Interview with Bahar Kimyongür: prospects for the Syrian conflict?

by Anass E.I. & Louis Maréchal on 06-12-2012

My concern is that in the name of democracy and human rights, the country is completely destroyed, humiliated, satellite state, like the Iraqi, and Somali people.

A destroyed section of the Umayyad Mosque complex in the old city of Aleppo - (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)

Kimyongür Bahar is a Belgian activist originally from the Turkish region of Antioch, on the Syrian border. He is a member of the "Committee for the freedom of expression and association" (CLEA) and Attac-Brussels. His passion for Syria led in 2024 to the publishing of "Syriana, the conquest continues," an analysis of the emerging conflict. Circle Volunteers met him on 25 November 2024, on the occasion of the great debate in Brussels where he spoke alongside Michel Collon, Jean Bricmont and Ayssar Midani. In this interview, he will discuss the particular causes of the Syrian crisis and the role played by the various Arab and Western countries, before discussing the prospects for the country and possible ways out of chaos.

In the current state of things, can we talk about Syrian interference in the conflict? Which intruders and interests?

Syria is clearly the scene of a proxy war in which several powers compete to conquer. In one camp, we find the United States who has been trying to gain control of the country, since its inception. They are more or less supported by France, the former mandatory power which colonized Syria between 1920 and 1946. Then there are the Gulf monarchies, which rather for ideological reasons, are at war against a secular, , multi-faith, Baathist and nationalist Syria, which is historically linked to the Soviet Union, Russia and therefore non-aligned . We can also mention that Britain plays an important role. We are thus dealing with a war between two completely antagonistic camps with on the one hand a sort of alliance between medieval regimes and advanced capitalist states which were formerly colonial empires.
On the other hand, there are those that are called "rogue states", non-aligned, anti-imperialists ... In short, it is those who refuse to be in the orbit of Western colonial . Among them, there are emerging powers such as the BRICS members (1), mainly with Russia and China. Allies of Syria are the countries of ALBA (2), the economic and diplomatic alliance in Latin America which wants to develop an economy and a popular democracy, whose figureheads are Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro or Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua.
It was therefore superpower, Western Atlanticist on one side and the other emerging powers on the other. These have an extremely limited scope. They simply use their veto to prevent a resolution which would cause the war, the bombing and the conquest of Syria. In addition, Russia and China are supporting a legitimate government. It is in fact the government of a sovereign state, which until proven otherwise, enjoys some popular support.
How do you explain the turmoil, popular support for Bashar al-Assad?
Like it or no, there are various reasons. Some support him for ideological reasons, others for ethnic reasons, some because he represents stability ... Still others are part of the silent majority who fear an uncertain future. In Syria and abroad, there are a number of people who want the country to lean to dialogue and possibly democratization, but who do not want that to happen in a violent manner.
However, the voice of the silent majority does not seem to be understood by the international community ...
I still find it disturbing that our so-called democracies do not want to heed that voice when it comes to Syria! For them, there is no question of encouraging dialogue, reconciliation, a referendum or to give a chance to free elections, democratic and independent under any supervision ...
The problem is that from the beginning, the dialogue has been completely removed. For example, Victoria Nuland  (an American diplomatic representative) encouraged armed opposition, instead of disarming. It is not uncommon to hear Western politicians call to arm the opposition.
We can also mention the role of the monarchies, practicing one-upmanship. Currently, we pay the soldiers of the Free Syrian Army, so that ASL is in fact composed of mercenaries. Each soldier receives a monthly salary of $ 150, not counting the private funds of wealthy families from Syrian, the Gulf, Qatar or Kuwait who send money to the families of martyrs, as they say, or to buy weapons ...
What do you think of the term "revolution", which is widely used by mass media to describe the situation in Syria?
Those who have declared war in Syria today are the expression of a dominant-dominated relationship, a North-South relation. We cannot talk of "revolution" because there can be no revolution with Qatari or Saudi funds, or donor lists that appear in Forbes among the richest in the world, especially as the Hariri family ...
In addition, a revolution that attacks the working class as does the Syrian rebellion is not a revolution.. For the opposition, the very fact that a salary is received from the government is considered collaboration with the regime. As a result of this, hundreds of workers were massacred. In Aleppo, for example, postal workers were executed and thrown from the post office. I always expect the indignation of French Trotskyite friends, including Olivier Besancenot, for the massacre of his fellow workers ...
What is the weight of the Democrats in the opposition? What do you think of their claims?

The reality of the conflict is disguised. We are led to believe that we have a pretty rebellion pluralistic, multi-religious rebellion tha carries out a, democratic discourse.. For my part, I have argued for years with my meager means the right of resistance to oppression. I am one of those who denounce abuses by the Ba'athist regime against its opponents, and the democratic deficit is terrible. Having campaigned against torture in Turkish prisons, I can tell you that the situation is much worse in Syrian prisons. There is therefore no question of denying the evidence of the repressive and undemocratic Syrian government.
The problem is that activists who are fighting for democracy have no weight and no credibility in fighting in Syria because they have neither arms nor money. They are completely censored because they also denounce the crimes committed by the opposition and the rebels.
This is the voice of those who are ignored by all, a voice that I would like all to know in Europe. The Syrian left, for example, is highly fragmented over the issue. There are communists in the government and others who are in opposition. Among the opposition, some are for the rebellion, and others strongly against. Some of these communists are, like me, in favor of the dialogue with the government.
I think we cannot pretend to be Democratic while refusing dialogue. To not talk, it sprains democracy and ignores the popular will of millions of people who support the Baathist government. This is a basic democratic principle that I would like to see applied in the case of Syria.
Can you tell us about the attitude adopted by the Arab League in this conflict? How could it play out in the crisis?

What Arab League? An Arab League which excludes the only state that defends the Arab cause, namely Syria, is not very Arabic! It is mainly dominated by the Gulf Cooperation Council. In some ways, it is a state within a state, a kind of inter-monarchist lobby. You should know that all these Gulf monarchies are nested into each other. These are large families who have a strategy and a more or less homogeneous foreign policy. It is they who greatly influence the policy to be adopted by the Arab League.
Do you think the Arab League embodies more pan-Arabism?
Arabism is largely dead.  It was played by Gaddafi at one time, although it is true that he had partly perverted the Arab cause. Nevertheless, we must not blame him too. There were many Arab leaders who have attacked and marginalized it, and this  resulted in him turning to Africa and Pan-Africanism. There was also Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose entire progressive, socialist, secular, pan-Arab legacy was completely liquidated by Anwar Sadat. This left a boulevard open to the Muslim Brotherhood, who were able to take control of health problems, education, etc ...
So today, what of the Arabs and Arabism? Even though it was a criticized ideology , this pan-Arabism had the advantage of uniting all the Arab countries, advocating an identity that transcended ethnic and religious lines: Christians, atheists, Shiites, Sunnis, Alawites,  Maronites etc.. In this sense, it was a lesser evil since it allowed space to deal with those colonial empires who leagued against the Arabs, as was seen especially during the Suez War. Today, there are few traces, except maybe a little in Algeria, which still has a legacy of anti-colonialism and whose speech is sometimes tinged with references to the Third World ... For the rest, the Arab League has not been Arab for a long time! And it is even less with the exclusion of Syria.
For a few weeks, there have been significant tensions on the border between Turkey and Syria. Do you think these are used by countries in favor of military intervention to achieve their military purposes?

Turkey has always served as a bridgehead of Western imperialism and the Atlantic west.. First, it is a NATO country. She bought her accession to NATO by sending Turkish troops to break-pipe in the Korean War against communism. This Turkey has since continued to serve as a warder of U.S. and European imperialism. One can cite many examples. She has served as a launching pad for a series of American bombers who destroyed Iraq. She was also a member of the anti-Communist pact of Baghdad in 1950, sponsored by the British and the Americans. So Turkey, as it currently exists, is a Turkey in complete orbit. 
Until recently, Prime Minister Erdogan said his country was a de facto NATO territory and therefore should be able to deploy Patriot missiles. On Turkish television, every day we see jihadists fighters from Chechnya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Tunisia and the Maghreb transit through Istanbul to Antioch (on the Turkish-Syrian border), And training camps are located along the border on the Turkish side. A few days ago, in Ras al-Ain, we have seen servants, soldiers, who were arrested and executed by the rebels at the foot of the Turkish flag. Thus, we cannot say that the Turkish army is not aware! So today, this country is collaborating with Al Qaeda, the United States, and the entire NATO family against Syria.
When we speak of interference, we often think of a direct military intervention (by NATO or others). In the case of Syria, are there are other ways of more subtle interference?
The interference did not start yesterday! In fact, it began with the French mandate, and then continued with the creation of Israel. Israel was a terrible trauma for the Arabs and the Syrians. Do not forget that before the creation of the Zionist state, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine formed an entity, a nation of patriots and Arab nationalists. In 1946, the British forced the French troops to withdraw. But France has never been demobilized in its war against Syria since a year and a half later, there was the creation of the State of Israel, which came at the nose and beard of local populations.
And that's not all! The interference was achieved also through the support provided by the United States to Colonel Husni al-Zaim, who was brought to power shortly after the creation of Syria. It was useful for the United States and Israel since he was ready to welcome all Palestinians, thus contributing to the ethnic cleansing launched by the Zionist state.
Subsequently, this interference has taken other forms  For example, France and the United States welcomed with open arms Saad Hariri, a Saudi-Lebanese ( whose father, Rafiq Hariri who died in an attack in 2024 ),  a true man of straw of the West and a shark financer. They provided logistical, media and military support, probably through the monarchies. All this is a is well-oiled strategy, the West knows the vigilance of the Arab population, which could develop an anti-colonial reflex. This is why it works with subcontractors from Saudi and Qatar etc..
More recently, we can also discuss arming rebels in Syria. The West does not dare to assert its full support for the rebellion under the pretext that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands ... As if this was not already the case! These weapons are actually purchased from  French, British, Austrian, Swiss, American or Dutch merchants, before being sold on the Lebanese market. So there is a tradition of interference that has existed for decades and to which Syria is systematically confronted. This is why we must criticize.
Currently, when you look at the debate of ideas regarding Syria, we see that there are two clashing camps: those who are pro-Assad and those who want him to leave. This debate seems more Manichean occult, it does not seem to further the real work of national reconciliation that must take place?
Absolutely! I think the Western empires are really trying to destroy any possibility of dialogue, reconciliation and peace, and at a time when it is really needed. The situation is actually much more complex and diverse than is imagined, it is not just pro-and anti-Assad. For example, in some families, there is a son in the army and another in the rebellion. The human situation is really tragic. However, rather than advocating reconciliation, we only dig ditches crossing the Syrian society.
For example, there are many people who support democrats and Bashar al-Assad more than other members of the Baath party because they believe that Assad is less corrupt than others. Among them, there are people who were fiercely opposed to him, but since unbridled militarization of the opposition, that it is a lesser evil because it is a factor of stability and is more diplomatic than any opposition leader. So can we, from Brussels, Paris or Washington decide the future of the Syrian people?
What is your opinion on the policy of the government?
Of course, I find it tragic that the Syrian government has not been able to democratize a long time ago. Syria inherited a repressive system of the last century and, indeed, it is time for the torture to end, and the impunity. Anyone who commits a crime on behalf of the government should be punished, regardless of his rank. I recognize the problem and also denounce the political police or massacres. The fact that I am not attached to the Syrian rebellion does not mean that I am in favor of the status quo. In fact, I want a democratic Syria, but I want to give a chance for true patriots and true democrats who are both in the opposition and the government.
Thus, some current members of the government are from the opposition; they were demolished by the Baathist system, but still call for reconciliation. This is the case, for instance, of Ali Haydar,  the minister of national reconciliation. He has discussed with various stakeholders of society: rebel leaders, the army, imams, clerics, patriarchs, bishops, etc.. They also try to intervene in cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by armed groups demanding ransoms. So there are positive initiatives, including from the government! We can also cite Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which was amended, which is practically a revolution (3). This is due to the social movement in Syria. Therefore, it is important not to underestimate the sacrifice of the opposition movement, which has been given a roll in  the Baathist system, and its contribution to the country's democratization.
What are your concerns about the country's political future? How do you see the future?

I think there is a real danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Baathist Syria still has some social rights: political sovereignty and food, health system performance, production of drugs in large numbers, traditional non-alignment and independence ... There is a real danger that these aspects are also destroyed. The bad side of the Baathist Syria would thus be destroyed along with everything positive it has brought for a population as diverse as this. My concern is that in the name of democracy and human rights, the country is completely destroyed, humiliated, iraqified, somalified, orbitized.
In any case, now I think it's time to make peace. On both sides, we are destroying everything: crops, schools, hospitals. We're talking not only for example by governmental aviation bombs, but by the heavy artillery is also used by the rebels in urban centers . There are also attacks on civilians. This is absolutely chaotic and reminds me of the terrible war that ravaged Algeria in the 1990s. Again, we had to deal with the National Liberation Front, a more or less corrupt, more or less non-aligned and more or less socialist. It opted for liberal reforms, which resulted in bread riots. These movements were then recovered by a puritanical Islamic current, very right (or far right) supplied by the veterans of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. The conflict had killed about 200,000 people before it took a reconciliation program to appease society. So rather than adding or putting oil on the fire, should we not rather give peace a chance?
During this interview, you often have advocated peace and dialogue. What do you see as the barriers to these processes?
Firstly, there is the hard-line government of the Turkish AKP. Then there is the terrorism promoted and financed by the European states. The rhetoric of the opposition, who wants to fight with those it considers unbelievers is extremely racist, sectarian and confessional. Giving the opportunity to the Syrian state to secure its borders, one could stop this massive arrival of terrorists. This would solve part of the problem. However, the issue is not limited to this. The solution is also peace, a cease-fire, the government's return to the situation before 2024 on the economic and social fronts. In other words, it should stop the liberalization.
In addition, the country has faced several internal and external factors. When the Syrian regime said it was dealing with an international conspiracy, it was unfortunately right, even if it is only part of the problem. The other part is the repeated droughts, the population boom, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, Palestinian and especially Iraqi refugees. Be aware that a million and a half Iraqis have settled in Syria since 2024. This was done without the government stumbling. We cannot not say the same for Turkey host when it hosts 100,000 Syrian refugees ... In agriculture also, Syria has been facing an extremely difficult situation, with repeated droughts in areas such as Deraa. This can inevitably lead to social unrest. This is what has set fire to the powder before being reignited by the jihadists etc.
To conclude, I think everyone should do their part. On the one hand, we must put an end to terrorism, but it also requires that the Syrian government cease neo-liberalism and torture. There should be full transparency in terms of governance and corruption should be denounced more actively. There have already been some complaints through the social movements, but it should be a real awareness. Many people have an awareness of the corrupt echelons within the Baathist regime. These criminals are also the first to leave the ship! The government should be more open to debate, encompassing the whole of Syrian society, but it must first be intransigent with those who have committed crimes in its name. I think if everyone put water in his wine, it might happen!


(1) Task grouping emerging powers Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

(2) The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas is a political organization that promotes economic and social cooperation between the socialist countries of South America.

(3) Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution stipulates that the Baath party has the status of "leader of state and society." That it be amended is equivalent to the entry into force of the multiparty system in the country.

The book Kimyongür Bahar, "Syriana, la conquête continue" is available for sale on the site

Translated for the BRussells Tribunal by Mike Powers and Eileen Brophy.









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