The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria

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Democracy campaigner slams Syria’s “disastrous” relationship with Iran

Thursday, 20 May 2010

• Iran’s tentacles “stretch too deep into Syria”

• US diplomatic efforts “green light” Syria’s human rights abuses

Speaking to the European-Atlantic Group on Tuesday 18 May, at an event hosted in the Carlton Club in London, democracy campaigner Ribal Al Assad criticised his country’s increasingly strong relationship with Ahmadinejad’s regime in Tehran.

As American diplomatic efforts continue in Damascus, Ribal Al Assad told an audience of diplomats, politicians and journalists that:

“The Syrian government performs a balancing act between the West and Iran. It welcomes American diplomats in the morning, and then receives members of the Iranian regime in the evening.”

Ribal, who is the Director of the London-based Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, told the audience that Iran’s influence over Syria is “one of the most pressing concerns for all those who seek peace and stability in the region.”

He continued,

“Iran has spread its tentacles far and wide. It funds, arms, trains and controls Islamist groups all over the Middle East and now it is exerting greater influence and control in Syria, too.

“What hope do ordinary Syrians have for a better future, if their government continues to become a vassal state of Iran?”

RIbal welcomed American diplomatic efforts, which he sees as part of Washington’s attempts to encourage Damascus away from Tehran. However, he remains critical of the “green light” that such efforts give to the Syrian regime’s well documented human rights abuses.

“I understand and support Washington’s desire to encourage Syria to move away from its relationship with Iran, but they should use such diplomatic efforts to seek assurances on the numerous cases of secret detention, torture and arbitrary arrest which hang over Syrian society and not let the Syrian regime assume that it is a “green light” to continue to oppress their people.

Ribal concluded his talk with a warning that Iran only seeks to assert its agenda of developing Iranian hegemony in the region, and it will use whoever it can to achieve that end.

“Iran may have found a friend in Syria, but Syria must wake up and realise that Iran’s ambitions are not shared by the Syrian people and they should not be supported by the Syrian government.”


Notes for Editors:

The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS) is an independent body, which promotes democracy, freedom and human rights in Syria and the Middle East.

ODFS researches and analyses current events and policy in Syria and the Middle East, and provides information to parliamentarians, civil servants, the media, think tanks, academics, students, the public and all other interested parties in Britain and around the world.

Ribal Al-Assad is the Founder and Director of The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria. He is an international campaigner for democracy, freedom and human rights. Ribal, 34, was born in Syria and has lived in the West since being exiled from his country as a child. He brings new ideas and perspectives to campaigning for democracy and freedom in Syria and the Middle East and is a regular speaker on political and human rights platforms. Ribal regularly interacts with politicians, civil servants, academics, journalists, think tanks, pro-democracy, and human rights groups all around the world.

Ribal is also Chairman of the Arabic News Network (ANN) satellite television channel, which broadcasts throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and promotes democracy, freedom and peace in the Middle East.

Ribal is extensively involved in promoting interfaith dialogue and relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians around the globe. Over the last few years Ribal has successfully been involved in helping to tackle inter-religious and intra-religious conflict and violence in Lebanon. One of his notable achievements was to help facilitate a rapprochement between the Alawite and the Sunni Muslims in North Lebanon.

The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria campaigns for:

- An end to the State of Emergency, in place since 1963

- A commitment to human rights for all groups, religions and minorities

- An end to corruption and the liberalization of the Syrian economy

- An end to press and internet censorship

- Greater rights for Syrian women and their greater representation in the political, economic, and social fields

- Peace in the Middle East through a two state solution with a viable, independent and democratic state of Palestine and the return of all of the Golan Heights to Syria in a land for peace deal

- An end to extremism and violence

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