The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria

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"I don't see a way out in Syria": ODFS Director to Business Insider UK

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad doesn't have a very bright outlook for his home country.

Ribal al-Assad, the director of the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday that he is "pessimistic" about the future of Syria as he watches the same mistakes being repeated.

"Honestly, I don't see a way out," Ribal said. "I'm very pessimistic because we have not been doing anything trying to improve the situation."

Ribal's family fled to Europe decades ago after his father, who Ribal said worked to promote democracy in the Middle East, got into an argument with the former president of Syria, Hafez al-Assad. Ribal went back to Syria in 1994, but was reportedly nearly assassinated at the Damascus airport as he was leaving to study in Boston.

Ribal said Syria is "made up of a beautiful mosaic of people" of many ethnicities and religions — and that the world needs "to see that there is a viable alternative" before the country can truly be unified.

"There have been mediators unfortunately who do not believe in human rights, who do not share our values ... and they are the ones who have been taking care of trying to unify the opposition," Ribal said. "Many factions of the Syrian people, many groups have been disregarded and we keep repeating the same mistakes."

He continued: "We should step in and bring together in a neutral country and opposition that is willing to share our values and ... they have to commit and sign to it, agreeing on equality of all citizens under the rule of law regardless of religion, sect, ethnic group, and gender, and that would automatically exclude all Islamist groups. And this is what we should have done from the beginning."

Ribal has spoken out against Assad many times before. He was educated in the US and then moved to the United Kingdom to run the democracy group he founded.

The New York Times has reported that Ribal's father, Rifaat, was a "loser in a Baath Party power struggle" with Hafez. Rifaat has been blamed for a 1982 massacre that killed 10,000 people, but he and Ribal deny the accusations.

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