Conflict & Justice

Syria reacts to Assad speech

JABAL AL-ZAWIA, Syria — These days, in northwest Syria, power is almost always off. So watching Syrian President Bashar al-Assad make his first public statement in six months on Sunday wasn't easy.

After the speech, missile strikes relentlessly pounded the region, as if to drive home the president's main theme — that he would not cede power to the rebels, who he repeatedly referred to as Al Qaeda.

While not everyone watched the speech, they all knew it was happening and everyone was talking about it. Here’s a look at one some Syrians in the region had to say.

Jihad, 40. A teacher and activist, he read the summary of the speech on the internet.

"This is only an attempt to look powerful but it is in vain,” he said. “He cannot deceive anyone anymore. He is preparing to increase violence because of the bad situation he is in now. Most people will not believe him, but some naive people and supporters who have invested in his regime will."

Ahmed Murat, 28, a journalist who watched the speech on Al Jazeera.

"Only some people watched it live, but the people here are not interested in what he says. It's not connected to reality. Like most of our phone network now he is out of the coverage area. It is a fabrication, it is not live. It was a prerecorded speech. He is too afraid to appear in a scheduled location."

Muhamad Raslan, 22, a Free Syrian Army fighter who didn’t watch the speech.

"People are not ready to waste time on this rubbish,” he said. “I am not ready to waste my time for such absolute rubbish. Bashar wants to portray himself as still powerful and still in control of Syria and raise the spirit of his soldiers who are now under siege. He is a deceiver, but he can not deceive the FSA, the protectors of the Syrian people."

Khaled Abo-Solaiman, 23, a designer who read the speech online.

"I can't watch Bashar when he talks so I just read his comments on the internet and talked about the speech with my friends,” Khaled said. “When he spoke yesterday he was both happy and afraid at the same time. He is afraid of the FSA army because we are becoming stronger and stronger all the time. He is happy because Russia and Iran support him with heavy weapons. We saw yesterday the missiles he sent here. He is using heavier and heavier weapons all the time. The UN security council are also backing him despite what he does."

Ahmed Raslan, 35, a Free Syrian Army fighter who watched part of the speech on television.

"He is losing his credibility. He doesn't respect the mind of people. He says that he is supported by Western countries and you revolutionaries have no-one to support you. He wants to raise the motivation of his soldiers. What he really means is 'if you want peace, you must submit to my rule and live under my boot.' What he says is rubbish.  The only solution for Bashar is the gun, not words."