La politica siriana e il processo di riforme. Intervista a Aref Dalila

Aref Dalila è stato preside della facoltà di economia all’Università di Damasco finché non è stato sollevato dall’incarico alla fine degli anni Novanta per le sue idee politiche poco “ortodosse”. È uno dei membri del Comitato di coordinamento nazionale per un cambiamento democratico (Ccn, هيئة التنسيق الوطنية لقوى التغيير الديمقراطي) che rappresenta l’opposizione politica interna alla Siria, in alternativa al Consiglio nazionale siriano (Cns).

Muhammad Atef Fares l’ha intervistato per Syria Today, la rivista in inglese stampata a Damasco.

What is your attitude to last month’s parliamentary elections?
Elections are only one minor detail of the bigger picture. If we go back to the past, we see that since 1970, the current regime in Syria has denied general human rights and all forms of democracy in social and political spheres. All legislative, executive, judicial and media authorities were run directly by the security forces, which means there is no such thing as unions or freedom of expression, nor free elections, free media, or freedom to establish political parties.

But currently, a new constitution, a new media law, and a new parties law have been issued and the licensing of several new media outlets is being discussed. How do you see these reforms?
All these procedures which the authorities call political reforms are being taken by one side only: the authority itself, the security authority, without involving or cooperating with any other side or opinion, and by bluntly ignoring all urgent demands which citizens presented for more than 40 years and for which tens of thousands of activists and intellectuals and other Syrians entered the prisons, and for which other tens of thousands were discharged from their jobs in state-run institutions. Also, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are now outside the Syrian borders, forced there by security and economic and political reasons. All these massive losses were caused by the attachment of the authority to its unilateralism and its denial of any participation in any sphere.

It is enough to mention that Syrian officials declare on TV to the press that citizens can cast their votes using any certificate of identity. This practice is not legal, nor does it happen anywhere else in the world. Moreover, there is only one side supervising all polling centres, where votes are cast, counted, and announced without any external supervision.

The elections must be monitored by the opposition, like in all other countries in the world, and in its absence there is no monitoring of elections.

There are opposition parties which have entered the elections and they are saying they will enter the parliament and start the change from there. How do you comment?
They are sure they will enter the parliament, but they will enter it through the same way which has been followed for four decades. The 250 parliament members are already determined and declared. Currently there are lists in all governorates for the Ba’ath Party and others. There is no way for any of them not to win, and this is as a result of how elections are conducted. Determining a number – without names – from this or that party before elections happen means this is fraud, and a violation of the law, and basically a loss of legitimacy.

You ran for office in the People’s Assembly in 1998. Tell me about this and why you did not try again.
The motive behind running for office was my dismissal from my job at the universities of Damascus and Aleppo as a result a lecture I gave at the official invitation of the Arab Writers’ Association in its headquarters in Mezzeh in 1997 where I talked about the constitution and the failure to implement it.

The dismissal was a kind of challenge: I said, I will show them who that man they discharged is. I applied at the last hour. To prove I met the requirements of an MP – which were that he knows how to read, write and do four calculations — I gave them a paper signed by the Minister of Higher Education appointing me dean of the Faculty of Economics. They refused it, saying it needed some stamp from the university. The alternative was that they formed a committee – according to the law – and gave me a test. I read a column in a newspaper, and they wrote: he reads and writes. They gave me a paper and asked me to write 4 x 5 and 50 ÷ 10. I wrote 4 x 5 = 20 and 50 ÷ 10 = 5. They wrote in their report that I could handle math, and I was registered. After I was registered as a candidate, I published a 10-point statement criticising the political and economic corruption.

When the Ba’ath Party branch in Damascus received a copy of it, they wanted me to cancel many things. I did not listen to them. On the day of elections, I went to some voting centres and discovered that some people were sitting inside the private polling rooms, handing each voting citizen a paper with names on it, and the citizen put it in the ballot box. Such was one of the many terrible violations.

It would be silly to try once more before establishing a constitutional system, the state of law, political and press freedoms, and legal guarantees of citizens’ basic rights.

You are now in the National Coordination Committee (NCC). From that perspective, what is your overall impression of current political developments?
I am a member of the executive council which was re-elected in April. At the beginning of the protests, we started as a group of seven independent figures trying to gather many opposition groups under one umbrella, the NCC. An initial agreement was reached, but during the time we were waiting to set a timeframe, we heard that the Syrian National Council had been formed with members of the internal and external opposition. Instead of solving the problem, it made it more complicated. Since then, events on the ground have become more heated, the number of casualties has increased, the chances of reaching a solution have decreased, and the opposition is drifting further apart—on the organizational level. Everyone shares the same demands, with one mutual and primary objective: the inevitability of the transition from the current regime. But despite the attempts and insistence of certain parties, especially the Arab League, the unity we aspire to has not been achieved.

The sad and unfortunate thing is that after 14 or 15 months of massive destruction and enormous sacrifices, which I recently estimated at USD 100bn at least, in terms of material losses for the state and the people, and the fact that Syria needs 25 years to go back to what it was before 2011, no one from the authority or its supporters feels that heavy loss. In spite of all of it, they are – in cold blood – issuing laws, conducting a referendum on the constitution and making elections for local administrations and the parliament. But all of that amounts to zero. It increases the complexity of the crisis and the time needed to complete a reform process, and makes the losses bigger. (Syria Today)