A Meeting with the President of the United States

The White House, Oval Office, December 2007
The White House, Oval Office, December 2007

On Tuesday, December 4, 2007, my colleagues former deputy and political prisoner Mamoun al-Homsi, and Kurdish activist Djengizkhan Hasso of the Executive Council of the National Assembly of Kurdistan, and I met with President Bush at the Oval Office. The hour-long meeting was attended by National Security Advisor Steven Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, National Security Advisor to the Vice President John Hannah, and a number of White House and NSC officials.

The meeting took place upon a special invitation from the White House, and was dedicated to discussing the current state of US-Syria relations.

My colleagues and I went in with a simple message to the President, namely: to bring attention back to the deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria and ask that improvement in this regard be made the main condition for improving bilateral relations.

Our logic in this regard was also simple and straightforward: a regime that cannot establish a normal relation with its people, we argued, should not be allowed to have normal relations with the rest of the world. A regime that continues to abuse, with all the impunity in the world, the basic rights of its people, and that manipulates the electoral processes of the state, violating even its own tailored-to-fit rules and laws in this regard, should not be accepted as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, and should not be trusted to enter in good faith into any negotiations with the outside world, no matter what issue is involved. So long as the Syrian regime continues to intimidate its people, hold prisoners of conscience, send dissidents into exile, strip citizens of their nationality (as is the case with over 350,000 Kurds) and detain people without any reasonable cause or justification, it, in effect, compromises its ability to represent the national interests of the country. The Syrian regime should be made to understand that the road to the Golan and the road to both national and international legitimacy ands recognition passes through Damascus, and Aleppo, and Lattakia and other Syrian cities and provinces, and not through Washington, or Tel Aviv. 

In response to our message, the President, who had all the while listened to our presentation quite patiently and attentively, spoke passionately in defense of human rights in Syria and worldwide and revealed in-depth knowledge of developments inside Syria. He praised our work and that of all human rights and democracy activists, and our ongoing campaign to bring world attention to the worsening human rights situation in the country.   

The President agreed that freeing political prisoners and improving the human rights conditions in Syria were and would always be key parts of American policy toward that country.