Q. A number of Syrian intellectuals meet with foreign journalists. Do these voices go in line with your voice or are they ‘rogues’?
A. I was the first one to usher in these ideas in my inaugural speech, and I proposed them as a methodology and not as slogans for consumption. As for these statements, the President of the Republic does not deal with his country through statements especially when these statements are issued through external channels and not through domestic channels. He also cannot take the opinions of those who claim to speak in the name of the people particularly when the relationship of the president with the people is a direct relationship and does not go through specific channels. It is normal that a small group which considers itself an elite should not represent the broader group of people. The normal thing is that thoughts should be derived from the broader group of people and that smaller group should march under the flag of the broader one. Therefore, the elite is the broad group of the people and not the small one. At least for the state it is normal that the elite should be the broadest group of people. It is wrong that the elite should be the small strata because then it might express limited vision and interests.
Right from the beginning, I had relations with all social strata and these relations are broad and varied and it is only normal that my relations with people do not depend on what is being said here and there. It is clear that there are differences about priority between the broad social strata in our society and between this particular group. For the state it is normal that it should direct its development process in a way that responds to the desires of the majority of the people. The country is a family and when there are problems among members of the same family they are not supposed to talk about these problems outside their home because if they do they will not be respected by others. Here we may ask ourselves the question which home? The home is Syria, or is it the Arab world? If we assume that Arab states are relatives within the same big family, nonetheless a member of a small family does not speak even to his relatives about his private problems. Thoughts must pass through specific channels, and personally I did not read such statements. I heard about them. Some one addresses you from outside your country, it is only natural not to take him seriously. The second point is that the statements were called statements of the educated people. I do not know the persons who have called themselves educated. Are they truly educated or what! I have no information. But what is meant by the word educated. It is a general word to an extent. Is the one who reads and knows different topics educated? Is the one who has degrees educated? Is the one who reads many books educated? Is the one who writes poetry or story or novel or works in the press educated? Education is a vague word, and, at any rate, this classification is not adopted by me. There are two kinds of persons. One who takes and receives a lot of information and then he reproduces this information as it was and hence his mind becomes a storage for information which is produced by him for display from one time to another. There is another type of people who receive information, analyze it in order to reproduce it as a conclusion after it is being analyzed and treated. Hence it gives results. This man has a brain and he thinks and his thinking may be in one of two ways. A person who thinks and comes out with harmful results to his country and a person who thinks and comes out with useful results to his country. Therefore, one has to separate people to an intellectual and non-intellectual, and one has to add to the possibility of thinking the possibility of implementation. In conclusion, not every one who reads or writes becomes an intellectual and not every one who thinks is able to write and express his thoughts. But the more important thing here is how many thoughts or conclusions he can apply. There can be no application of these thoughts unless one is quite removed from intellectual romanticism. Intellectual realism can be achieved only through people who have experience. Therefore in the process of development we depend on our past experiences and rely on people who went through these experiences regardless of whether these experiences were successful or not successful in different processes of development. Hence, we can get away from intellectual exaggerations and avoid making the process of development a fertile soil for those looking for fame or searching to manipulate the current. At the end we reach the kind of development which we consider appropriate for our country.
Q. How do the voices and suggestions of the broadest group of people reach you?
A. I am not far removed from all social strata. The relation of the president with these strata is not a relation of problems, solutions and proposals. The relation is one of interaction. It is a result of the way the person had been brought up since early childhood and his interaction with his society. This kind of relation carries with it a continuous dialogue with all the negative and the positive aspects of that. And it is a relationship in two directions. It passes through the official or none official channels which are direct channels, and this is done through the direct interaction the president keeps with people.
Q. But there are people who do not dare speak in front of the President.
A. If the truth does not reach us how did we know that there is a kind of disorder and how did we know where the disorder potentially is, and how do I push the development process. Is it possible to push for development without knowing that there’s a certain kind of disorder. How did I know about the disorder? All this is done through official channels, including the press and my relations with the citizens as well as through the fact that throughout all stages of one’s life one is living with disorders in a direct way.
Q. What is your opinion about what has been said about these educated people that they are agents to foreign embassies.
A. Let’s discuss this point in an objective way regardless of what has been said about the incident to which you refer in your question. In all societies there’s black and white; there are people with good intentions and people with bad intentions and therefore we cannot say this exists in this society or in that. In our society, as in others, there are different people who have relations with foreign channels; as for the extent of these relations it is subject to different possibilities and therefore we are not addressing a definite case. Can we say that all people are agents? It is impossible. Can we say that any one who proposes an idea that seems to be positive is patriotic? Also this is impossible. This means that when our judgments are absolute they are bound to be wrong because all possibilities are open. Hence, the generalization of any description of people is rejected, but this does not mean that there are no exceptions. But regardless of the descriptions you referred to in your question we may look at the issue in a different way. When there is a case subjected to court regarding a crime or an offense and it touches a group of individuals the court may deal with it through intentions such as to say that the premeditated killer should receive a different punishment from the killer on diminished responsibility. At the level of the country the issue is different. When the consequences of any action affect stability at the level of a country there are two possibilities: one that the actor is an agent who is working against the interests of the state and he is either ignorant or doing it without intending to do so. The result is that in both cases the person will be serving the enemies of his country. And here, at the level of a country the results are addressed immediately. Here the person will be held fully responsible regardless of his intentions and backgrounds.