Monday, July 04, 2011


The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is an important political movement that had a role in the political sphere of Syria since the independence of Syria. At first placing itself within the democratic process in Syria, the movement approached to the outside of the system after its alienation from Ba’ath Party when they came into power. The movement lost its organizational power after the so-called Hama massacre in 1982. However, considering the intellectuality and national support, the movement has preserved itself to the present time. In the days during which one observes opposing national movements in Syria in a way to alter the regime, the most important topic discussed is what alternative the Bashar al-Assad regime has. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood answers this question as “a democratic, civil administration that derives its authority from the will of nation”. When a real democratic structure is formed, the Muslim Brotherhood will be one of the most important actors in the near future of the Syrian political life.

First of all, would you please introduce yourself?

I am Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, a lawyer. I was born in 1938 in Aleppo, Syria. I have worked as the Secretary General of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood for 14 years until 2010. Currently, I work as a member of the Shura (Consultative) Council of the Community.

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is thought to be, despite its weak organizational power in Syria, one of the mightiest movements on the base. Does the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood have a direct role in insurgence movements in Syria and if there is a free election, how much of the nation do you think will support you?

When we consider the insurgence movement in Syria by considering all the criteria, it would be better to identify it as a national resistance movement. All the nationals from different political and community ties participate in this resistance. No one can attribute this revolution to himself. In Syrian community our very existence depends on the belief of the people on this idea and trust of the community to its people. Our presence in the Syrian community has spread to all cities, towns and villages in Syria that Allah has bestowed. The ones supporting us join the communal movement with other citizens. No one receives a directive. We announced that we are very close to the communal movement and we support this movement. We do not think about any attempts of national supremacy and a show of force. Therefore, we do not try to set a social rate for ourselves.

Do you think that after the insurgence movements Bashar al-Assad needs to cease the administration or do you think that it is also possible to go with al-Assad after making some reforms?

The Syrian state, in order to embrace a truly democratic regime, needs a restructuring with some modern bases. And this cannot be realized partially or in form through reforms. What is needed is to establish a structure that makes it possible to have a new, modern, democratic, multi-party system in which government change is easy and rule of law is the basis. This should be done in a transparent environment. If the topics are dealt and problems are discussed this way, personal problems will be left behind. Some people hoped that the necessary changes were to be done by the regime directly. Now, we are in a position in which promises do not generate any benefits. Very urgent and concrete actions are needed. But backward steps are taken.

What kind of a political structure do you prognosticate as the Muslim Brotherhood Community in case the Bashar al-Assad regime collapses?

When the Ottoman state collapsed in the early 20th century, the Syrians announced that they would participate in the general Syria Congress. Before the Sykes Picot Agreement and French invasion, they established the bases of the new states. Most sides try to spread fear with the claim of absence of an alternative regime in Syria. We do not argue that a shift to a new state is going to be smooth and easy. Because, the dictatorial regime has destroyed the bases of the civil society, but this shift will never be scary. The Islamic flow had an active presence in the General Syrian Congress. Lebanese Sheikh Rashid Reza performed as the Director of the Congress for a while. Besides, the Muslim Brotherhood Community took active part in democratic processes in Syria. Dr. Mustafa El Sebci worked as the Vice President of the National Assembly. We do not emulate anything but national partnership. We want our community to have an active role in this partnership.

After the “Change in Syria Conference” that took place in the last weeks in Antalya in which different Syrian opponent groups got together, there was some news indicating that to the final resolution of the conference despite the endeavours of other opponents with the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood Community, the article about “secularism” was not added. Can you summarize your perspective of “secularism”?

We do not want to enter into a fight of terms. Secularism is a phenomenon that was born within the hostile relations between the church and the palace in the Christian European history. Theocratic religious state is not acceptable phenomenon historically by the Muslims. As the modern law professors reached a consensus on the matter, the core of the Islam sharia (law) is a civil and modern one. All the modern agreements starting from the rulers and the ruled ones are consent-based civil agreements. According to the consensus reached by all the experts of sharia, the nation is the source of authority (legislation, execution and judiciary). The ruler, on the other hand, derives his authority from the nation that is obeying with its free and communal will. And that is the core of the modern state that we demand. The separation of the moral dimension from the state led to the corruption of material and personal condition. Despite this, we believe that it is not appropriate to drag the Syrian opponents to the post-election struggles. The Syrian nation will have the right to decide however they want amongst the options they have.

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is known to be supported by the Syrian Sunni Arabs more. However, there are other religious groups in Syria such as Arab Alawis, Druzes, and Christians. What is your stance towards these groups and how are your relations with them? What is the position of these minority groups in your political and communal structure that you anticipate?

We do not like the use of the term Sunni Arabs in Syria. The Syrian nation has an open identity. The Syrian community has a pressing majority of Muslims and Arabs. Nevertheless, we strive hard to establish a nation state. According to this, nationals are equal in terms of their devotion to the motherland and citizenship is, by itself, a core of rights and obligations. Thus, we can establish a state in which nationals are equal. In this state, the Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis, Alawis and Druzes happen to be equal under the rule of law and shade of the civil state. The colourful formation of Syria is parallel to the history of this motherland’s existence. This variety has become a fortune for our country and never become a factor of suppression, separation and to separate.

The Syrian opponent groups consist of different groups segments having different views such as the liberals, Islamic movements and minorities. It seems that the common target of all these groups is to change the regime. Do you believe that these groups will have a peaceful shifting period in case of a regime change in Syria and do you also think that these groups will live in peace together?

The groups and communities you mentioned have lived together throughout history. A state in which nationals are equal becomes a pot that melts all these differences in a national phenomenon. Then, all the citizens happen to use the same rights, do the things they are responsible to do and have the right to be a part of everything at the same level.

Amongst the opponent groups in Syria, there are also the Kurds. We know the existence of different opponent Kurdish political groups. They have diverse demands ranging from taking citizenship rights to desire of having autonomy. What do you think that which demands can be granted and which cannot? Are you in favour of a mighty central authority or loose federal structure?

We support the fair demands of all Syrians regarding the nation. For all formations, we support these rights. Because there rights are a part of national demands. We determined our attitude towards Kurdish issue through releasing declaration. We want to draw a line between the strong central authority and decentralized authority advocating local activities. Then, we can form our national function that is going to realize our targets.

How do you evaulate the policies implemented by Turkey towards opponent groosroots movement in Syria?

Turkey – Syria relations have religious, historical, cultural and geographic dimensions. Turkish people at both state level and public level have showed great affinity to the Syrians. However, the progress of the case in Syria does not only entail emotional but also practical and concrete attitudes. We, especially after the elections, expect from the rulers to have an attitude that is compatible with improving the situation in Syria.

What do you think about Turkey in doing more compared to the policy that is currently pursued in Turkey?

We believe that Turkey gravitates towards a leadership of international and regional attitude in defending the Syrian nation. The Turks will make more pressures on the system; on the other hand, they will support the citizens.

Mr. Bayanouni, thanks a lot for sharing priceless knowledge of yours with us.

*This interview was conducted on June 11, 2011 on internet by the Centre of Middle Eastern Strategic Studies Middle East Advisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Veysel Ayhan, and the Centre of Middle Eastern Strategic Studies Middle East Specialist, Oytun Orhan, with Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni who is living in London.

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