Arab Activist Speaks Out

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

LISA MULLINS: As Bashar al-Assad continues his crackdown, he's also acknowledging the need for reform. Today the Syrian leader issued a decree to allow a multi-party political system. President Assad's ruling Baath party as enjoyed a monopoly on power since 1963. Syrian protestors have demanded an end to the one party rule. Still, Assad's decree does not impress New York based Arab activist, Mona Eltahawy.

MONA ELTAHAWY: At this stage in the Syrian revolution, I don't take seriously anything that Bashar al-Assad says. If he had made this offer months ago, when the uprising first started, I might have thought, you know, perhaps he really means it, perhaps, he's serious. But, I think, after the tremendous amount of bloodshed that has resulted from his vicious onslaught against anyone rising up against him, I cannot imagine anybody in Syria right now actually seeing a future for Bashar al-Assad. It's beyond my imagination to think that any kind of reconciliation could take place with someone who has so brutally massacred his people.

MULLINS: What kind of future could you imagine that was, especially with the amount of fire power that he's using on civilians now?

ELTAHAWY: A lot of people, first of all, never imagined that Syria would join the countries in the region, in the Middle East and North Africa, that would see an uprising. But, not only have we seen Syria join, but every week we see more and more people join. We see more and more towns that had been quiet join the revolution. So, what I see is, basically, Bashar al-Assad desperately trying to squash this revolution and failing to do so. The Syrians themselves will have to decide what kind of future government they want. The Syrians themselves will have to decide the future of Bashar al-Assad because it really all does depend on how long they can maintain their revolution. But, as far as, looking back to March, when they started it, to today, it's even bigger than anyone could have ever imagined.

MULLINS: I think it's pretty safe to assume that there are leaders like Bashar al-Assad who are watching what's happening right now with the trial of your former President, Hosni Mubarak, in Egypt. And I wonder to what extent, since you were just in Egypt yourself, people there are paying attention to what's happening in places like Syria?

ELTAHAWY: Oh, people are very much paying attention to what's happening in Syria. I know the Syrians are worried that we in Egypt are distracted by the Mubarak trial. But, believe me, everybody in the region is watching everybody else because it's this grey communal sense of we're all in it together against these tyrants who've ruined our lives for so long. You know, in the '60's we would hear a lot about Arab nationalism, thanks to Gamal Abdel Nasser and his pan Arab vision. And back then, you know, there really was a sense that the Arab world could be one, and in that sense has deteriorated over the past few years because of a number of things. But, recently we've seen this sense that the region is one, that the people, much more importantly, the people of the region are one. And they watch and pay very close attention because you'll remember it was Tunisia that sparked our imagination in the region. Tunisia got rid of Ben Ali and kicked down this iron door that had locked our imaginations in. And Tunisia allowed us to imagine a future beyond our dictators. And everybody was watching Tunisia. And then everybody started watching Egypt and then Bahrain and Yemen and Libya and Syria. So, everybody's paying attention. And I think if there's one message that's been coming out of Egypt, especially since we saw Mubarak in that cage as a defendant finally, it's that you can do this. You the people of Syria, you the people of Yemen or Libya or any other country, you too can hold your tyrant accountable.

MULLINS: Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian activist who's just back from Egypt, thank you.

ELTAHAWY: Thank you.