Syria's Bashar al-Assad 'feels no guilt' over crackdown

 

Bashar al-Assad told ABC's Barbara Walters that he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters

Syria's president has said that he feels no guilt about his crackdown on a 10-month uprising, despite reports of brutality by security forces.

In an interview with the US network ABC, Bashar al-Assad said he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters but admitted "mistakes" were made.

He said he did not own the security forces or the country.

At least 4,000 people have been killed since the uprising began, the UN says.

However, Mr Assad said the UN was not credible.

Syria blames the violence on "armed criminal gangs".

The US later rejected President Assad's assertions that he did not order the killing of protesters.

"It is just not credible," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Start Quote

No government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person”

End Quote Bashar Assad Syrian president

"The United States and many, many other nations around the world who have come together to condemn the atrocious violence in Syria perpetrated by the Assad regime know exactly what's happening and who is responsible."

Mr Assad's interview comes a day after the US announced that its ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, would return to Damascus after he was withdrawn in October because of security concerns.

France's ambassador returned on Monday.

'Big difference'

Responding to questions from veteran presenter Barbara Walters about the brutality of the crackdown, Mr Assad said he did not feel any guilt.

"I did my best to protect the people, so I cannot feel guilty," he said. "You feel sorry for the lives that has [sic] been lost. But you don't feel guilty - when you don't kill people."

"We don't kill our peopleā€¦ no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person," he added.

The security forces were not his, nor did he command them, the Syrian president said.

"There was no command, to kill or to be brutal," he said.

"I don't own them, I am president, I don't own the country so they are not my forces."

Analysis

President Assad's responses to ABC's questions about security showed that he was keen to deflect allegations of brutality levelled against his security forces.

By giving the interview in the first place, he was clearly concerned to reach out to American public opinion and policy-makers to correct the wrong impressions he believes they are being given about what is happening in Syria.

While not denying excesses, he challenged the "false allegations" on which much of the media - and the UN's Human Rights Commission - based their conclusions.

He appeared confident that his embattled regime would weather the internal challenge as well as outside pressures from sanctions.

He believed the majority of Syrians - who he said were neither for nor against the regime - would be won over by reforms which he said would give other parties a chance.

Instead he blamed the violence on criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al-Qaeda, who he said were mingling with peaceful protesters.

He said most of those killed were from government supporters, with 1,100 soldiers and police among the dead.

Those members of the security forces who had exceeded their powers had been punished, he said.

"Every 'brute reaction' was by an individual, not by an institution, that's what you have to know," he said.

"There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference."

When challenged about reports of house-to-house arrests, including of children, Mr Assad said the sources could not be relied upon.

"We have to be here to see. We don't see this. So we cannot depend on what you hear," he said.

The United Nations, which has said the Syrian government committed crimes against humanity, was not credible, Mr Assad said.

He described Syria's membership of the UN as "a game we play".

Asked if he feared sharing the fate of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mr Assad said the only thing he was afraid of was losing the support of his own people.

 

More on This Story

Syria conflict

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 127.

    We need to be careful about putting pressure on Assad to leave. If he does go the country is likely to fall into civil war (Iraq style) with the possible eradication of the christian poulation there oppression of women, which up to now have had a good life under Assad. Instead we should support Assad and encourage more movement to democracy.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 126.

    The president's denial of complicity implies he was not informed, or his government had no good policies in this area, or he simply has incomplete control over the military forces. The latter would indicate that the military actually runs the country, which poses a high hurdle for diplomacy to do anything.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 97.

    A Syrian friend of mine was involved in a "white shirt" protest, in which him and his friends walked around the city wearing white shirts. It was a peaceful protest, not even shouting or waving banners. He was arrested and humiliated, hit on the back as he was made to walk down a tunnel of police and security forces. He shared photos of his wounds. The protests are not the work of extremists.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 67.

    I think he's absolutely right:
    He has no control over the military.
    The military controls him. He looks like a puppet whenever I see him on TV. Once the military realize they can't kill the entire population, they'll do away with him as the Egyptian military did away with Mubarak. And then establish military rule.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 63.

    It is all seemingly going the way of Libya, but it will probably be one heck of a lot bloodier. That is discounting any intervention by America via Israel, which frightens the life out of me. The world is afraid to start something that it cannot stop, so the killings continue...

 

Comments 5 of 6

 

More Middle East stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.