By: Simone Klein
Though no longer the “Arab Spring,” tension in the Middle East continues today, especially in Syria. For the first time since the beginning of protests, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addressed Americans in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters on December 7.
Recently, Syria has been in the hot seat, and not just with Walters. In late November, Syria became the only nation involved in the Arab Spring uprising to receive sanctions by the Arab League. As the United Nation’s prediction of the total deaths caused by the Syrian government its crackdowns against anti-government protesters neared 4,000, the Arab League attempted to send in its own team of surveyors. When Assad denied their request, his nation was suspended from the League and charged with economic sanctions, such as the freezing of the government’s assets.
The Arab League is not alone in its reprimands of Syria; the EU and the US have also spoken out against the nation. The UN accused Assad and his government of crimes against humanity, including rape, torture, and mass murder. Heads of multiple governments have asked Assad to step down, yet he remains in office and plans on running for re-election in 2014.
Though Assad denies the accusations made against him and his country, many of them have been proven true. Regardless of the media blackout, information has seeped through the cracks. Some pictures and reports of the terror have surfaced throughout the past few months. Still, Assad denied all allegations in his interview with Walters.
When Walters asked about the torture and cited certain cases, Assad repeatedly defended his government and accused the media of skewing facts and editing photos.
“Many people criticize me, did they kill all of them,” Assad said in defense of his army. “Who killed who, most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government not the vice versa.”
However, the Syrians targeted in the uprising are anti-government groups who do not support Assad. In fact, Assad’s crackdown began by beating protesters who called for him to step down.
In the interview, Assad countered every global view on Syria that Walters presented with his own take on the truth from inside. Instead of crackdowns of protesters by the army, he termed it “some mistakes committed by some officials.” He also explained that even though the forces are government led, that they are not his forces because he does not own the country. He also insisted that the country is mostly stable, even though some have already started terming the protests a civil war because of the extent of the violence.
Assad concluded the interview by once again insisting that he was not responsible for the terror and that many civilians still supported him.
“I did my best to protect the people, so I cannot feel guilty,” he asserted. “When you do your best, you feel sorry for the lives that [have] been lost, but you don’t feel guilty — when you don’t kill people.”
Many question whether or not he will step down and what the outcome will be. After the Walters interview, it became apparent that there is a huge discrepancy between how Assad views his nation and how the rest of the world sees it. Although few foreigners know what really is going on, most believe the situation is worse than he depicts it as and possibly even worse than the outside view of Syria.