For prior posts covering speeches by Syria's previous president Hafez al-Assad, see:
. Hafez al-Assad's Takfir of the Islamists
. Hafez al-Assad's Speech on the October War (1973)
As readers of this blog are probably aware, I like to listen to speeches of Hafez al-Assad out of historical interest. I recently came across this hard-to-find speech that was delivered on 8 March 1980, coinciding with the seventeenth anniversary of the '8 March Revolution' in 1963 that brought the Ba'ath Party to power in Syria. Ever since that time, Syria has been under the rule of the Ba'ath Party, though what is called the 'Corrective Movement' (referenced in this speech) brought Hafez al-Assad to power and cemented his rule as president of Syria in the period 1970-1971.
The most commonly quoted excerpt from this speech that I have heard is Hafez al-Assad's famous quotation that he is first and last 'a farmer the son of a farmer' and that the threshing floors and spikes of grain are equal to all the palaces of this land. The idea is that the presidency is not some position attained for the sake of luxury and power for its own sake, but rather is a position of responsibility assumed for the interest of the homeland.
However, this idea is not at all the main theme in this speech. This speech's main theme is actually about the Islamist insurgency that was afflicting Syria in this period. While this insurgency was nowhere near on the level of violence and displacement since 2011, the fact it is the primary theme of this speech illustrates that it was certainly a serious problem for the Syrian government. In Hafez al-Assad's reading, this insurgency is seen as primarily a conspiracy of murderous criminals and traitors working in the service of the U.S. and the regime of Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, who much to Hafez al-Assad's anger concluded a peace treaty with Israel in 1978. For its steadfast positions in support of Arab unity and against colonialism, Syria is paying the price in the form of this insurgency, which Hafez al-Assad argues cannot be driven by legitimate political and economic grievances, especially in light of Syria's progress since the beginning of the 'Corrective Movement' and the official willingness to accept criticism of mistakes within a reasonable dialogue. Hafez al-Assad alludes to the Islamist nature of the insurgency when he mentions crimes of killing in the name of God and the claims that he himself is not a real Muslim, but Hafez al-Assad asserts that he is a believing Muslim and Arab nationalism necessarily entails pride in Islam. He wonders why those opposing him on Islamic grounds do not similarly oppose al-Sadat (as it turns out though, al-Sadat himself was assassinated by Islamist militants in 1981, partly for the peace treaty he made with Israel).
Towards the end of the speech Hafez al-Assad touches on some of the foreign policy positions of Syria such as its interventions in the Lebanese civil war (justified as working for the interests of Lebanon) and the alliances with Iran (whose Islamic Revolution he commends) and the Soviet Union. While Syria was officially part of the Non-Aligned Movement, Hafez al-Assad stresses that this does not mean that Syria treats the U.S. and the Soviet Union equally: after all, the latter offers support to Syria, while the former supports Syria's adversary Israel and abets its occupation of Arab lands.
Below is the speech fully translated by me. I have included explanatory notes for some context where necessary. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
The anniversary of the revolution passes and we are in the heart of the revolution and we are more determined for the revolution. The anniversary of the revolution is passing and let all be assured that we are in the full bloom of this revolution. The anniversary of the revolution is passing and we say on this anniversary: the one who thinks that we have come to rest or to give rest the enemies of the revolution is mistaken.
For there is no extraordinary life or glad living if this life and that living are not a renewed continuous revolution and let all also be assured that we as Ba'athists, that we as progressives, that we as patriots, that we as nationalists are Arabs who bear as much ability to resist and to challenge and to continue the struggle as we have affection, honesty and duty. It seems that they are mistaken sometimes and think that the emotional impetus that we bear between our sides, that the mass of inflamed emotions that each of us bears towards our people, our homeland and our Ummah[i]: they portray this as weakness. But this is what some of the behaviours and some of the events confirm: we will remain in this mass of emotions and this mass of zeal and we will also remain in this mass of honesty and duty towards the cause of the people and Ummah and for the sake of this the determination and resolve will be our captain in every battle we wage and these criminal killers, these wretched cowards will only be small wretched flies in confronting the revolution in its forces and its masses. We want a society dominated by brotherhood and dominated by affection, and for the sake of this we must struggle and destroy the enemies of brotherhood and the enemies of affection.
We thought that it is a difficult matter for colonialism after these long experiences that brought our people to ripeness and realized the accumulation of great experiences with the sons of this sector. We thought that it is difficult after all this for the colonialists to be able to find contingents or individuals who make themselves devoted, just and compliant servants for this colonialism in every meaning of the word of colonialism.
We did not expect that the anniversary of the revolution should come for us to find these collaborators have spread in more than one place and have begun spreading their evil, terrorising the people and distributing terror and terrorism on the masses of our people, but perhaps you dislike something and it is good for you.
I do not say anything new when I sat what you know and all know that every revolution is in need of instigations and these instigations are only continuous and consecutive challenges and perhaps in some of the difficulties that we face today is what constitutes the likes of these challenges that are among the conditions of the continuity and renewal of the revolution, and therefore I have said perhaps you dislike something that is good for you.
And the anniversary of the revolution comes and the revolution is the revolution of March in response to the separation, in order that it may remind us of what we cannot forget and what we live with always, in order that it may remind us of the unity, that we may feel in ourselves the thought of unity and the cause of unity.
We will not be able to cross the day of the anniversary without our remembering the unity and emphasising the importance of the unity despite the fact that this hope sometimes seems far and very far away and despite the repeated attempts that have lapsed one after the other. This matter is what rouses in ourselves sometimes some worry or much worry and at other times some doubt on the possibility of realising the unity. Indeed the lapses by which the attempts at unity have been afflicted, oh brothers, must not lead us to despair or loss of hope, but rather they must lead us to intensifying our efforts and to more determination so that in the end we may overcome the colonialist determination that has decided not to miss an opportunity for the success of any unitary operation. All of you know how much we have struggled during the past years and have we have struggled with honesty, honour and sincerity so that we may realise any unitary step, so that we may make successful any unitary step. And I do not want to count our attempts but we were not granted success. We were approaching success sometimes and we are compelled after a time to go back and relapse. Every attempt at unity we embarked upon was creating in ourselves a new confidence without limits: it was creating in the soul of every Arab citizen more confidence, more optimism in the future and sometimes and in the peak of this optimism we find and as though a lightning bolt struck these attempts of ours so all we worked for and all we built collapsed.
This confirms the importance of unity for us and its danger to the interests of colonialism and the colonialists, therefore we must continue struggling violently without leniency so that we may realise the unity because it is the great aim by which when it is realised, the dignity of the Arabs will be recovered wholesale and we will recover all the usurped rights of the Arabs wherever and whenever these rights have been usurped. We always speak about removing the traces of the aggression and in our mind continuously the enemy of the year 1967. We are now in front of two aggression operations: a strategic operation and a tactical operation. The strategic is the one that has produced the division. The strategic colonial aggression is the one that has produced the division of the Arab Ummah and the tactical aggression is the one that has produced the occupation of the land and the displacement of more of our Arab people in the year 1967, and just as we must struggle to remove the traces of the of that great strategic aggression that has produced the division and were it to turn out for us that we should succeed in removing the division, in removing the traces of the strategic aggression, we would be able automatically to remove the traces of the tactical aggression of the year 1967. We must sacrifice and pay the price to remove the traces of the strategic aggression that has led to the division.
We in Syria, oh brothers, are paying the price. We are paying the price as a result of our struggle against the strategic aggression and our struggle and our stances against the tactical aggression.
This is a truth that must not be absent from the mind of anyone.
We are paying the price heavily, as a result of the struggle against the strategic aggression that has led to the division, just as we are paying the price against the tactical aggression that has led to the occupation of new land and displacement of other Arab citizens. Our clinging to the unity, our insistence on realising unity, our sincere attempts to realise the unity: for all this colonialism does not forgive us and the colonialists do not forgive us for this, and it is not allowed for this truth to be absent from our mind. I am confident and all must be confident that the lack of realising our unity constitutes the most dangerous usurped right and there is no doubt that all of us, by our faith in this cause, by the necessity of recovering this right, by our determination to recover this right, by our efforts and by our veins and by our blood, will recover this usurped right and we will realise our comprehensive Arab unity sooner or later.
If I have said that the anniversary of the revolution is passing and we are in the heart of the revolution, I say that the course of the revolution is a historical mission and a historical action in which the call of the vanguard represented in the leading party interacts with the wide-spread response of the masses from which the revolution has emanated and for the sake of which it has arisen and upon which it relies in its victorious course and implementing the historical missions and realising the historic deeds. This action cannot be devoid of difficulties, indeed by its nature one faces obstacles and difficulties both whenever the positive interaction between the vanguard and the masses of the people grows and whenever the course of the revolution is quickened in lowering what opposes it from difficulties and obstacles. And this positive interaction has been embodied since the Corrective Movement in our sector in numerous and comprehensive ways in the face of all the challenges that the revolution has faced, and has been embodied in a directive that does not know retreat or stopping towards development and progress in the various fields, and it has been embodied in an uninterrupted development of power and force. And it has been embodied in an eminent place for Syria on the Arab and international levels that it gained through steadfastness of principles and constant commitment to honor, dignity and readiness that is unrivalled in sacrifice in the path of what serves the nationalist aims and what reinforces the place of the Arab Ummah and by this course that is comprehensive in its aspects.
We have moved towards our aims with clarity in visions and clearly defining the aims and our path towards it and to the end and our means to achieve it, and our aims are merely those of unity, freedom, and socialism, in what they encompass in great meanings: the liberation of the land from the enemy and the occupation and liberating man from exploitation and liberating the will of the man from subjugation and developing the national resources and distributing them justly and proceeding with steadfastness towards the highest and most exemplary aim: the aim of Arab unity. And our revolution course has been filled with great deeds in the fields of life entirely and filled with great accomplishments we can be proud of: the fruit of the effort and struggle of our people, and a part of the path towards the shining future that we seek as we have pledged ourselves and our people that the course of the revolution should be a movement of good that constantly advances, relying on the trust between the people and the leadership and cooperation with the rest of the patriotic and progressive forces in the land and on this basis we have embraced an authentic path so we have proceeded, building our land strongly and reinforcing in it the bases of the modern state and we establish its constitutional institutions on firmly-rooted bases and we implement the popular democracy and we support the role of the popular NGOs and we have legislated recently on the steps for developing the National Progressive Front and during the past years we have passed through great stages on the path of economic building in all its fields so we have realised development in the field of agriculture and new various industries have arisen and huge facilities have been built in the regions of the land and our defense has been strengthened and our armed forces have been supported and we have adopted with honesty and sincerity every path possible to lead towards realisation of Arab unity and in all that we have done we have been keen for our deeds to be derived from our principles so we have affirmed clinging to our spiritual values and our nationalist hopes and the freedom of the citizen and his dignity as well as the rule of law and the straight path towards socialism.
In this framework of understandings and values we waged the glorious Tishreen War[ii] in which our intrepid armed forces performed well and performed heroically and our people stood as a cohesive and firm mass, supporting their armed forces with the highest realisation of responsibility and wonderful alluring self-discipline that the world noticed and the global media spoke of with admiration.
Oh citizen brothers:
I want to pause for a little on mentioning the Tishreen War that was one of the pinnacles of the accomplishments of our people and was an impactive transformation in the life of our Ummah that also left its impacts on the global level. We removed in the Tishreen War delusions that had controlled the minds of many of the people in various parts of the world and we established instead of them new temperaments that would have inevitably led to positive results following them if it had not been for the deviation of the Al-Sadat regime and its betrayal of the Arab Ummah.
Indeed you know that our enemies undertook attempts to induce despair before the Tishreen War that targeted the Arab soul in the first degree as they focused intensely on this matter so they forged myths about the civilisational gap and the technological gap and they came out from these myths with their theory that completely collapsed in the Tishreen War: the theory of the army of Israel that is invincible. And they engaged in the process of inducing despair also by striking the socialist orientation and striking the public sector in our land through rumours and fabrications, but our awake people was well-aware of their games, realising their aims so they thwarted them and thwarted their desires and the Tishreen War came in verification of that and bright proof of what the people can do by the virtue of its national unity.
From here and after the Tishreen War the campaign of inducing despair escalated and took the form of a widespread psychological campaign employing various means, and after the visit of al-Sadat to the occupied land, this campaign took up new dimensions and contents and became more and more intense with every new compromise al-Sadat offers to the enemy and with every new rapprochement between the two.
And the phenomenon of violence and criminality that Syria has witnessed is one of the detachments of this hostile campaign that has followed the Tishreen War and has increased after the visit of al-Sadat to al-Quds.
During the years of the revolution as we have been exposed to violent, questioning or a great question comes to the mind: why this violence during the years of the revolution and especially after the correctional movement as we have been struggling without leniency to place the revolution on its correct course and preserve the revolution in its correct course? We were successful sometimes and stalled at other times, and the difficulties that have become prominent before us from time to time have been various. These difficulties have been various accordance to the solidity of our position and according to the position of the situation rectified from the course of the revolution and for the importance of this situation with regards to us from one side and with regards to colonialism and Israel from another side.
We in this sector are a problem before the colonialism: we were a problem in the past and we are a problem in the present especially after al-Sadat surrendered and bowed before the feet of the invaders and prayed in the al-Aqsa mosque with the protection of the bayonets of these invaders and he sent his ambassador to al-Quds to offer the papers of his adoption in al-Quds, in recognition by him that al-Quds is Israel's capital. We were a problem before that but we are now a more dangerous problem: we are in a confrontation with a dangerous historical matter, in confrontation with a dangerous historical colonialist decision that requires liquidating the most sacred cause for us in this era: a liquidation that history will not know the likes of. We stand in the face of this attempt. We prevent the likes of this liquidation. We challenge this historical decision. From here we must understand what is happening and occurring in some of our towns in this sector. It is not permitted for anyone in our land to be mistaken in interpretation, for this is the truth of the matter. This is the truth of the position, and if we were not taking this stance and committing to what derives from it, we would not find these agents mobilising in this manner and with this escalating manner. What we have done during the years of the revolution and especially after 1970, it is also possible for these people to take a pretext from it by which to cover their crimes, and indeed by them they cover up their disgraces and blemishes. I am not here to list what we have done because it is manifold but I a mention consecutive examples so that we may shed some light on some of what we have done.
Our starting points since the Corrective Movement are clear. Among these starting points are the freedom of the citizen, protection of his dignity, strengthening the national unity, building the National Progressive Front, realising economic and social development, granting freedom in its widest forms, realising the forms that are possible from the exercise of this freedom, because freedom is not that which some of them advocate: it is not that each individual does what he wishes even at the expense of all the people and all of the Ummah. Freedom is a creative innovative freedom in the framework of regulations and principles that the people acknowledge in a group. Otherwise, it becomes chaos and it becomes aggression and hostility against every individual from the sons of the Ummah.
We are the people of a cause and there afflicts us what afflicts this people. The calamities are not personal calamities: rather they are the calamities that afflict the homeland, and were the matter connected with our persons, it would be very easy. With regards to me, I still remember well and indeed live in myself those moments, the moments of childhood and after childhood. Were the matter not connected with a general cause, I would have preferred one thousand times to sit daily for long hours on the soil of the land in any village of the villages of this homeland.
Verily I am first and last- and I hope that that is understood by every Syrian citizen or Arab outside Syria- verily I am first and last a farmer the son of a farmer. Indeed sitting among the spikes of grain and on the threshing floors of the plantations are equal in my view to all the palaces of this land and I have not been one in the past to sit in a palace and I will not sit in the future in a palace except if the interest of the people and the interest of the worker and farmer require first that I sit in this palace, and if I hasten to the matter, I say in advance: there is no fear for the future, for we are stronger than all, because we are with the truth, because with are with the people, because we are with God, and God is with the people.
Therefore I have said in the beginning of my speech: we want a society dominated by affection because this land is a land of hard workers that only bears affection in its interior and its external face. We have wanted to transmit this message from the land in order to convey it and revive it with all the sons of our people.
I have said our starting points are clear since the Corrective Movement. I mentioned some of it and I said I will not explain this matter but rather I will mention excerpts that make prominent before us some of the signs of the map of work after the year 1970 in light of these starting points. We had procedures and that I may mention some of the examples that confirm our honesty and our seriousness in what we say or in what we have said and in what we have suggested directly under the title of realising the freedom and dignity of the citizen or to transmit the strengthening of the freedom of the citizen and the strengthening of the dignity of the citizen under this title. We have said every obstacle must be raised from any Syrian individual barred from returning to Syria. There were thousands and if memory serves me right, the number was around 20,000 Syrian citizens and I say if memory serves me right there were more than 20,000 Syrian citizens barred from returning to Syria. And we have said it is a natural right for every Syrian citizen to return to his country when he wants and no one has the right to prevent any citizen from returning to his homeland. And I still remember the many stories that were said to us by one means or another. I still remember that it was said to us that so-and-so and so-and-so are among those barred from returning to Syria or a group of other Syrian citizens came to near the borders only to observe the land of Syria their homeland from behind the borders and to breathe the air of Damascus and other towns of this sector besides Damascus. And the likes of these words were said to me directly after the opportunities were made available to these people and they have returned and I have met some of them I have not doubted the likes of these words because love of the homeland is fatal.
These people all returned. Whoso of them has wanted to return to this sector, instructions have been given to the relevant security apparatuses not to detain any person, straight after the Corrective Movement and this matter remained in implementation until the deeds of killing and assassination began and with that affirmation, the detention is the detention of these people that must be done in the narrowest limits and despite what happened and despite the deeds of criminality and killing that have been committed over the course of years, the detained in our land, their number is small. There comes to me here or there comes to me words that the Minister Abd al-Kareem mentioned to me after he returned from Hama and he is now in Hama, perhaps he has been hearing my words. Now he said: I went to Hama days ago and in my mind is that the number of detainees from this city exceeds 2000 detainees. It had not occurred to his mind to ask. He knows that there are deeds of killing that have been committed and one must catch those who commit them and in order to know the planner and implementer, and it is not an individual by nature of the state of affairs but rather they are a group or party if it is right for us to call them a party. He had the conception that it is a large number as a result of these deeds, exceeding 2000 detained persons. He said: when I went to Hama and I asked the security official he said that the total of detainees is around 250 of course days ago a number of them got out and the number now has not remained at 250. He said: If I as minister think that the likes of this number of detainees from the city of Hama only is detained or arrested, so the ordinary citizen also imagines that the likes of this number are those currently arrested.
And he is right in his thinking and let us go back oh brothers in this sector to a previous time when a person in our land was assassinated and he was a patriotic fighter: he is the deceased Adnan al-Malki. You remember that the government at that time liquidated an entire party and arrested thousands- many of the men and women- and for years, and all of you lived through and remember this matter, and I do not wish to elaborate on it. How many have been assassinated until now during those years and despite that the number of detainees in our land is small and the painful and regrettable thing is that despite all this, headbutters ram their heads to make demands for freedom and speak about freedom. I have not found from these people the one who has defended a citizen who has been killed or a citizen who has been assassinated, but rather they have come to defend the killers under the claim that they are of the supporters of freedom. So what freedom is that which they call for and what free people are they? Indeed they are slaves, indeed they are enemies of freedom, indeed they are traitors of the people and traitors of their causes, and freedom is in the forefront of these causes.
The freedom that they demand is more freedom of killing. How have they been able to kill were it not for the fact that they have exploited the climate of freedom a lot? Those who are among you were criticising the shortcoming present in every place in the street, just as in the ministry I met some of them in a previous time and found they do not intend freedom or intend that freedom should live but rather they intend that freedom should be repressed but they have made off and been disappointed in their thoughts, for freedom will remain a banner in our land and we will remain strong free people in this land. And also straight away we began the discussion of the idea of the National Progressive Front as a first and foundational step on the path of strengthening the national unity and there was effort and there were discussions that continued for a long time: they continued for a whole year.
And the parties of the Front came to a covenant and a system of work and the National Progressive Front under the title of strengthening the national unity and we regarded it at the time on the basis that it is a step that must be developed in the future in that each citizen in this sector should find a place for himself in this Front and we made firm this meaning in the solidity of the constitution and we affirmed what its meaning was: that this Front is a developing front that leads this sector and discussion has occurred more than once concerning the idea of developing the Front to the point that we began the matter in an earnest way in the recent days.
We established the constitutional institutions and they are the necessary frameworks to practice freedom. We established the People's Council and we established the councils of the local administration, elected by the people. We have touched on reforming the means of work in our party and in our popular NGOs and we have supported these methods and we have supported our popular NGOs.
We have offered support and aid to the professional syndicates. We have united these unions when they were divided. The lawyers were more than one syndicate in Syria, more than one organisation. And the doctors were more than one organisation, and others also. We united these syndicates and we have issued for them their new laws. We proceeded with ambitious economic and social development plans. And we accomplished a lot of these plans, for the factories, dams, hotels, schools institutes, universities and other sites are present in every place and they convey this pronouncement and they embody it on the land of reality. We have done that despite the heavy circumstances of war that we are going through and despite what these circumstances entail for us from burdens and necessities. We have established work opportunities for hundreds of thousands in this sector from those who did not find work. We have prepared schools and teachers for hundreds of thousands of students. We have prepared university education opportunities for tens of thousands of students of the universities as we built the universities and prepared the university cadres and the democracy of education despite the fact that some of them do not like this democracy.
I mention the following numbers and they are approximate: in 1963 we had 24,000 university students. In 1970 we had 36,000 university students. In 1979 we have around 115,000 university students. This development is thanks to what I mentioned and it seems to me that we in this field are coming in the first rank of the countries of the Third World and naturally our determination in developing the army and the armed forces was no less than our determination in developing the other fields or other sectors: our army made a gigantic leap during the past years after the Corrective Movement and also I repeat despite what this entails upon us, upon every individual among you, from burdens, but at the same time it is a requirement for every individual of you. The entry into the military details may not be an ordinary matter, and despite that: I say that our army developed three times above what it was upon in the 1970. And I will mention a number: do not consider it a secret. Israel knows this and all our enemies know this, for it is ordinary that you should know it. Also I will mention a number: we had in 1970 hundreds of tanks: before 1970 hundreds of tanks. We have now around 3000 tanks.
And I say we had hundreds of tanks: less than 1000 tanks, and we have now around 3000 tanks. Again I say to you: there is no secret in the matter. Israel knows this and by this army we waged the Tishreen War. When we say that we did, we accomplished, we cannot overlook the most magnificent accomplishment and biggest work. We cannot say even in a short sentence that we also are the ones who waged the war in Tishreen and we are the ones who made the decision on the Tishreen War and we are the ones who recovered for the Arabs their consideration and we are the ones who realized the might and glory and pride for every Arab citizen. If what we have done is a great mistake or great crime, it is possible these adversaries may take cover through it: or I should say these enemies. It does not seem that we did anything from this of course as we work. We have been fully aware that there is no work without mistake and this this is a self-evident axiom: there is no work without mistakes. Every matter has two faces: a good face and a bad face. The good in itself has one of the faces of evil and the evil itself has one of the faces of good. The important thing is that the negative or evil or bad should be in the narrowest limits and it is not possible in any of the stages of life, at any of the points of human activity, the points of human development, that we can claim that there is no mistake, that we can claim that there is no evil, that we can claim that there is no negativity. When we say this, we transgress against ourselves, against life, and we transgress against the truth.
If there is an objective law in life that we make mistakes when we work and this imposes that we struggle so that this mistake should be in its lowest limits, and this is what we have been doing and this is what we have been struggling for, and this is what we have accomplished successfully more than once in its deed and accomplishment. Then I want to ask as we speak about speaks, and let us return in recalling a little towards the past: let us all return. Who is the one who has begun to speak about the error? Who is the one who has led the discussion about the error? Who is the one who has thought of the process of criticism? Who is the one who has led the process of criticism? Who is the one who has encouraged the process of criticism? You remember, oh brothers, that we since the beginning of the Corrective Movement have begun openly the process of combating the error. We have begun openly the process of engaging with criticism, and perhaps I should almost affirm that in this very place I had the first discussion about error and the first attack on error, and I still remember that in that discussion I divided the people or classified them or rather said something pointing to classification of some of the workers in the state into successful people and those who fall short and I described some of them inside the circle of productive work and some of the others as outside the circle of productive work.
In this very place we have been asking the press to engage in the process of oversight and criticism. We have been asking our popular NGOs also to engage in the process of oversight and criticism. Why? For more than one reason, the most important of which: indeed we consider that criticism is an effective weapon, in any mechanism of constructive criticism an effective weapon in the building process. It is also an effective weapon in the process of liberation. Criticism means specifying the deficiencies: criticism something means making clear this is what is in the matter from good and ugly and we cannot heal a sick person before we specify the illness and we know the nature of this illness. This is what criticism does: it shows the error from the right, it shows us the places of error. After we come to understand the error and its place, we hurry to rectify it.
And before that we cannot do this. This is the role of criticism. For the sake of this, we have encouraged criticism. And for the sake of this, we will encourage criticism in the future.
But is this the criticism that they have engaged in? Is this is what they have meant? No, they have engaged in another meaning of criticism and here I apologise to some of our writer and literary brothers who may be more capable than I am in this matter, but I know that the word naqd[iii] has meanings, of which two meanings: the word naqd has many meanings of which the first meaning as I have said is that we distinguish the right from error and this is what we have meant, and the other meaning is biting: it is said the viper naqadat the man: i.e. it bit him, and as you see, the bite begins with pain and harm and may end with death especially if this bite is the bite of the vipers, and death is the pinnacle of error if the criticism they have engaged in begins with an error that may be small but it is an error and ends with a big error that is the greatest error. And in this meaning, the criticism that they have engaged in is the path of error and not the path of right, in order to deepen the error and not to deepen the right. The criticism that they have meant is the path of being in error: i.e. committing more error, not the path of directing to right that is the distinction between us and them. We are with criticism and encourage them to it as a foundational effective weapon for building, and when I say for construction, I mean construction in all its aspects: construction in the economy, construction in culture, construction in the field of freedom and in every field of the fields of life. This is the criticism that I ask them to do: as for naqd in the meaning of killing, in the meaning of the vipers' bite we do not encourage them but rather warn them against it. Again I return to say: what we have done therefore for these people to mobilize to undertake deeds of killing? This is some of our conduct and some of our work inside. On the outside there is nothing that seems deficient, nothing that seems, nothing that seems humiliating, nothing that seems to be collusion, nothing that seems to be compromise on the rights of the homeland and the Ummah.
On the outside, a continuously steadfast position that does not know leniency at all throughout the past years against colonialism in all its forms, a steadfast position that is determined and decisive, a position that is not lenient towards the Israeli aggression in particular, a position alongside every people struggling for the sake of its freedom and liberation, a sincere and honest position alongside every Arab cause. What is that which we have done therefore and concerns our external policy and justifies for these people their action, indeed their hideous deeds. I search in the corners, in the holes, but I do not find a firebrand of justification or a glimpse of cover by which they can cover themselves. We have adhered to the spirit of the Tishreen War after we waged it in all that our patriotic and nationalist clay imposes on us from courage and honesty and boldness. For all this we waged the Tishreen War and the war ended and we remained clinging to the spirit of this war and from here began the problem. My brothers, here again I say let us go back in recalling: days after the ceasefire, I spoke to you, to our citizens entirely through the television and there was in front of me as I recall a written address and I departed from the written and I spoke about the national unity and I warned of this matter and I mention that I repeated the warning and I said what is its meaning. Our national unity will be during the coming stage subject to attempts of sabotage. So we must beware of this matter because the national unity is the backbone of our successful work and our successful patriotic and nationalist accomplishment.
I warned of this matter because I was living at the time in the middle of feelings, among them that Israel and the U.S.: we had discovered that the relevant people in Israel and the U.S. had discovered that there is an earnest transformation in this sector: they felt its impacts, material facts during the war, politically and militarily. And I was convinced that they would not forgive us for this matter and they would not allow- as far as they could- that this earnest process of transformation should continue because of the dangers it poses to their ambitions and plans and what it contains from raising the affair of this affair and raising the affair of the Ummah of the Arabs in every place.
I warned at the time of the necessary of being awake and alter in particular to the attempts at sabotage that may appear on our field and target our national unity after the Tishreen War. As you know, we entered the war of attrition as well. It was a war that on the one hand had its solid ground component and it was a solid and principled political stance on the other hand. And some saw it, some in our Arab homeland saw and Al-Sadat in particular considered that the war of attrition is a challenge for him and his plans and he considered every political stance he adopted and we did not align in it with his American masters. It is a challenge to him and his policies. And here also I say that he considered out delay in agreeing to the ceasefire on 22 October when the ceasefire was issued as we delayed for two days as well, it is the utmost challenge to him and his policies and we affirmed in the leadership and we said that these following positions of ours will not pass without a price and you remember the series of adjudication agreements and the Sinai agreement and how they tried to cover this agreement but in truth the signs of surrender are the signs of this surrender conciliation that they called peace. They were clear and prominent in the Sinai agreement and we had a position on this agreement and since that time we have begun to pay the price since that time we have begun to pay the price. Go back in recall to before and remember when the explosives appeared in the streets of Damascus and when there was the first assassination operation. All of these deeds were coinciding with our disagreement with Al-Sadat the American. These deeds come out to be implemented and when we conclude a truce with Al-Sadat, these operations stop. And the dates prove that. We have gone back to them and they are present with us and these criminal killers cannot, they cannot and will not be able to get away from the truth of this matter that every Syrian citizen and every Arab outside Syria must know because the one who gives the order is the one who leads the policy there in sister Egypt. The one who gives the order to Al-Sadat is the one who gives the order to them here. The deeds coincide: as soon as we disagree with Al-Sadat, the explosion and assassination will take place. When we conclude a truce or make an agreement with Al-Sadat, there is no explosion or assassination. These facts impose themselves then we await how and when they escalate their deeds also. In this is a sign. You remember that in the year 1978 I stood before the People's Council and it is the highest legislative institution in this sector, and before this council I had a campaign against acts of harm and those who commit acts of harm and we issued a law to have accountability and as far as I have review, there is not in the countries of the Third World , indeed I do not know in the countries of the world in this stage, the one who has done what we have done despite my conviction that the mistakes, that what we have from mistakes, is much less than what is present with the others.
And it is not beneficial for us to mention anyone because we do not want to do harm to anyone and despite that, we have considered the matter to be one of comparison because the mistake is the mistake- big or small- and we must struggle against it. The one who does harm is the one who does harm wherever he is in any place or in any time and we must limit his causing of harm, and he must be held accountable for his harm and despite that, in the end of the matter we are not angels. We are human beings, we live in an active life that has its laws and requirements. We realise also that we will continue suffering from mistakes and we will also continue struggling against mistakes.
After this position in the People's Council there were campaigns and rumours. In the most recent stage we also fought against doing harm and we amplified the matter (as I assess it) more than its truth and we were not interested in the fact that this may in one of its aspects cause harm to us. We said: we must focus on the corruption and not on fear that we call every matter by its name, indeed not fear that when this name is bigger than the truth of the matter. On this occasion I heard a live broadcast that was asking one of our girls: the broadcaster said to her: what is your opinion on the statement of the National Progressive front? She said to him: blindness, there is someone thus rebuking himself. This I heard myself. Is it true that we in this Arab region are the only ones who cause harm? Is it true that we cause harm more than others besides us cause harm? I do not think so, and despite that we were not embarrassed and we did not desire to cover for the mistakes. And we said: we make mistakes and we have mistakes and we have acts of harm. And we said about these mistakes and these acts of harm more than what their reality means, while no one besides us said something about this. And we decided to wage war on these mistakes and this matter was the result of consecutive meetings of the leadership of the party and the leadership of the National Progressive Front, and we proceeded earnestly in implementing what we decided and it came after this seventh sector conference and it rectified the same problems and discusses these matters. And you recall that it remained for long days as it discussed these problems and we came out of the conference and we began with widespread and quick development activity and I think that we now are in a situation that is different from the situation before the meetings of the leadership and Front and before the seventh sector conference in that we realise the cause of harm.
And despite that, they have now escalated their campaign and they have escalated their acts of sabotage and they have escalated the deeds of assassination. This also indicates clearly and without doubt that the issues of the homeland are not what mobilises them, nor is the interest of the homeland that mobilises them. It is not perception of responsibility or perception of wrong and right what mobilises them. Rather what mobilises them is the biggest instructor sitting there in the farthest continent, there in the U.S.. Then how does man begin killing without his saying something? How does a party begin killing without his saying something? How does a group begin killing without his saying something? Even the gangs of theft, when they go to a house, they catch in some way the owner of the house and if they do not kill him they make him sit in a place and in one way or another he understands from them that they have come to steal. These people have killed without our knowing what they demand except killing, because killing is the sole material fact we have felt. We have known that they want killing and they will not say to us why they want killing. Some of them have concluded or have leaked or spread the rumor that they are believers in God, believers in Islam, and for the sake of god they have begun with killing the sons of God.
Who believes that these martyrs whom they have assassinated are the enemies of God? Then how can any of us judge the other as being the enemy of the religion and the enemy of God? As far as I know, our Lord did not authorise anyone with this matter and they will not say that they have they have authorisation in this matter. If I were knowing that they defend Islam, I would not disagree with them. And why have they disagreed with me? Because I and because our party in its entirety, regardless of the individual's religious affiliation, are proud of Islam? We- the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party- desire to resurrect the glories and history and heritage of this Ummah. So how is it for us to work to resurrect this heritage and for us not to be proud of Islam? How is it for us to work to resurrect this heritage and not give consideration to Islam? We in the party and in this land: it is not possible for anyone to be proud of his Arabness without being proud of Islam.
For Islam is the message of God for us first and we do not bring anything from ourselves but rather this is the truth for if the message of God is for us we the Arabs, so how can we not be proud of this message? For whoso is proud of this Arabness is proud of Islam. This is from one angle. And from another, I personally oh brothers, and many of you who know me know this, as do many of the citizens in our land: I am a believer in God and the message of Islam. I am a believer in God and the message of Islam. And when Islam has been in danger from the point of view of some, I and some of my companions have been the trusted defenders of Islam. And we did not hear a voice from these people defending Islam at the time. When there was a crisis, we did not hear them defending it, and I am sure that they have heard at the time that Islam was in crisis, and they did not defend it. Now they raise the slogan of defending Islam, when there is no longer a disagreement about Islam. Now they raise this slogan when we strengthened the Islamic values, when we incited to faith and under this slogan they engage in the deeds that are most hateful to Islam and to the Prophet of Islam and to the Lord of Islam.
With regards to me as a Syrian citizen I believe in Islam and its creed. With regards to me as head of state, I am proud of Christianity and my pride in Islam, and I am as proud as I can be when I know that this good land- our Arab land- is the one from which Muhammad bin Abdullah (God's peace and blessings be upon him) came and from which our sayyid Jesus the son of Mary (peace and regards be upon him) came. From our land came Islam and from our land came Christianity and I have said once here also in this place that this matter must be one of the sources of our force and one of the sources of our pride and this is a truth I affirm now just as I affirmed it yesterday, but the believer in a matter does not barter with it. The believer in the religion does not barter with Islam. The believer in Islam does not undertake acts that contradict what Islam has commanded. You have heard a lot from those who have spoken in broadcasting and television from what affirms clear and unequivocal condemnation of these people as per the teachings of Islam. Al-Sadat goes to al-Quds[iv] and prays in the al-Aqsa mosque and the soldiers of Israel with their bayonets and shoes are inside the mosque. This is a fact no one is ignorant of, and despite that Al-Sadat is a Muslim. Al-Sadat is a Muslim. I have not heard them saying one word about Al-Sadat's Islam.
Of course I know that the Muslim is to the Muslim more than a definition. In the time of the Prophet the one who said I bear witness that there is no deity but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God is a Muslim. And since many years- thirty or more- I have been praying and saying I bear witness that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Despite that, these people did not recognize my Islam.
I say what is it that I am lacking? There must be something I need to fulfill my Islam? Do I need to make the journey to al-Quds? This matter has come to my mind because before Al-Sadat's journey to al-Quds, in truth I say to you: I did not hear them or I did not hear of an attack on me from the angle of an Islamist. Therefore I have said: tell me, do I need to go to al-Quds on the path of the ruler of Egypt in order that they may acknowledge my Islam. In any case, what is clear with regards to me is that I need the shahada of good conduct and this shahada as it seems must come to me from Washington.
I thought before this time as I said that I am a Muslim by nature and I have the qualifications of the Muslim and after their ruthless campaign I have begun to think that from their point of view I need as I have said the shahada[v] of good conduct from Washington and so that I may obtain this shahada I need qualifications. I tell you in truth that I do not possess them particularly as Washington, so that it may give me the likes of this shahada as it has given this shahada to others besides me, imposes specific prerequisites, namely that the one who obtains this shahada must be Arab in form but American in essence. The prerequisites are to be with the man by his natural disposition and from my bad or good fortune I was not born with these prerequisites, but I am a Muslim believing in God in spite of them, a Muslim believing in God in spite of them. And the one go extends his hand to outside his land and Ummah has no relation with Islam, and the one who hires himself out to the foreigner has no relation with Islam or the religion, and the one who makes himself an obedience servant in the service of the enemies of the people and the enemies of the homeland and the enemies of God has no relation with Islam.
I have been a Muslim and will remain a Muslim and Syria will remain a lofty fortress in which the banner of Islam flutters on high and fluttering, and these adversaries will be defeated because they are enemies of the homeland and enemies of the people just as they are enemies of Islam with which they barter and with whose name they barter. Naturally we recall that the phenomenon of violence is intruding against our ethics and against our land and our people and naturally the transparent and shabby covering by which it has tried to cover itself has not benefited it in any way and naturally we recall that they have committed these deeds while our land proceeds in an acceptable level of development and stability.
And naturally we remember also that these deeds are accompanied by the great historical transformation that has occurred in the region and has necessitated a separation that is not short-term between us and the Al-Sadat regime and therefore we must understand these acts are intended to sabotage our ethics and to sabotage our economy and our development and to serve Al-Sadat from whom we have separated, so the conspiracy is big and is aiming to destroy the ethical value of our people and destroy our Islamic and religious values in general and sabotage our economy and resources so that we should become an ill body that facilitates its destruction, so either that that should be done or we should be compelled to look for a refuge for this weak body in the trench of al-Sadat-Begin and in this result is what is in it from destruction of values and interests and sabotage of man and resources and land. With regards to the whole Arab Ummah, the focus currently has been on Syria because Syria raises the banner of steadfastness and resistance because Syria in addition to what I have mentioned possesses the ability of giving steadfastness and resistance meaning and because Syria means the continuation of the steadfastness of the Arab Ummah. The focus is on Syria because Syria says in a raised voice: no to surrender and yes to steadfastness. And Syria says also yes to just peace. We want peace but we absolutely reject humiliation and surrender. I have said previously these words. I have said previously we want peace and we reject humiliation and surrender, and they will not hear from me in the future anything besides these words, even if their eyes and bellies were to be pierced at the same time.
Peace in our understanding and the understanding of the entire world is as the decisions of the UN have expressed it: that Israel should completely withdraw from the occupied Arab lands, with the establishment of firm national rights for the Palestinian Arab people, including their right to self-determination and establishing their independent state. And peace in the understanding of Camp David is that Israel should formally withdraw from Sinai and it has not yet withdrawn in order to advance on Egypt in its entirety.
Peace in our understanding means that the Arab flags flutter in the sky of the liberated lands, and peace in the understanding of Camp David is that the flag of Israel should be raised in an official celebration in the sky of Cairo, even as it still occupies Egyptian Arab lands and Syrian Arab lands and Palestinian Arab lands and still stubbornly insists on denying the rights of the people of Palestine. Peace in our view is that we exercise our free will and peace in the understanding of Camp David is that the Al-Sadat regime should open wide the door before an economic, cultural and psychological Zionist invasion and that Israel should continue in its settler colonialism and expand in it. Peace in our view is a step we take towards Arab unity and peace in the view of Camp David is that Egypt should withdraw from its Arab Ummah to become more attached to the aggressive usurper Israel. We do not distinguish between Arab land and another and the parties of Camp David insist on the separation between the land of Egypt and the rest of the Arab lands.
We are before the strange three-way of Camp David, whose greatest beneficiary is Israel, because it is capable of dictating its will to the other two sides. As for the surrendering side in this three-way, its affair is most wondrous and strange that is offers compromises without account and receives slaps from Israel so it kisses the hand that slaps it. The whole world calls for the establishment of the Palestinian state and al-Sadat and his two allies speak about self-rule. The whole world knows and the leaders of the opposition in Israel affirm that the farce of self-rule is from the figment of Begin's imagination, and he displayed it during his visit to al-Isma'iliya. And al-Sadat and his two allies speak about it as being the summit of his peerless ingenuity and that it is the model solution. Israel affirms every day that its forces will not withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in any time in the future while al-Sadat does not stop speaking about his big hopes on the success of the farce of self-rule.
Our heroic people in the occupied land with their weak capabilities resist and resist and wage a heroic struggle in resisting the conspiracy and al-Sadat applies all the psychological and material pressures on the sons of the occupied land to force them to submit and surrender. The world condemns the policies of Israel and its aggression and supports the just Arab cause and al-Sadat regards his intimate friend Begin as the messenger of peace and regards his Arab Ummah as the enemy of peace. He flatters the leaders of Israel and pours curses on the Arab Ummah to which he has turned his back and he pretends to forget that Egypt is part of it.
As for the third partner, the wholesale partner as they have loved to call it and the impartial mediator as it calls itself, it is keen not to anger the leaders of Israel even in word and it is unprepared to distinguish between the American interests in this region and the Israeli interests, and so the Israeli interests are first in its view with oversight and care, even at the expense of anything else, so that the plan of Camp David can pass through and so that those who have put it in place can implement it. It is necessary to strike the one who stands in its way. Therefore we see them excel in what they do and they try to manipulate our emotions and holy sites so America suddenly seems zealous for our Islam but not in Palestine or around it but rather where it is possible for them to exploit and to exploit our religion as a weapon in confronting the Soviet Union and it is okay for us to ask the U.S., if you have been wishing to help us as Muslims, why do you not help us in recovering our occupied lands when the sons of these lands are mostly Muslims?
If you are honest in your concern for us as Muslims, we ask you to stop the flow of weapons to Israel as we are responsible for recovering our holy sites and they are pure Islamic places that Israel is infringing on before your sight and hearing. If you do not do anything of this and you will not do so of course, how can we trust you? God is the Exalted. Your feelings towards us die here as Muslims and your feelings here are inflamed in anger and fire so that we may burn by them first before others besides us burn by them.
Iran is a Muslim country that suffered for its part what it suffered from tyranny, subjugation and imperialist control. So why do you oppose it in hostility? In any case, and as I have said a short while before, our Islam is strong and powerful. The banner of Islam will remain high in this land and in all the land of the Muslims and the principles of the authentic religion will remain as they were: a guidance for us in our life. I repeat that the there is a monstrous campaign. Among its requirements is this psychological campaign to which we are being subjected. And this campaign for its part needs material and it is regrettable and painful that the find in our land those they make use of in order to provide them the required material in the crimes that they commit and which only aim to serve the enemies of the homeland and the Ummah and serve the plan of the conspiracy. This land, oh citizen brothers, in our land entirely. And indeed those who commit the crimes are the enemies of the land and the enemies of the people in the time during which we have given the killers and we give them sufficient opportunities to go back on what they are upon. For indeed we will resort to settling the account with them if the opportunities are exhausted and they do not realise the danger of what they going towards. And they have not gone back on it and it is clear that the opportunities are no longer wide. And I wanted to affirm that our decision as leadership is to be decisive against the killers from the enemies of the revolution and enemies of Arabness and Islam and here I distinguish between the killers and others besides them. And I affirm to every friend, every enemy, every sincere person and every conspirator.
Indeed decisive for us is a simple process and it is not complicated and as I say that, for indeed what I say is in adherence to the interest of the people and the homeland and we cannot be indulgent with the killers at all. Let every person in this land have his opinion. Let every political or non-political group in this land have its opinion. Let us have dialogue about every matter. Let us make suggestions, and let us discuss every matter. This is accepted and we welcome it. And we are not against discussion of any matter, we are not against discussion of any matter. This land is our land and it is from our right, indeed from our obligation entirely, that we participate in building it, that we participating in strengthening its affair, in making it powerful, and it is from the right of every citizen and every group to come to us and say: this is my opinion in this other field. And we must deal with these opinions per what our patriotic and nationalist obligation requires and what our patriotic and nationalist responsibility requires. And we will not block our ears and shut out ears in the face of any opinion and in every notification, assessment and respect we are prepared to hear any opinion and to take up this opinion when we arrive together to a shared conviction. And I affirm that we fear all joy and happiness when we find a citizen or group keen to participate through its opinion, through its opinion- in any of the forms- in the process of building this homeland. In this homeland there is space for all, a place for us all, for every sincere citizen who wants to participate in strengthening the course of this land, so there is no objection in this at all.
We are only a part of this people: our might is in its might, our force is in its force. Therefore it is not possible for us to cling to a matter when it appears to us that this matter is not the correct path. Any pronouncement we make, any act we commit: we are prepared to stand before our people in its entirety and say we made an error in this pronouncement or we made a mistake in this pronouncement or we made a mistake in this act. When the one who discusses with us comes to us and makes us convinced that we have made an error in fact in what we have said or in what we have done, we will not find an objection in standing and announcing we have made an error and going back on the error, because this matter is not connected with a person or persons. The matter is connected with the homeland and the people, and it is not allowed for any individual under any justification to cling to error when there comes to us the one who reveals to him the error and we do not feel frustrated about the opinions that are said. We do not feel frustrated that Zayd or Omar should disagree with us in opinion. All we seek in this field is that this Zayd and this Omar should be honest, earnest and sincere in what they say and dutiful and trustworthy in what they say, setting the starting point in all this from themselves, their people and their homeland. And I announce in a high voice that these deeds that are committed will not impact our course one inch or bit because our course is not connected with an obstruction here or an obstruction there, with a difficulty here or a difficulty there. It is connected with foundational convictions in the interest of the people and the homeland and the Ummah.
Therefore I announce and say: if anyone desires to chance our position on the surrender deal in the region, let this preoccupation put him at rest. As for if some of them have what benefits this homeland in strengthening the steadfastness against this deal, in thwarting this deal, in bringing down some of the parties of this deal, in strengthening the Arab nationalist stance, welcome to him. We will hear the opinion with the logic and spirit of patriotism, with the spirit of brotherhood, and he will hear our opinion as well with the same spirit and with all honesty and dialogue. His aim with regards to us will be more searching, more effort of searching for the truth, more effort that we will expend to get to know the correct way. And in every moment we see the correct way, we will not cling to something besides it at all. Our hand is extended and our chest is open to every person of opinion. We do not hate anyone and we do not bear hatred against anyone except against the enemies of our people, our Ummah and our homeland, so welcome, and I repeat, welcome, to the one who wants to offer useful opinion and the right word.
It is not allowed for anyone one to condemn us when we face the killers with scorn and contempt because they have not stopped at a limit: they have not stopped at a limit. What have they done in Aleppo? They have killed the senior 'ulama.[vi] I do not want to name them. They have killed some of the senior 'ulama of the Muslims and they are not in Aleppo also challenging the senior 'ulama of the Muslims and I say to you truly oh brothers without flattery: in the city of Aleppo distinguished 'ulama live in a great state of pain as a result of this deeds and they are trying to do something but the killers are the killers, and from here I say that when there is no path of deterrence except that the state should undertake this deterrence, it must do so for the sake of the interest of every citizen in the city of Aleppo as well as in any other town it must undertake this obligation.
Again I want to point to our stance with the essence that was in multiple meetings of the sector[vii] leadership and the central leadership of the National Progressive Front[viii] at the conclusion of which was issued the twenty-sixth statement from September 1979 and you reviewed it. Then there was held the seventh sector conference for the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party in the time between 22 December 1979 and 6 January 1980 and at the highest level of responsibility and with the authentic spirit of democracy the conference considered all that concerns our people and our Ummah. It considered the places of defect and the signs of negativity in our reality and as a result of that it brought out decisions and recommendations to rectify the problems that obstruct our revolutionary course and find the solutions for them.
The seventh sector conference was an important turning point and a great work in the history of our party and it was a wonderful embodiment of the spirit of giving and a hastening of the will of giving by which our Ba'athist comrades must be distinguished and it was a distinguished and successful effort to define the path of the future and make the positives predominant in the course of the future, so its results came answering the desires of the people and responding in kind with their hopes.
Indeed the decisions of the conference and its recommendations constitute a work program whose implementation is taking place with seriousness and haste and the people have felt some of its impacts and the new government has taken up from it a course in light of which it has put in place its ministerial statement that it has submitted to the People's Council.
And before I conclude this matter oh brothers, I must say that the conservative sector[ix] that I pointed to at the conclusion of the seventh sector must perform its role in resisting this fierce attack. It must play its patriotic role and when I pointed to this sector and its activity and its standing with the revolution at the conclusion of the conference I was serious in my words. And I was saying this in light of what I felt during the past years, and in this field I must on this pulpit also thank and give regards to the Damascus Business Forum [/Chamber of Commerce] and the businessmen of Damascus for their patriotic stance that they expressed on this day in their telegram and statement that they issued in which they showed clinging to the national interest and a true course for this national interest. And they were honest with themselves and with their homeland in this position and when they expressed their understanding for the pride of the revolution for the interest of the collective of the citizens. Damascus, oh brothers, and this is not from flattery, as the capital of the Arabs in history will remain forever a place of our pride and proudness. Damascus will remain forever the capital of patriotism and Arabness and Islam.
In what concerns Lebanon the twin brother country whose pains we have felt as no one besides us has felt and whose sufferings we have felt as no one else besides us has felt: we have taken the initiative to help it in its tribulation, for we are still on the pledge to be ready to do all that results in good for the people of Lebanon. We have no aim in Lebanon except that it should recover its wellness and its sons should live in affection, harmony, brotherhood and purity, and that Lebanon should resume its role as a state that works for the good of the people of Lebanon and the good of the Arab Ummah. We in Syria are compliant with our brotherly and nationalist role towards Lebanon without any aim except as I said that this brotherly land should return sound and well. Indeed the decision to bring together the forces that we have taken up recently is a decision that was mandated by the circumstances of the region and the developments of the situation in them, and we have worked to ensure this decision should help in creating a favourable climate to realise the process of national accord in Lebanon, and we consider national accord to be the sound path to complete the wellness of Lebanon.
On the Arab field we call for better relations with the sister states and we affirm Arab solidarity and we support it with all force so that it may perform its role in confronting the plans hostile to our Ummah, and we cling to the Nationalist Front for Steadfastness and Resistance and we emphasise its importance and our work will continue in the path of increasing its effectiveness and developing its capabilities.
Our unitary orientation cannot be shaken. We are the callers of Arab unity and we will not hesitate in participating in any unitary work available. Indeed the cause of Palestine is the axis of our struggle and the essence of our cause and we consider the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to be the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian Arab people and we will remain working to strengthen the Palestinian revolution and support it against all possibilities of danger, for Syria and the Palestinian revolution are in one trench and this is what the enemy and friend must know.
And on this occasion I sent my regards in your name and from the depth of our heart to our people and and brothers in the occupied land. I send regards in your name to their great steadfastness in confronting the fierce occupation and in confronting the conspiracy to which they are being exposed at the hand of the parties of Camp David. Indeed supporting them and supporting their steadfastness are a principal nationalist obligation and they are completely worthy of it, oh citizen brothers.
The international field, over the course of the past year, has witnessed many developments and many of these developments have contributed to the escalation of international tension, to the increase of the extent of conflict between the two great states. Amid this climate, there has been from our point of view a bright spot that is the Islamic Revolution in Iran: this revolution that freed the friendly Iranian people from the subjugation and which has put Iran in its natural place as an Islamic land that adopts vanguard positions alongside the causes of truth and justice and against Zionism and imperialism and foreign intervention. We send our regards to this revolution and we stand alongside it and offer it all possible support.
I must take this occasion to affirm again that we are continuing to strengthen relations of friendship and cooperation between us and our friends in the socialist camp, at the forefront of which is the friendly Soviet Union.
And I affirm that there is no hope for the colonialists and imperialists, or rather we do not want them to sustain delusions and imagine that they can disturb the mutual trust between us and these friends. Frankly and truly I say that the Soviet Union is the true friend for all the peoples that struggle for their freedom and independence and in my assessment indeed the imperialists have realised through their successive experiences since some time that they will not be able to weaken this friendship but this does not mean that their attempts will not be repeated to destroy this friendship if they can devise a way to that.
We realise that in the battle we are waging we need the support of this great friend and it is not permitted for us to be mistaken in appreciation and it is not allowed for us to be mistaken in appreciation. For our battle is great. Israel is supported by the U.S. with the most modern weapons and in huge quantities, so how is it allowed for us to blind our eyes when we find a manoeuvre that aims to drag us into conflict with this great friend and to shut the door from which the support comes to us in the most fierce confrontation that we resist and the Arabs entirely resist in this age? I know that strengthening our people is in all its groups because our people realises what is the meaning that the Soviet Union should remain alongside us as a dutiful and sincere friend. And from here the matter must be clear when we say that we are in a position of non-alignment between the two states, it does not at all mean that we make the two states equal: it does not at all mean that we make the two states equal. For it is not possible and not reasonable that we make as equals the one who offers our enemy weapons to occupy our land with these weapons and the one who offers us weapons and political support by which we may liberate our land and restore our displaced people to their homes and villages. It is not possible for us to make as equals the one who stands with us and the one who stands against us.
And in the conclusion of my speech I consider that our celebration of the seventeenth anniversary of the 8 March revolution is an occasion to affirm again that building the homeland is the responsibility of all and that protecting the homeland is the responsibility of all and that the good of the homeland is for all and what harm may afflict the homeland results in harm to all. Our people have struggle for a long time to reach what we have reached from progress and place, so it has become necessary for our generation to complete the building and to follow the course of progress and to continue the struggle to liberate the land and restore the rights. And it is not allowed for our course and struggle to be obstructed by hateful or hireling elements or misguided elements. And we must all work to extirpate the evil from our midst and to close the ranks so that the coming generations do not accuse us of shortcoming.
Indeed the future of our sons and the future of our homeland and the future of our Ummah requires from us to encourage our steps on the path of the revolution, the path of building and liberation, the path of Arab unity. And we must do that so we may be worthy of the place that our homeland and our Ummah must occupy among the nations of the world. Indeed the spirits of our martyrs who have died in the path of the most honourable goal and the most noble intention call us to complete the path, so let us complete it with faith in God and confidence in ourselves and our abilities to realise more accomplishments in all the fields. And I hope I have not gone on too long for you.
Wa as-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah.[x]
[i] The wider community or nation, in this case meaning the wider Arab world which Ba'athism has sought to unify under one political entity.
[ii] The October 1973 War.
[iii] The point is that the Arabic root here (n-q-d) can have two connotations: criticism and biting/pecking.
[v] Meaning 'testimony' or 'qualification.'
[vi] Islamic scholars.
[vii] The idea of the 'sector' is that Syria constitutes one sector/region of the envisioned unified Arab nation.
[viii] The ruling coalition of political parties in Syria, dominated by the Ba'ath Party.
[ix] As I understand this, Hafez al-Assad is distinguishing between conservatives (i.e. those upholding authentic traditions) and 'backwardness' (Arabic: raja'iya) that conflicts with the 'progressive' agenda of Ba'athism.
[x] Islamic greeting: 'Peace be upon you with God's mercy.'