In a meeting with Enab Baladi: Former consul Bashar Alhaj Ali, demands Syrian opposition for serious steps to take over Syrian embassies

Enab Baladi Issue # 113– Sun, Apr. 20, 2014

بشار الحاج علي copyInterviewed by: Hana Alhalabi

Syrian refugees in neighboring countries as well as Syrian communities around the world have difficulties conducting their consular transactions related to their personal status or extension and renewal of their national passports. Those whose names got flagged by Al Assad’s regime because of their political and media activities suffer the most. Due to the absence of any representation of the opposition in those countries and the obscurity of any efforts to get this representation, some refugees in neighboring countries are still trapped in the camps because they do not have and cannot obtain passports.

Enab Baladi has interviewed the former Syrian consul in Al Kuwait, Bashar Alhaj Ali, in this regard. It is worth mentioning that the consul had defected from Al Assad’s regime August, 2012 and established a revolutionary aggregation known as “Syrian Diplomats for a Civil and Democratic State” in cooperation with a group of diplomats and consuls.

  • Some embassies no longer have any of Al Assad’s representatives. What are the reasons that caused the regime to shut down the embassies in these countries?

Al Assad has issued a decree to withdraw the diplomatic and consular cadres, and shut down the Syrian embassies in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

To the best of our knowledge, this has been done after the regime requested these countries to grant the new-assigned diplomatic delegations the entry features before the old delegations, whose mission has finished, get back. Yet, the governments of these countries have rejected Al Assad’s request due to the decision they had already made about boycotting the regime politically and dismissing its ambassadors. Thereafter the old cadres had stayed only for running the consular affairs of the Syrian communities in those countries.

The same request was claimed by the regime a few months ago but was rejected again. Responding to this request would appear as a way of recognition and fraction of the international and gulf isolation imposed on the regime, it would also be seen as a political gain gifted to the regime by the countries that are supposed to be “the Syrian people’s friends”. After that, the regime shut down the embassies and withdrew the cadres before the Arab summit conference was held. The reason beyond that was to put pressure on the Arab countries in order to prevent them to give Syria’s seat to the coalition, taking advantage of the division among the countries of the Arab League towards this decision, which prevented its implementation.

  • Did the Syrian opposition represented by the national coalition make any steps towards taking over the embassies, and carrying out the affairs of the Syrian communities in these countries?

The coalition has made strongly-worded statements only to create a popular media hype. In his speech in Al Kuwait last month, Ahmad Al Jarba; the coalition’s president had informed that new passports will be issued in two months in collaboration with coalition. Although the coalition’s statements might be true, no serious steps have been taken towards achieving that so far.

The coalition’s position is weak since the decision in this regard is believed to need an international willingness that is not obtained by the coalition. Thus, we believe the coalition is required to forward official letters to these countries to serve as a formal request.

The coalition should make the initiative of requesting the extradition of the embassies since it holds that right as a representative of the revolution that has legitimate demands although it is not represented by any recognized government yet.

  • What are the powers the collation will possess in case of taking over the vacant embassies? Not to forget that the recognition which the coalition has got from some countries has not achieved any political gains.

This issue has nothing to do with the coalition’s failure of achieving any political gains; conducting the communities’ transactions is a need for these countries, which will force them to accept the coalition’s offer. Once the right of conducting the consular transactions is given to the coalition, a political gain will be recorded for us and that will encourage other countries to make such steps later on. We consider this a kind of political struggle, which may be a way to bring down this collapsing regime.

  • Is that enough to overcome the problem of renewing and extending the Syrian passports? What strategy would you suggest for accomplishing this?

In case we were not given the authority to issue new passports, we request to at least be given the authority to renew the old passports; especially that the hosting countries do not obtain the right of renewing passports of the communities’ children they have.

Extending passports can be processed by attaching a new printed passport issued by one of Syria’s friends’ countries, recognized and signed by one of the coalition’s representatives or one of the temporary government’s members to prevent any forgery. Thereafter, the signature and extension can be internationally endorsed in cooperation with the United Nations of human rights and that’s how the passport becomes legally approved.

In case Syria’s friends’ countries had refused to hand over the embassies, they at least might assign a Syrian employee commissioned by the coalition or the interim government represented by its ministry of foreign affairs to approve the renewals and conduct the other consular transactions.

  • Does the coalition have the cadres that could meet the needs of these embassies? And what have you done in this regard?

Members of our revolutionary congregation are all former diplomats and consuls; we have got enough experience on how embassies work and function. That is to say we are ready to take over these embassies immediately, and the cadres are available. Through our relationships with some of the coalition’s members, we proposed that the coalition should call for taking over the embassies from which Al Assad has withdrawn his delegations. This action will cause no political embarrassment to these countries after Al Assad’s regime had summoned its staff. Our request will initially be confined to the humanitarian side; that is to conduct the consular transactions only, rather than seeking diplomatic representation. No doubt carrying out consular transactions will be an urgent demand for the countries that host Syrians. We now are placing pressure on the coalition to prioritize achieving this requirement, and make it a daily issue. I do not see this as a political gain only, but also might be an effective strategy to politically overthrow the regime.

Translated by: Rahaf Alabar

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