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An Interview with George Sabra

George Sabra is the chairman of the Syrian National Council, a Christian and leftist dissident who has long opposed the Assad regime. He was a signatory to the 2005 Damascus Declaration, a landmark call for democracy from within the country. He spoke to Syria Deeply on the sidelines of opposition talks in Doha.

Written by Syria Deeply Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

LS: The hope of the opposition is that if you come together, Western powers will grant you formal recognition and you can establish a future free government in Northern Syria. Do you think this is possible?

GS: Yes…we can go through the transitional government directly and be responsible towards that government, but the international community also has a responsibility to deliver what they promise to the transitional government.

LS: So, your skepticism is whether Western powers will come through with what they promise?

GS: Yes, you are right.

LS: People believe in you. People believe in your track record against the regime. How do you feel right now?

GS: I am just a member of the Syria revolution. I’ve joined young people in the prisons many times.

LS: What were the prisons like?

GS: I have had enough experience with the prisons.  I was there for 8 years during the period of Hafez al-Assad.

LS: Was there torture?

GS: Sure. Too much. The first 2 days I slept in the hospital, not in the prison. I fell down after 6-7 hours, I couldn’t take it. I woke up, bloody, in the hospital with nurses and doctors. I was bloody…

LS: How is your family doing inside Syria? How are people coping?

GS: My [immediate] family went with me to Paris, but the big family is still in Syria. When they see me talking on the TV, they close the door out of fear. They are scared something bad will happen to them. Anyways, I was prevented from leaving the country since 1979. The first time I left my country, at the beginning of 2012, I was on foot and I was under the eyes of snipers at the border with Jordan, but I was lucky enough to survive.

LS: How was it on the way out?

GS: My younger son was with me, he is a lawyer, and he defected as a soldier from the military services. With snipers behind us, I took my son by the shoulder, took our bags and told him we had to run. He did not understand what we were doing. I told him we had to run for 500 meters, hiding from the snipers. Every second I expected a bullet in my back, or in his back, but I preferred it would be my back. Every step I imagined my might fall in front of me, and I wouldn’t be able help him…. 500 meters felt like 50 years, but we survived.

LS: And now? How long do you think it will take for a future Syria to come out of this?

GS: I hope it isn’t a long time, for us and for the international community. With little help, they can stop this. Even if the international community doesn’t help us, the Syrians are determined to end the game.

LS: But how long? If no help comes from the International community, how long does it take? If the international community does help, how long does it take?

GS: In all circumstances, some months.

LS: Not years?

GS: Not years.

LS: They can’t transition? It can’t be like Yemen where he stays for a couple months?

GS: Not at all. Assad and his regime can’t be a part of the Syrian future any more.

LS: How will they accept the change? How will you make the transition?

GS: We have to force them to accept the change.

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