Thoughts On Syria

In the kaleidoscope of events that happened to the world in general and to Syria in particular the Caesar Act and the sanctions on Syria take precedence. Having been through a war fought on its soil by terrorists aided and abetted by the USA, Turkey and some western countries, Syria lost many of its sons.

Sanctions in turn attempted to suffocate the population and as if this were not enough the Caesar Act was introduced which punished the countries trying to help Syria.

On the ground this meant that many substances were lost-vital substances that affected the economy of the country leading to its regression. Corona came complicating issues further on with sanctions on health related materials leading to their scarcity.

What follows is an exclusive interview with Reneva Fourie who is a political analyst and expert on current affairs.





Interview with Syriatimes

Reneva Fourie


Syriatimes: You have been here in Syria for over a year-how do you see the country?

R.F: We arrived in Damascus, Syria on 31 October 2019. My first impression was one of surprise.  Damascus was far more beautiful, developed and peaceful than I had anticipated. The public administration still functions effectively; the level of safety is high; and the level of criminality is low. Most surprising was how liberated, assertive and fashion-consciousSyrian women are.

I learned that the people of Syria do not showcase their suffering.  They always strive to project a positive image. Hence the initial response to my presence was one of reserve.  Once people, particularly women and elderly women, became comfortable with my presence, they opened.  They cried about their losses during the war. Some showed me their scars.  They told me about the impact of the Israeli missile attacks on their children.  And now, they share their frustrations with sanctions.

The spirit of national unity and pride in the Syrian various military forces was unexpected, as the outside world has a view of a Syria at war with itself.  I was shocked to discover the extent to which other countries are actively trying to destabilise Syria, and how they are able to get away with blatant lies about their roles here.  This was especially because my first experience of an Israeli missile strike was on an apartment just around the corner from where we live, and I was surprised by how the mainstream media defended something that was fundamentally wrong, without any regard for its human, social, psychological and economic impact.

Despite the challenges, I was able to have a lot of fun. Prior to Covid-19, I attended a wedding, and a few parties, and am still adjusting to the heavy makeup and fancy hairstyles.

Syriatimes: How would you describe what is happening on the international arena concerning Syria? (Role of Turkey-USA-EU-UN-Russia-Iran)

R.F: I have taken much time to understand developments in Syria.  Cape Town, South Africa has quite a conservative Muslim population and accordingly, exposure to a conservative and even radical perspective of Islam was an integral part of my upbringing despite being raised as a Christian. 

I had fallen for the narrative that Islamic Jihadists are anti-imperialists and perceived them to be anti-Israel; and that the USA was here to fight ISIL.  I was really shocked and gravely disappointed to discover how the reality differs so strongly from the public narrative and to see the collusion between the USA, Turkey, Israel and various jihadist forces to destabilise this country. The cruelty subjected on the people of Syria, whether in the name of religion or simply because of ambitions of power and greed was simply alarming – likewise the silence of the world, including the European Union.

The EU openly advocates regime change and fails to see that this undermines Syria’s sovereignty; nor does it care about the cost of this ongoing aggression to human life and social security. Of course, the methods of effecting regime-change in Syria are no different to regime-change methods elsewhere, whether in Venezuela and Cuba, and even in some countries on the continent of Africa. 

The strategy is to exacerbate fault lines – by either hi-jacking legitimate protests, or inciting protests, with the initial dominant narrative being corruption, followed by matters of service delivery and the state of the economy, and then elevating it to deepen existing social differences, whether it be religion or ethnicity. In Syria it went beyond just the usual information and psychological warfare, to tragically include military warfare, at huge human, social, economic and environmental costs.  It is important that citizens are vigilant and strike a balance between the right to protest, and the protection of their country from external interferences.

The position of multi-lateral institutions therefore must be appreciated within that context.  The fact that the dominant global narrative is that of the USA, supported by other NATO countries, weakens the objective voices of multi-lateral organisations based in Syria.  Their determination to provide reports as objectively as possible and to continue to work with the government of Syria is nonetheless applauded; but the reality is that the USA has its own interests, which makes the truth redundant.    

Regarding Iran, I can understand the determination of Iran to defend its sovereignty, culture and resources and believe that this should be respected. I believe too that Russia’s [who is here based on the invitation of the Syrian government] presence in Syria is in the interest of the defence of the Syrian people, but I feel that they are being too diplomatic. Russia, while committed to contributing to peace and stability in Syria, seems reluctant to jeopardize its business interests in the region, and accordingly is not as assertive as it could be. 

Syriatimes: How would you describe South Africa’s relationship with Syria?

R.F: There is a rich historical relationship between our liberation movement and the post-apartheid South Africa and Syria. This relationship needs to be intensified at government-to-government, people-to-people and party-to-party levels. The war and now Covid-19 have dampened the plans for increased engagements. My political party, the South African Communist Party however, monitors developments in West Asia closely and has come out strongly against aggression against the people of Syria.

Syriatimes: What is your opinion of the Caesar Act and previous sanctions on Syria?

R.F: Living in Syria, I am directly affected by sanctions in personal ways, which is contrary to the public narrative that sanctions are targeted at the governing elite.

The liberation struggle in South Africa benefitted a lot from sanctions.  This was because the call for sanctions was a popular call, emanating from the mass of the South African people and we are appreciative of the role that Syria played in isolating the apartheid regime.

The genesis of sanctions in Syria, however, is different. Here it was imposed, as a key part of the western regime-change agenda.  This also is a common practice that the west applies to all countries that resists its interests.  Various feeble justifications are usually presented, which are supposedly in the interest of the people of that country [as if the people are helpless and need an external benefactor to speak on their behalf], when in reality it is a brutal bullying technique. 

Accordingly, I believe that sanctions are being applied to destroy the Syrian economy in the hope that the people will become so disgruntled that they will support the western call for regime-change. What the west has lost militarily, it now seeks to advance economically.  I have noticed groups of Syrians conducting anti-sanctions protests, thereby dispelling the myth that the Syrian people welcome the imposition of sanctions.  We need more Syrians to bombard the mainstream media to expose how sanctions adversely affect their quality of life and to express that they reject it with the strongest contempt.

Syriatimes: Your own views about Beirut port explosion

R.F: Let me begin by expressing my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the hundreds who had lost their lives and convey my sympathies with the thousands that have been injured. The impact of the explosions was devastating, in terms of life, in terms of infrastructure, and economically – given that a key port has now been destroyed. The prompt response of the Syrian government to assist was heart-warming. 

It must be noted that the explosions happened within less than 24 hours after the Israeli airstrikes on southern Syria and the subsequent threats by Netanyahu to escalate attacks on Hezbollah, who formed a part of the Lebanese government.  It also happened in the context of the heightened tensions due to Israel’s continued occupation of Lebanon’s Shab’a Farms, lingering disputes over water rights, and almost daily violation of Lebanese airspace. It is therefore imperative that the reasons for the travesty be investigated thoroughly, including the cause of the first explosion.

Whether by design or human error, it is unfortunate that the people of Lebanon did not use the tragedy to close ranks and unite in rebuilding their country. No matter how bad things are, a former coloniser can never have their best interest at heart and the offers by France should be treated with caution.  While all material support is of course welcomed, this support should be unconditional, and it should not interfere with governance matters.

A weak Lebanon, and particularly a Lebanon with a pro-western government, will make things difficult for Syria, Iran, and of course the people of Palestine.  It is important that the people of Lebanon place their territorial integrity first, for that is the only route to stability and prosperity.

Editor in Chief

Reem Haddad