs. Randa Kassis. Why, in your opinion, has the international community not helped to end the war yet?
Randa Kassis: As I said, this is a very complex subject. We don’t have alternatives in Syria. We have a number of elements in Syria, which are not part of the revolt. We have the Islamists, we have the issue of financing, and the role that Qatar is playing; Qatar is much bigger, which is a greater game. Qatar are holding the reins of power concerning what is happening in Syria. So, we can understand the hesitancy of the international community. There are other countries involved, like Russia and Iran, that are supporting it. And I’m not going to talk about the role that China’s playing because they’re not playing a great role. But Iran, how can you say that Iran is involved in the Syrian issue? Well, I think personally this is a Sunni-Shia conflict basis and there is no desire to have a Shiite spread their influence in this region. So the conflict, first of all, we’ve seen this in Bahrain, the Shiite who rose up against the Sunni power and we see this conflict, which is a long standing one between Shiites and Sunnis, and we have to think of the fact that it’s rather a question of interests; it’s not a really a religious problem. So it is in Iran’s interest to keep the Sunnis far from power. That’s the role that Iran is playing. I know they’re giving advice to Basha Al-Assad himself. He is very stubborn. He’s not applying all the advice that has been given to him. But we do have sources that give us information from within and who tell us domestically that he is being protected. A lot of young people are being sent to Iran for training, military training. So Iran is playing and wants to play a role. The question is, will that be the same Iran as today? That’s the question that we should be raising.
Philippe Robinet, CEO of éditions Kero: For Tibet, should we boycott Chinese products in Tibet?
Dicky Chhoyang: You know, even within the Tibetan community, there are different schools of thought. You know, yesterday, I was asked on the Swiss News Channel whether we were opposed to the free trade agreement between [the] Swiss and China. And what I did say is that we are not opposed to commercial relations between foreign countries and China. What we are opposed to is compromising one’s principles on freedom and human rights for commercial interest. And I think that’s a very important distinction to make.
Philippe Robinet, CEO of éditions Kero: Thank you very much. Thank you, thank you to everybody for this session. And it’s time now to close the session and have a good afternoon to everyone.