Syria: About the Rejection of a Foreign Interference

Posted: July 4, 2012 in Sideviews
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A representative of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation reports on his visit to Syria (Source of article:; Source of all images: @grigorievms).

“Many government officials are aware that reforms are urgently necessary, that the time is ripe. But under conditions, where there is daily terror and armed attacks are committed, which are supported from abroad, it is extremely difficult,” says Maksim Grigoryev, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, to “Vzglyad”.

The representatives of the working group for international work of the Public Chamber, Sergei Ordzhonikidze and Maxim Grigoriev, have returned from Syria the day before, where they had initiated, under the auspices of the Chamber, an independent, non-governmental monitoring (of the situation). Grigoriev had reported about the progress and the results of this trip regularly on Twitter.

The Russian diplomacy is in and around Syria still very active. There are also Russian officers under the UN Observers, while Russian diplomats regularly visit the country, which is shaken by riots.

vespertine Street in Damascus

vespertine Street in Damascus

The reason for these visits is not only the effort to resolve the conflict, but also the protection of interests of Syrian citizens, which the Russian Federation understands as their historic homeland. They are, among others, the descendants of the Circassians, which have moved from Russia to these areas in the 19th Century.

Maksim Grigoryev told “Vzglyad” about how the situation is among the Syrian government officials, and how the situation is on the streets of the Syrian capital (Damascus).


Vzglyad: It was reported on this weekend, that there were fights in a suburb of Damascus. Were you at this time in the city?


Maksim Grigoryev: Yes, there was an exchange of fire, we heard it. Lightweight weapons were used there, which could be heard.

One could hear automatic weapons, machine guns, probably, but no heavy weapons. However, we were equipped with bulletproof vests, as a precaution, because in the heart of Damascus, there was also an explosion. Right in the center of the capital, in front of the palace of justice. The armed opposition uses the most cynical methods.

The Mufti, with whom we were talking, but also other well-known religious figures, receive constantly hate-letters (hate mail).

After such a threatening letter, the son of the Mufti was killed. The next day, the mufti himself has received such a letter, in which there was talk that he will be the next, if he goes on to support the position of Syria, and not those of other countries – which he has personally told us.

Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the chief Mufti of Syria (middle) - his son was killed by bandits.

Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the chief Mufti of Syria (middle) – his son was killed by bandits.

On Wednesday, armed rebels have stormed a television studio and occupied it, they have enchained the journalists, who have worked there; and mined the building and then they left the building – afterwards, they have blasted the building, together with all the persons inside.


Vzglyad: Have you been to other places as Damascus?


Maksim Grigoryev: We just had meetings in the capital, the people came to us, and we had only a few days available. But now, experts from our research fund for democracy are active in Syria, they will also be active in other towns, and they will look at the situation in the regions.

Sure, that may not be in such places, which are occupied by the terrorists, or those, that are highly embattled – which affects primarily the border regions with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.


Vzglyad: Were you able to talk with everyone, or only with people who were recommended by the government? Were you able to enjoy a freedom of movement, or could you just go to certain places with companion?


Maksim Grigoryev: No, we had no escort along these lines, but at the meetings with government representatives, security guards were provided to us. For example, we have met with Mohammad Al-Lahham, a representative of the Syrian People’s Council. Such meetings have been scheduled by the Syrian side, that’s for sure.

But, of course, we also had meetings with people who have nothing to do with the government. The opportunity to discuss all sorts of questions was always present, and of course, the government was also criticized.


Vzglyad: What kind of atmosphere prevails in the governmental authorities, and what is the situation on the streets of Damascus?


Maksim Grigoryev: Many government officials are aware, that reforms are urgently necessary, that the time is ripe. But under conditions, where daily terror take place, and armed attacks do happen, which are supported by foreign countries, changes are extremely difficult.

I have the impression, that the majority of government officials have a very serious attitude, that they will make every effort to defend the sovereignty of their country. There are no signs of an internal weakness or demoralization.

As is known, the Alawites play an important role in Syria. So, as I have understand it, one the one hand, this groups now consolidates around the government, on the other hand, as well as many from other social classes, because the activity of terrorists are followed by a sharp decrease in quality of life for them.

One is also able to hear an objective criticism of the government (especially in the social and economic area), and this criticism is often accepted by the government, while there is everywhere a complete rejection of any foreign intervention, even among representatives of the opposition.

Regarding the opposition, the opposition is completely different. There is the “Free Syrian Army.” It is very difficult to say exactly, what this group really is. But the terror is not only related to them; even radical Islamists play an important role. It is definitely not clear, who all is active here.

A third force is simply smugglers and criminals, who now see an opportunity to make big money. They cooperate very closely with the opposition movement, but are pursuing their own business. They steal from the people, but they also raided museums, for example.

Of such people there are very many. A fourth force is foreign mercenaries. There is much evidence that foreign mercenaries fighting in the ranks of the opposition. Among them are mainly mercenaries from Libya and the Gulf States.

But in the streets of Damascus, the situation is completely calm. The only thing we noticed: government agencies are secured by security personnel. But otherwise – the people go for a walk, sit in the cafes at the evening, in restaurants, and visit their clubs. I was not able to see any signs of demoralization among the people.

Meeting with Father Loukas from the Registry of the Patriarch of Antioch. In Syria, there are about 700 000 Orthodox Christians. In the new cabinet, there are four orthodox ministers, including the Minister of Defense.

Meeting with Father Loukas from the Registry of the Patriarch of Antioch. In Syria, there are about 700 000 Orthodox Christians. In the new cabinet, there are four orthodox ministers, including the Minister of Defense.

Vzglyad: Your colleagues from the Public Chamber have called on the Russian government to prepare an evacuation of the Russian citizens from Syria – this means, also the evacuation of the Syrian Circassians. What do you think, does it make sense, to risk so much for this population group, who are not even Russian citizens?


Maksim Grigoryev: To solve this, what is currently happening in Syria, is primarily the responsibility of the Syrian people. The matter for every foreign power would be, to support the Syrian people and also support the Government in determining their own destiny.

Also the individual ethnic minorities must be able to decide their fate on their own. Whether they want to get evacuated to any place or not, they have to say themselves.

I had also meetings with, for example, the Circassians, but I have not received the impression, that they are interested to leave the country.


  1. Souri says:

    “It seems that everything was prepared earlier,” he observed. “There is information the militants before the beginning of the protest actions (which began on March 15, 2011) rented apartments in various cities in Syria.”

    “Apparently, they (the organizers of the protests) had prepared themselves for such developments,” he added.

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