A panel including veteran war surgeon who smuggled himself into Homs in 2012 to help the Syrian people, Jacques Beres; Iranian freelance journalist and founder and Executive Director of ‘Foreign Policy Circle,’ Saba Farzan; and Syrian human rights activist who was arrested in 2011 for distributing pro-revolutionary flyers attacking the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, Hadeel Kouki, address the 4th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.
Saba Farzan: To Listen to you is really getting a picture of how the future of Syria looks like. How this young generation in Syria deserves to have their country back and to have their future back what is right now taken away from them and what has been taken away from them for decades because with the Syrian regime we have one of the most long lasting dictatorships in the Middle East. Let me ask you right now a question about the future. After Assad, how will Syria look?
Hadeel Kouki: Thank you. First, I think the future is still unknown for Syrian people because the regime is really a terrorist regime. Every day, their behavior with the Syrian people; they hurt Syrian people more and more and more. So the future is still unknown. Unfortunately, our revolution started [as] a peaceful revolution, peaceful at all. But now, some of the guys choose to have weapons because the situation is very hard. They have to have some weapons unfortunately. So the future is still unknown. But I know if we had good support from the world, we will continue in a peaceful way and, of course anyway, Syria will be a free democracy and peaceful country.
Saba Farzan: Well, picking up what you just already said, the support of the world; what kind of support do you want the world to show towards your society, towards your people, and in confronting the Assad regime with its unbelievable brutality?
Hadeel Kouki: I am sorry for my English, it’s not perfect. For me, some of the position[s] now want military intervention to kill Assad and destroy his military points. But for me, I was from first from a peaceful revolution. I don’t want military intervention in my country. But I want maybe a large amount of experts – I don’t know, they call them maybe green hats – just to protect the demonstrators. I believe millions of Syrian people would go in the streets and protest and reach  the home of Basha al-Assad peacefully just if we  can protect the demonstrators.
Saba Farzan: Your english is wonderful, by the way; no worries about that. We have a question from the audience to both of our speakers: now that the Syrian opposition is united, coordinated, is it an alliance of convenience or one that can be expected to outcost the conflict? Can you speak a little bit about the opposition being united, being coordinated, what does it mean at this very moment and for the future?
Hadeel Kouki: I don’t understand if you [are] asking about the opposition effort. No actually, the opposition is not that united. You know, [the] Assad regime, for more than 50 years, didn’t let anyone think [about] policy in Syria. So we have no experience; we have [don’t have] any united opposition and it’s so normal because the Syrian policy life was very calm. No one [could] think about policy. So we are very new [to] policy, so it’s very normal to be like this.
Jacques Beres: I have few qualifications to speak on this but I would like to underline something that is the inner resistance, [which] does not highly esteem the position taken by the West. And that could be a future source of problems. Other people might paliate this but the position abroad and the position of the resistance are not attuned to each other right now
Saba Farzan: Another question that I think is directed to both of you: We heard the same speech that this revolution has nothing to do with the Islamic but Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya proved the opposite. I think this question is leading the direction. How can an Islamist movement in Syria be prevented?
Hadeel Kouki: Look. Because the Islamic people in Syria are the majority, so it’s so normal to be the majority also in the revolution. It’s ok to reach right [in the] elections, to maybe the President, maybe the majority of the parliament. It’s ok. The [most] important thing should be [that] every Syrian should behave with him in the same way. It’s ok, we have no problem with the Islamic people.
Jacques Beres: As I said, this is not a revolution that’s being led by Islamists. I was in Homs. I did not see anyone, even an older person, making the signs or prostrating themselves. They live their religion, they do pray, but it’s normal. I haven’t seen any Islamists. Of course, that may come to be because nothing is being done.
Saba Farzan: You already spoke in your presentation about the fact that the Iranian regime was involved in cracking down on Syrian demonstrators. There is another question from the audience: did you see Hezbollah and Iranian people aiding Assad in any way to crack down on civilians? And, could you go a little bit more into detail about that?
Hadeel Kouki: Yeah of course. I was in Aleppo, in some village of Aleppo. I was in Idlib; Idlib is [maybe] the most hot point in the revolution after Homs, it’s a very important point. Actually, we saw – I didn’t meet anyone from Iran – but my friends insist that they met terrorists from Iran killing Syrian people. I met Lebanese fighters from terrorist party Hezbollah. Yes, that’s true.
Saba Farzan: We have only a few more minutes and so I would like to wrap this session up by asking a question that is more on a security level, but of course also deals with human rights and democracy in Syria. And Hadeel, you already mentioned the role of Russia in this crisis. Do you – I mean it’s kind of useless to speak with Russia about human rights – but do you see any kind of potential and in what way would that potential be to convince Russia to let Assad fall and to no longer block the way for change happening in Syria.
Hadeel Kouki: I don’t think Russia like[s] Assad [as a] person; nobody likes him because they know him. But I think Russia has [a] lot of relations, a lot of issues with [the] Assad regime. So we have to convince Russia that your issues in the region will be constant. In the same way, we [don’t] want to be enemies but they should stop supporting Assad soon because they are giving him time and opportunity to kill us.
Saba Farzan: Thank you for your strong words both right now, but in general in this entire panel. And thank you very much to you Jacques for offering these great and moving insights. It’s been a privilege to listen to both of you. The only thing I can say at the end is that I truly hope that we will see better days in Syria, for the sake of the Syrian people but also for the sake of the entire region.