POMED Notes: Samar Yazbek, Syrian Journalist and Activist
The National Press Club held a press conference on Monday (9/17) as part of its Newsmaker Program on the developments of the Syrian uprising. The conference featured Syrian journalist and activist, Samar Yazbek. She is also the author of the book, “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution.”
For full event notes, continue reading below or click here for the PDF version.
Samar Yazbek began by stating that she was seeking international support for the overthrow of the Assad regime. The revolution “stands for freedom, justice, and dignity,” she said. She also aimed to clarify many of the misunderstandings about the Syrian revolution. Yazbek argued that the revolution is not a Salafist movement, but is representative of all the sects in Syria. The regime has spread the idea that the revolution is increasingly becoming a sectarian conflict, an assertion she adamantly opposed. She said that Assad has attempted to stir up sectarian divisions, specifically in the Sahel region. Yet, the Alawites came out in support of reform with their Sunni countrymen and experienced the same repression from the regime. Yazbek admitted that these events took place at the beginning of the revolution and that Assad has been somewhat successful at dividing the sects. She said that her visit to Hama and Idlib three weeks ago further revealed attempts to destroy Syria’s social unity.
When asked about Lebanon’s role in the Syria conflict, she said that the activities taking place in the two countries are completely linked. She also said that the Syrian secret police have been highly active in Lebanon. She is convinced that Assad is using the violence in Lebanon as an excuse to continue his siege on Syria’s citizenry and to deflect attention from the situation.
Yazbek was also asked about the regime’s alleged targeting of journalists. She was very sure that the regime has specifically targeted journalists in an attempt to cover up the internal conflict in Syria. She said that unofficial regime supporters had regularly attacked journalists. She also noted that many journalists reported in the liberated areas held by the Free Syrian Army, but that they still face the threat of aerial bombardment by the Syria air force.
When the issue of jihadist presence in Syria was brought up by the audience, Yazbek responded by saying that jihadist fighters represent only a small percentage of the opposition. The FSA does not want foreign jihadists to operate in Syria because they do not represent the revolution. Furthermore, the regime wants to broadcast the presence of jihadists as an impetus for continuing the violence. She was sure that the “West wants to believe there are jihadists in Syria as reasoning for not intervening and for keeping a clear conscience.” She argued that the Syrian rebels must have a no-fly zone in order to be successful.
In conclusion, Yazbek said that she is not afraid of the direction the revolution is headed because she saw how it began. The Syrians simply want to be free, even if that means a continuation of the conflict. Only the fall of the regime can prevent an all-out civil sectarian conflict, and that the regime is the only one that benefits from violent protests, like the ones that occurred on September 11, 2012.