REPORT ON LATEST APF VISIT TO SYRIA
We returned from Syria just one week ago. I first have to acknowledge the invaluable presence in our strong delegation of two prestigious MEPs, Voigt and Synadinos, experienced leading APF member Herve van Laethem and a Syrian national Lahoud.
The welcome we received from the authorities was genuinely warm and not just normal diplomatic pleasantries.
The political meetings ranged from discussions in Lebanon and Syria with the representatives of the SSNP, the meeting with the President of the Council (Parliament), with the Minister of Tourism, three Syrian MPs and with the Ambassador of Syria in Lebanon.
Interest from the media in our visit was strong and sincere. National and international televisions interviewed us in many instances and several of our delegation participated in a well-informed talk show.
Our return visit to the Military hospital highlighted the sacrifice of their youth that the Syrian people have made in their genuine War on Terror. Syrians of all confessions are giving their children to this fight, which is rightly seen as a struggle for national freedom and defence of civilisation.
Our visit to the School for the daughters of the martyrs showed the care that the Government is offering to the family of martyrs, to the education of unfortunate children, and to the future of the country in general; the cleanliness, order and love on show in this school were deeply touching.
The meeting with the President of the Council and Minister of Tourism covered political and practical subjects like the organisation of groups of travel agents to go to Syria in order to restart the country’s tourism industry as soon as the worst face of the war is in the past. A new wave of European tourism is psychologically and economically essential for Syria.
With the President of the Parliament we discussed exchanges of assistants between our MEPs and their MPs.
We met the religious authorities; particular the Patriarch of the Syriac Church and the Mufti of Damascus, The Patriarch informed us that not far from Aleppo a “school” of terrorism has been established for Jihadists who, once trained, will be sent to commit acts of terrorism in Europe. He also said that the Church is at present working hard to stop a possible conflict between the Kurds and the Syrian Army.
The Mufti warned us that “any mosque opened in Europe with money from Saudi Arabia or Turkey is a time bomb.”
Our visit to Maalula was the most moving part of the entire trip. There we were given first-hand accounts of ISIS/Daesh in action: We heard about the martyrdom of people who simply refused to renounce the Christian Faith, we learnt of the kidnapping of nuns, we saw the destruction of the altars and of churches built 1700 years ago.
We saw history in motion, with new legends in the process of being made. Finally we heard how the Army liberated Maalula, though not without the great sacrifice of two hundred Syrian soldiers. The people of Maalula are proud that President Assad visited them just three days after the town’s liberation, giving comfort and money to rebuild town and its historic monastery, while his wife gave money to restore the statue of Our Lady which dominates this ancient Christian settlement.
The war is not finished. Shelling and bombing can still take place even in Damascus. During our visit a suburb north of Damascus was attacked while people were celebrating Palm Sunday, while other attacks took place against the south of the city. Daesh and Al-Nusra will not allow the liberation of Aleppo without a massive battle. A malign concentration of terrorist forces – and their international backers – there will do everything possible to try to stop the Syrian Army retaking the occupied parts of the city, because that will represent the final act of victory for the elected Assad government over the invading terrorist armies.
The anti-Syrian coalition is taking advantage of negotiations to rearm and reorganise, but the presence of Russian forces, Hezbollah and Iranians is very visible and, together with the continued strengthening of the Syrian Arab Army, it is all evidence that no one is getting distracted or relaxed.
Society is regaining strength and life in general. The hotel we were in was in a completely different situation than three years ago when I was first there, and life in Damascus is even more obviously ‘normal’. There are certainly many refugees begging but no more than in our western cities.
It is our duty to maintain our strong political stand in support of Syria. At the moment the main contribution we can offer is a relentless campaign for the lifting of sanctions and the vehement denunciation of Turkey for its role in the war and in the closely associated attack on Europe by the Erdogan regime.
But our friends would be encouraged most of all by our standing in defence of Syria as part of a global fight for Civilisation. That is what they feel and that it is the situation. In this respect we developed two specific projects which were outlined and discussed in our very productive meetings with the SSNP.
MEETING WITH OUR SISTER PARTY
We met with both branches of the SSNP, both the Lebanese and the Syrians. It was in the meeting with the party’s Head of Foreign Affairs, Hassan Sakr, that our practical plans really developed. These will develop and emerge in due course, but include a Congress in Damascus, hopefully before the end of the year.
Thank to Udo Voigt we have seen how such Congresses work in Brussels, with the intervention of the Syrian Ambassador to Belgium and the passing into record of important speeches and insights into both the Syrian crisis and the wider struggle for civilisation of which it forms a crucial part.
All-in-all, another very successful APF overseas mission. Our work continues!