As part of our collaboration with Syria Deeply we are cross-posting a series of articles that capture civilian voices caught in the crossfire, along with perspectives on the conflict from writers around the world.
Michel Kilo is one of Syria’s famous dissidents, a political opponent of President Bashar Al Assad. He rose to prominence inthe Damascus Spring, a brief flourishing of political freedom and expression in 2000.
Kilo left Syria eight months into the revolution and now lives in Paris with his family. He answered questions from Syria Deeply via Skype. For more on his story we’ve included a link to a video interview about his time in prison, jailed for his prominent political dissent.
SD: Are you officially backing the Syrian National Coalition? What do you see as their strengths and weaknesses?
Kilo: I’m not a member of the Syrian National Coalition, because I think its weakness lies in the exaggerated representation of the Islamic movement. It does not represent the various trends of the opposition forces, especially democracy and secularism.
SD: When you look at the state of the war in Syria, what do you see?
Kilo: I see a slow shift in the power relations between the opposition and the regime, with a possibility of many surprise twists. That includes desperate operations [by the Assad regime], such as the use of internationally banned weapons, as it loses control of more Syrian land. Fighting has also arrived in Damascus, encircling the main centers of power.
SD: Do you have any hope for a negotiated solution? What is the best-case scenario?
Kilo: Yes, I have some limited hope of a negotiated solution. Some members of the system have disassociated themselves from the Assad regime and extended their reconciliation to the opposition, accepting a transition to a democratic system.
SD: How do you keep Sunnis and Alawites from fighting each other? Is there any way? Any hope?
Kilo: I do not know how we can prevent sectarian clashes without a national program that brings in all parties. This integrated program does not exist today, since the opposition had missed the opportunity of drafting and implementing it [early on]. Today I think we need a kind of program, that will encourage everyone to collaborate in a joint national project, in order to cut the route to a sectarian conflict or at least reduces the possibility [of it erupting].
SD: Are there members of the current system that you think could and should stay on in a future Syria?
Kilo: Yes, there are people in the system who can play a role in the future of Syria…some of those who are now in power, especially those who are defecting from power and Assad’s family to join the people.
SD: What is holding up the Assad regime today?
Kilo: The resilience of Assad’s military strength comes from Russian, Chinese, and Iranian support and the lack of a critical western position against it. That enables them to play that supporting role without real impediment, with a green light that allows Assad to oppress people and destroy Syria.
SD: Do you think the Assad regime would really use chemical weapons for its political survival?
Kilo: Yes, there is no doubt that he would use all kinds of weapons, including chemical weapons, because he does not respect the lives and rights of human beings. Otherwise he wouldn’t have destroyed his country.
SD: How do you think Assad will exit the picture?
Kilo: My fear is that we will move from a crisis to overthrow the regime to a new crisis, extending civil war and chaos, political and armed. Plus, we shouldn’t forget that Syria is destroyed, and much of the people are homeless, hungry, or displaced, and this atmosphere will encourage chaos.
SD: What is your biggest fear in the coming phase in Syria?
Kilo: Assad wants to make a decisive victory over his people, this is the goal of the war waged since nearly two years ago. It excludes all kinds of political solutions that had been offered by the opposition. He fancies that he can still win the war.
SD: What does the international community need to do for Syria?
Kilo: The international community should develop clear, practical and applicable positions to stop the killing in Syria and work on a political solution to the crisis without hesitation. [World powers] have demonstrated their inability to do anything, abandoning their responsibilities under the pretext of a weak opposition and divided Syrian society.
SD: If you could tell US President Obama to make one change on Syria policy, what would it be?
Kilo: I’ll tell him committed to what I said repeatedly, that U.S. policy must be based on respect for human rights for people, everywhere.
SD: Should the international community enforce a no-fly zone over northern Syria? Should the world intervene to take out Assad’s forces from the skies?
Kilo: But I do not think we need it. The Syrian people have proved over the past two years that they can [defend] their homes without external interference and are supported by the minimum of weapons needed for victory. They no longer depend on foreign countries to get their freedom. They believe that Western countries don’t want Assad to leave, and that he’ll stay until he destroys the whole society and what holds it together.