Dead tyranny walking: Assad and his thugs

Dead tyranny walking: Assad and his thugs

The other night, on my weekly program on a Turkish news channel, I interviewed Dr. Khaled Khoja, a prominent voice of the Syrian opposition based in Turkey. He told me of a history of oppression that no one with a conscience could neglect. In the early 1980s, his father was arrested for simply signing a declaration that the Muslim Brotherhood circulated. But it was not just his father, the whole family was detained and the then 14-year-old Khaled spent six months in prison. He was blindfolded and handcuffed most of the time.

Six months later, when he was released with the expectation that he would “cooperate” with the regime, Mr. Khoja rather fled to Turkey, where he has lived since. But his father spent 14 more years in the horrible dungeons of the Baath tyranny. Like other prisoners, he was never allowed to have any visitors and his family did not know whether he was dead or alive.

Since the early 1980s, Khaled Khoja has lived in Turkey, built a career as a medical doctor, but never forgot the tyranny he left behind. And when the Syrian regime once again showed its true colors this year, by simply torturing and killing anybody who challenges its dictatorship, he emerged as an opposition activist and joined the Syrian National Council.

On TV, Dr. Khoja first told me some of the horrific details of the regime’s recent crackdown on its people. Hundreds of youngsters, even children as young as 10, have been arrested and tortured. Their nails have been pulled off and their fingers have been broken for simply writing anti-Assad slogans on walls. More than 4,000 civilians have been killed by the regime’s bombs and death squads. Thousands of others who are “missing” are either also dead or suffering under torture.

Moreover, everything Assad has done and said since the beginning of the Syrian revolt shows that he is a liar. All the promises he gave for reform and a few apparent steps he has taken, proved to be tactics to steal time and keep on killing. Recently, the Arab League also realized that and suspended Syria’s membership.

But how will this butchery end? How will Syria find peace and democracy? Honestly, I would love to see all the headquarters of Assad and his fellow killers bombed. But I know that this would be very challenging, for it can lead to civilian deaths and also push the country into further chaos. Yet still, a U.N.-backed military intervention, at least in the form of a no-fly-zone, should not be ruled out. The same is true for a safe haven Turkey might create within the borders of Syria.

Meanwhile, as Dr. Khoja argued, the regime should be squeezed by all diplomatic, political and economic means. The Syrian National Council must be acknowledged as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army should be supported.

Finally, let me have a few words to two separate camps that are playing into the hands of the red-handed Syrian regime:

First, shame on Iran and Hezbollah! They are hypocritically backing the murderers in Damascus, simply for the sake of their “strategic” interests. This makes all their brouhaha about the “mustadafin” (the oppressed) laughable.

Second, shame on the CHP, Turkey’s arch-Kemalist, all secularist main opposition! Again and again their spokesmen have criticized the Turkish government for interfering in “the internal affairs” of Syria. Two weeks ago, a team of their “enlightened” females visited Damascus to express solidarity with the regime. Two days ago, the CHP’s leader, Kemal Kýlýçdaroðlu, told the government to “stop threatening Syria.”

Luckily, the Syrian people are brave enough not to be discouraged by such rubbish. Their heroism proves that the Baath regime is a dead tyranny walking. We just should help execute it as soon as possible.

* For Mustafa Akyol’s all works, including his recent book, “Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” visit his blog, On Twitter, follow him at @AkyolinEnglish.