Excerpt from the text of the speech by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, broadcast live by Syrian TV on 3rd June at the Opening Session of the People’s Assembly.
‘AS you know, after the heinous massacre of Houla last week, they accused the armed forces at first and said it was caused by artillery and tank shelling.
‘But they backed away from that immediately because they felt the people’s support for the armed forces and felt that accusing the armed forces of committing that crime was an accusation of every Syrian citizen without exception that he is a criminal and a terrorist. Therefore, they moved towards talking about militias loyal to the state as they called them.
‘When talking about this massacre, I want to say that we have described what happened in Houla and in Al-Qazzaz, Al-Maydan, Dayr al-Zawr, Aleppo, and many other places in Syria as hideous, heinous, or brutal. Actually, even monsters do not do what we saw, especially in the Houla massacre. I do not think the Arabic language and perhaps the human language in general can describe what we saw. We, as Syrians who lived through this stage, will continue to feel ashamed whenever we remember it as long as we are alive.
‘We hope that it will not remain in the memory of our children and grandchildren. The lessons learned from this crisis will, of course, remain but we hope that these images and feelings will not remain in our society. If we do not feel the pain in our hearts and the anger that reaches the degree of explosion as happened with me and every one of you as a result of the cruel scenes that we saw on television, especially the scenes of children, we will then not be human beings. This is natural.
‘I want to say that if we want to express condolences, we will find that entire families were lost. We do not want to console families and relatives but ourselves on the level reached by some Syrians. We express condolences over the fall of victims, but we express more condolences over the level of criminality we have reached. It is as painful as the pain of the crime itself.
‘. . . The obvious question that we ask in such a situation is: Who is the beneficiary? Did the state or people loyal to the state carry out this action prior to Kofi Annan’s visit to foil his plan?
‘We know the side that wants to foil Kofi Annan’s plan and visit. Did the state or those who are loyal to it carry out that action to elicit more hostility at the Security Council, which is dominated by a hostile colour in all cases? This is not logical.
‘The issue is simple and obvious. They began this crisis in stages. They began with the stage of popular revolution, which they expected to break out within weeks, but they failed until the month of Ramadan. After Ramadan, they began armed action against the army and the security and police forces, but they failed.
‘They then moved to the stage of assassinations, bombings, and the terrorization of citizens. The people stood firm, and they failed. Therefore, they had to work to create sectarian strife. I think that this situation or this card is the last card they have. It shows their bankruptcy.
‘I call on those people whose emotions take them to the extreme limit to think deeply of all the events that have happened since the beginning of the crisis until today.
‘We are living in an atmosphere of fraud. A good-hearted person may say that everything said is right until proven otherwise. Is it possible under the current circumstances that everything around us is only forgery? Shall we say that everything is right until proven otherwise?
‘We must say that all of these matters are faked until proven otherwise. I invite them to change their way of thinking. I want to emphasize a very important point in this regard. Crises show the real metal of peoples and civilized nations. If we are civilized, then the first feature of the civilized nations is that when there is a calamity or an acute crisis, the people will be united and not vice versa. The gaps, problems, and divisions of uncivilized nations appear in crisis time. I really wish to prove – as we always say – that we are civilized people who belong to one or several of the oldest civilizations on earth.
‘What is required today is that we stand in one line with the homeland and each and every one of us must feel that he is responsible for performing his duty to save the homeland and that he is a guard, a policeman, and a soldier.
‘Reliance on the state alone is not enough because the crisis is not an internal crisis but a foreign war with internal tools, and every citizen is responsible for defending his homeland. If we join hands today, I confirm that this situation will end soon regardless of foreign plotting.
‘We will not allow those who have nothing to do with history to write something that has not been written by history before, which is that the Syrians have destroyed their homeland with their own hands. We have triumphed over all grudge-bearers throughout history and today we together are drawing with the hands of the honourable citizens, with our national institutions and with the bravery of our soldiers, the lines of the victory that is inevitably coming, God willing.
‘Brother members of the honourable People’s Assembly, our steadfast people were subjected to starvation and siege attempts and to tampering with their daily sustenance. Be sure that all this will end when we work together to achieve the social justice the citizens need.
‘This will be reflected in the fair distribution of wealth, equal opportunities, and access to basic services. A balanced development of the rural and urban areas must be achieved and the social support networks should be generalised in order to strengthen and expand the middle class of society.
‘All this requires administrative reform that eliminates waste, corruption, favouritism, negligence, and poor sense of responsibility. We must hold accountable anyone who attempts to exploit this crisis to tamper with the people’s food. We have to support agriculture as a strategic sector and as one of the pillars of social stability and the independence of national decision. We must also continue to boost and modernize industry, in addition to supporting craft and small and medium industries as a factor of social balance and a significant support for national output, which should form the broadest base of our economy.
‘We do not forget the energies that were drained by the current circumstances and that seriously obstructed the path of development, thus disrupting vital projects and leading to bottlenecks in the provision of some materials as a result of the external economic blockade, in addition to the sabotage of infrastructure by terrorists. This has led to a decline in the level of some basic services needed by citizens.
‘As for the youth, who are the backbone and the basis of the homeland, we have started to activate their role in many of the social, economic, and even the legislative fields. I think that the youngest member of this assembly is less than 30 years old as far as I know. Had it not been for the hands and creative minds of these young people we would not have been able to repel the spiteful offensive against us.
‘In the same way as they rolled up their sleeves and took to the streets, defiant and confident in their homeland, they should roll up their sleeves to build and modernise the country.
‘Tasks go beyond the border. If some have sent death and destruction to our people, we want to offer their people a civilized model to emulate and use to gain their freedom and become partners in their homeland instead of having a ruler possessing the land, people, and the homeland.
‘We will then get humanitarian messages from brothers in the countries of freedom instead of the tips of democracy that come to us from the countries of slavery.
‘With our will we will overcome the ordeal. With our unity we will defeat the enemies. Clamour will not be able to suppress the voice of truth. Vindictive deception will not be able to obscure the fact that is spoken by events honestly and expressively.
‘The sinful terrorism will not be able to break the will of our people. Proud Syria will remain the den of Arabism and the castle of steadfastness. It will recover, repel the intrigues of the spiteful, and witness once again their shameful defeat.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the citizen who elected you wants you to be close to him and not look down upon him, and to feel his pain and achieve his aspirations rather than aspire for a private prestige or personal benefit.
‘Let us work hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder to build the homeland, and let the first legislative term witness the launch of the big workshop we want for Syria’s future.
‘Have the heart of one man when it comes to the interest of the homeland and the citizen even if you hold different opinions. The true official is the one whose heart beats with the pulse of his people.
‘The compass is always for us all. It points to the sovereignty of Syria, the independence of its decision, the integrity of its soil, and the dignity of its people. Remember that the individual is transient while the people stay, and positions are variable while the homeland is fixed.
‘I wish you all success in performing your tasks during this first legislative term. God’s peace and blessings be upon you.’