Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Beleaguered Assad Defiant in Rare Speech

A defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Sunday for national mobilisation in a “war to defend the nation”, describing rebels fighting him as terrorists and agents of foreign powers with whom it was impossible to negotiate.

Appearing in an opera house in central Damascus packed with cheering supporters, the Syrian leader delivered his first speech to an audience since June last year, and his first public comments since a television interview in November.

He unveiled what he described as a peace initiative to end the 21-month-old uprising. But the proposal, including a reconciliation conference that would exclude “those who have betrayed Syria”, was certain to be rejected by enemies who have already said they will not negotiate unless he leaves power.

He spoke confidently for about an hour before a crowd of cheering loyalists, who occasionally interrupted him to shout and applaud, at one point raising their fists and chanting: “With blood and soul we sacrifice for you, O Bashar!”

At the end of the speech, supporters rushed to the stage, mobbing him and shouting: “God, Syria and Bashar is enough!” as a smiling Assad waved and was escorted from the hall.

“We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word,” Assad said in the speech. “This war targets Syria using a handful of Syrians and many foreigners. Thus, this is a war to defend the nation.”

“We meet today and suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy while security and stability are absent on the streets of our country,” Assad said. “The nation is for all and we all must protect it.”

The United Nations says 60,000 people have been killed in the civil war in Syria, which has brought fighting to the edge of the capital.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Sunday.Assad must step down in order to bring about a political solution to the war in his country.

The statement followed a speech by Assad in which he said he would not neogiatate with the forces trying to overthrow him.

“We will look carefully if there is anything new in the speech but we maintain our position that Assad has to step aside and allow for a political transition.” a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.