Her Excellency Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban: Reconstruction with Syrian characteristics — rebuilding a truly diverse and more secure world based on the lessons of the Syrian experience

Bouthaina Shaaban

Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic



Good morning. Allow me first to thank the Schiller Institute, and in particular, to thank Helga Zepp-LaRouche, for inviting me to this very important conference and for allowing me to contribute to this very important panel.

But before I begin my paper, I would like to pass on a few notes that lead me to the conclusion which I would love to conclude for this panel, and for this conference at large.

One of the major problems we face in our country, is that today, Western countries approach our countries with the feeling of exceptionalism or a feeling of righteousness, that whatever Western countries see appropriate or good, should apply to our countries without any question. The first action that was taken by Western countries, when the war on Syria started, was to withdraw their ambassadors from Syria. The question is, isn’t it the job of the ambassadors to convey the reality on the ground, and to help in opening channels of communication between countries instead of closing them?

This leads me to the role of corporate media during the war on Syria. Unfortunately, most Western media rely on Al Jazeera, Qatar-funded, and Al Arabiya, Saudi-funded, to report on events in Syria, even though both channels, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, withdrew their correspondents and relied on what are called “eyewitnesses,” which could be anybody, anywhere. This applies also to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is run by one person in Coventry, U.K., Rami Abdel Rahman.

These media outlets choose to focus on what they find which fits their agenda, ignoring the reality on the ground. For example, even the terrorist acts in Tartus and Jableh recently, which claimed the lives of 200 innocent civilians, were not noticed by Western media, and certainly did not therefore evoke any Western sympathy.

What I would like to say is that the false narrative propagated about Syria was as dangerous to the Syrian people and to the safety and security of Syrians, as the acts perpetrated by terrorists, because it isolated the reality in Syria from the public understanding in the West and in the world at large, and it prevented the creation of a level of understanding between Western countries and the Syrian people about what is going on.

Terrorism and ‘Democracy’

But before we can begin to talk about reconstructing Syria, we still face the monumental challenge of eradicating terrorism in Syria, Iraq, and the region. We have to eradicate this terrorism. And when I say “we,” I do not mean the Syrians or the Iraqis alone, but I mean the world at large, because, as we have seen, in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, and lastly, the U.K., terrorists can strike anywhere in the world; it’s a cancer that can spread anywhere in the world. However, is the world, and in particular, are Western powers, doing all they can to face this danger? This is the question that I would like to ask.

Of course if we separate out what is promoted in the media and look at actions and deeds, rather than words, we see that in the case of Syria, Western countries are not doing what needs to be done to eliminate this danger, both from Syria and from the world at large. And I would like to give you one example: On December 17, 2015, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2253, under Chapter 7, which dictates stopping the financing, arming, and facilitating of terrorists into Syria. The Vienna Group, afterwards, interpreted this resolution, that it should include closing the Turkish border and not allowing armaments and finances to cross to the terrorists. On December 18, the Security Council issued Resolution 2254, which calls for a political solution in Syria.

Now, you see that the entirety of humanity focusses on 2254, without dealing with 2253, which is a logical prerequisite for 2254, that is, for finding a political solution in Syria.

The same thing can be said about humanitarian assistance. Instead of focussing on ending the war in Syria and restoring peace and security in Syria, we see that the entire corporate media is speaking about humanitarian assistance, as if this is the issue! Syria, before this war, was able to host 2 million Iraqis and to feed itself, and to export food to 84 countries in the world. It is since the 1970s that the Syrian people have adopted the motto, “We eat from what we produce, and we wear from what we manufacture,” which means that Syria does not need humanitarian help if there is peace and stability, and if the Syrian people are able to develop their crops and attend to their factories.

Today we hear a lot of talk from the Western alliance about “containing” ISIS, “limiting” ISIS; and lastly, you all heard the speech of CIA Director John Brennan, who said that we did not succeed even in limiting the influence of ISIS. Why? Because there is no real desire and wish, really, to get rid of ISIS. There were two elements: The Russian government had called on Western countries to join efforts to defeat ISIS both in Syria and Iraq, and the agreement in Vienna was that the Turkish borders should be closed. Neither of these two elements received a positive response from the United States or the Western powers. The question is, why?—if there is a real will to fight ISIS.

The other question is, that we in Syria feel that what is needed is a real will in the international community to fight terrorism and to build real bridges. When I say “real bridges,” I mean, on an equal basis, on a basis of parity. The problem with promoting “democracy”—in quotation marks—in our part of the world, is that Western countries believe that liberal democracy is the only issue, or the only copy, or the only formula that should be applied to our countries. And this is not true, because we all have different cultures.

We have different identities, we have different habits, we have different ways of life, and I can give an example: China, India, the Persian culture, Arab culture have contributed a great deal to the world, but on a human basis, and on a basis of parity. In fact, here I would like to make an important point, that the Western world believes in opening markets to the entire world, but only to export its own goods! But not to allow other countries to export to the West, on an equal basis. And every day they invent different formulas in order not to allow equal treatment—tariff constraints and other constraints.

Intellectual Silk Road

The same thing applies to politics. The concepts, values, and ideas, coming from the West should be respected and implemented in our countries, but there is no other road that takes our culture, and our values and our ethics to the West. If we need to create a world for all, if we need to create a peaceful world, if we need to create a prosperous world for all, we need to create a conceptual, intellectual concept of one world; we need to create a conceptual concept of a Silk Road. Not only an actual Silk Road, but an intellectual Silk Road. All of you know that Aleppo and Syria were extremely crucial in the ancient Silk Road that connected Asia to Europe. Syria and the Syrian people will be more than happy to be very active also in a New Silk Road and in a political, social, intellectual Silk Road that connects Asia to the West, that connects Eurasia to the West.

The other byproduct of this war on our countries, and the other byproduct of promoting only Western exceptionalism in our country, is the distortion of the image of Islam in Western eyes. Islam, like any other religion, is a religion of love, a religion of humanity. We, as Muslims, were hardly ever, if ever, addressed in our Quran as Muslims. We are addressed as “ye human beings”: We are part of the human community. And therefore, those who kill in the name of Islam, those who destroy in the name of Islam, are not Muslims at all. They have nothing to do with Islam.

We have to address the concept that the terrorists are promoting, and the lack of dialogue that the corporate media are causing, if we want to create a truly prosperous Silk Road, not only physical, but also intellectual, social, and political. And here, I would like to conclude by thanking Russia and China, who right from the beginning of the war on Syria, took four vetoes against Western attempts to try to strike Syria militarily. And Russia, and China, and Iran, continue to support the Syrian people, to try to find a political solution.

In brief, what I would like to say here is that, in order to build these Silk Roads, we have to deal with each other on an equal basis, on an equal human basis, and dealing otherwise, as superior and inferior, as white and black, as important and less important, is producing extremism, is producing racism which is striking not only in Syria, but in Brussels, in Paris, in Orlando, and last of all in the U.K. Thus, it is in the interests of humanity to think as human beings, to think of the world as truly a human village, where people live equally, and have mutual respect for each other, and deal on the basis of parity.

But this requires a huge change in the mindset of the West, that probably requires another conference, to speak not only about the very important idea launched by China, of building a Silk Road, but to speak about the intellectual, social, and political Silk Road, that thinks and deals with all of us, as human, as brothers and sisters, rather than as superior and inferior. Thus, we can build a new world, and one world, and a much better world than the one we live in. We have an obligation to our grandchildren, wherever they are born, to leave them a better world than this one in which we live now.

Thank you very much.