‘We won the day we started protesting’ – Syrian opposition leader Razan Zeitouneh

Sketch of Syrian opposition leader Razan Zeitouneh

Russia and China have vetoed a UN?Security Council resolution against Syria, where security forces have now killed over 5,000 protesters.  Razan Zeitouneh, too, could be killed any day. The 34-year-old Syrian human rights lawyer is the official face of Syria’s pro-democracy uprising. Her organization, SHRIL, gathers information about killings and torture by the regime. That has made her one of Syria’s most wanted people; the regime accuses her of being a foreign agent. Zeitouneh has gone into hiding. She spoke to Metro via Skype.

The international community intervened against Gaddafi. Are you disappointed that it hasn’t stopped Assad?

I’m disappointed that for more than 10 months the UN Security Council has failed to even pass a resolution against the regime. The international society abandoned the Syrian people and left us to our fate.

The Arab League sent monitors to Syria, but the violence continues. Why?

The delegation wasn’t qualified to stop violence. It was bunch of official Arabs who visited here and there and then they left.

What do you hope from the international community now?

Now? Nothing.

Assad claims that if he left, chaos would follow, and many Syrians seem to believe him. Do you sense that’s changing?

What can be more chaotic the number of people killed increasing to 75 every day, of whole cities around the country being shelled around the clock, and economic deterioration? In the past ten months, many people who weren’t involved at all have started supporting the revolution now. They’ve realized it’s in their interest to topple the regime.

How do peaceful protesters like you view the rebel Free Syrian Army?

Violence has simply become a reality. The revolution is getting more and more militarized, day after day. As peaceful activists, what can we do? But the Free Syrian Army supports us and has encouraged us to continue the peaceful protests. And we will. We’ll keep going until we achieve what we’ve started our revolution for: toppling the regime.

Despite the crackdown, observers say Assad won’t be able to remain in power. If he resigns, have you won?

We won the day we day we started protesting.

If Assad resigns but his government stays, is that enough?

We don’t have a government. It’s all one network of Assad followers.

Aren’t you afraid?

I’m only afraid of getting arrested. I don’t want to miss a single moment of the revolution. I sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed, but giving up – never.

What does a day in your life look like right now?

After 10 months, I’m used to the situation. I can leave the house but definitely not cross army checkpoints. I have to be very careful.

Do your husband and friends support your activism?

My husband is an activist and is participating in the revolution, too. In fact, all my friends now are involved in revolution. Since the revolution began, I’ve lost all my friends who’re not interested in activism. They’re afraid. Or maybe I’ve lost them because I can’t be and live normally, or talk about normal things, anymore. Assad’s regime has stolen our normal life.

Assad claims that there is no real opposition. Will the opposition unite?

The millions of people who are going into the streets and protest for their freedom are the opposition. They’re the ones who will start the new Syria.

If Assad steps down, what are the next steps for Syria?

It will be a long journey. We have to start building a new political system. Initially we’ll need a transitional period to elect a committee that can write a new constitution.

What will you do the day Assad resigns?

I’ll go on the streets! I’ll sing and dance with my people in all the squares! My people chanting in the streets, “damned be your soul Hafez Assad”, that’s my inspiration. It’s the most popular chant of our revolution. People sing it to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”



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