Haitham al-Maleh (Photo Oliver Clarke/ Gulf News)
The grand old man of the Syrian opposition, 81-year-old Haitham al-Maleh, has turned his back on the de facto political opposition umbrella known as the Syrian National Council (SNC). He says he wants to focus instead on arming and bankrolling the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as there is “no role left for politics” to bring down President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Maleh, a lawyer and a judge since the late 1950s, was arrested and jailed on numerous occasions because of his human rights activism.
He was jailed as a political prisoner between 1980 and 1986 and again as a “prisoner of conscience” between October 2009 and March 2011. He is the recipient of many prizes and awards for his defense of human rights and research on torture in Syria from societies in France, Holland and Switzerland, among other places.
“I head the National Congress that supports the FSA. I will endeavor to finance and equip this army since there no is role left for politics,” the longstanding dissident (who was joined by Kamal al-Labwani, who spent most of the past decade behind bars, and human rights lawyer Catherine al-Talli in announcing their resignation from the SNC this week) tells today’s edition of the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat in an interview.
It’s time for weapons to do the talking “until we bring down for good the criminal gang killing and massacring the Syrian people,” Maleh said.
Asked if he could bankroll and arm the FSA independently of the SNC, Maleh replied: “We have conduits to tap affluent Syrians abroad and inside Syria who are willing to sustain the revolution and finish off the Assad gang. We also rely on our Arab brothers for this purpose.”
He said he didn’t think his resignation would weaken the SNC. “I was one of 300 SNC members. I don’t think the walkout by one member would incapacitate the entire Council,” he explained.
Alawsat’s chief editor Tariq Alhomayed concurs today that the international community’s political game with Assad will lead nowhere.
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One year since the Syrian revolution, he writes, “we’re into another inane diplomatic pastime” between the international community and Assad, “a time-wasting maestro.” He and joint UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan are now doing street magic with card tricks.
Alhomayed says Assad “does not take the Annan mission or the international community seriously.” He will remain unperturbed until he sees air and naval forces heading his way and weapons flowing to the Syrian opposition. He is untroubled by Soviet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments to the Russian Duma, saying: “Regrettably, he (Assad) hasn't always followed our advice in his activities. He has approved useful laws reviving the regime and making it more pluralistic. But it was done after a long delay, and the proposals about launching a dialogue were also slow to come. Meanwhile, the armed confrontation is expanding” and could sweep and engulf all concerned.
Hence, says Alhomayed, Assad “will only be alerted when he sees buffer zones being carved up, weapons flowing (to the opposition) and armadas setting out to sea by virtue of an ‘alliance of the willing’ in lieu of a Security Council mandate.”