In his latest interview, with RT’s Murad Gazdiev, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addressed the question of whether Sunnis are oppressed in Syria, as corporate and Gulf media so often allege. President Assad replied:
“…the first narrative when it started, internationally–mainly in the West of course–and within Syria, in some mainstream media’s in our region and in the West, their plan was to create this rift within the society that will make things easier for them when you have such a civil war, kind of civil war, between sects or ethnicities. And it failed.
Now, they keep using the same narrative at least to encourage some fanatics in different places in the world to come and defend their brothers in this area, cause that’s how they imagine that there is conflict between sects. So, because of their narrow-minded way of thinking, maybe or their ignorance, they came here just to support their brothers.
Now, if I’m going to tell you this is right or wrong, your audience doesn’t know me, they don’t have any idea maybe about my credibility. I’ll tell you, you know Syria very well, it’s better to go and see the reality on the ground.
If there’s such a narrative, let’s say, in reality sects killing another sect, Syria should be divided now according to sectarian line.
…Now, in Damascus, in Aleppo, in Homs, in every area under the Syrian government control you will see every spectrum of the Syrian society with no exceptions. This reality will debunk this narrative. I mean yeah how could they live with each other while the government is killing them, according the sectarian basis? It doesn’t work.”
President Assad’s words prompted me to reflect on the secular Syria I have seen on eight trips to the country, since first visiting in April 2014. Below, I share related articles, posts, photos and short clips, just a glimpse of secular Syria, where faiths are respected and where most Syrians, if asked about their faith, reply “ana Souri”, I am Syrian.