Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was recently interviewed by American journalist Barbara Walters in the first official interview by a western journalist since Syria became the center of international attention last February.
Walters asked Assad if he believed he still had the support of his people after having commanded what the international community has referred to as a brutal crackdown on “peaceful protesters”.
“I believe the majority of the people are in the middle,” he responded.
Walters then referred to specific incidents within Syria. She mentioned pictures and videos released on the internet showing people being shot and killed, and rumors of children being kidnapped and mutilated.
“How do you know this is true?” he responded. ”Have you verified these pictures? I visited the family of the boy [who you said was kidnapped and tortured] and his father told me his child was not tortured.”
Walters told Assad that the United Nations had evidence of the Syrian government committing crimes against humanity.
“Who said the United Nations is a credible institution?” he responded defiantly.
Al-Assad suggested that outside forces were responsible for inciting the uprising in Syria.
Even ordinary people inside and outside of Syria have questioned the validity of the videos and pictures on the internet.
They often ask questions like:
“Why aren’t we seeing videos of pro-Assad demonstrations? Why don’t we hear about the number of pro-Assad Syrians being killed? How do we know these uprisings are not incited by extremists and neighboring interest groups?”
Later on in the interview, Walters asked the president why Syria had an ambassador to the United Nations if it were indeed an illegitimate institution.
“It is a game we have to play,” he replied.
When the interview concluded, Walters described her overall outlook on the president.
“He is soft spoken. He is calm. He answered every question…”
“He is not as grim as Mubarak, and he is not crazy like Gaddafi.”
Before going to Damascus, Walters was told not to leave her residence. She was cautioned that it was a very dangerous atmosphere and that her life could be threatened.
But based on her direct personal experience, Walters said that she faced no such danger. Things seemed to be carrying on as usual in Damascus.
Author’s Note: The original interview between Barbara Walters and Bashar al-Assad was much longer than what was made available to viewers. I found to this be unfair, biased, and completely unprofessional on the side of ABC and Walters herself. Although I believe she did a great job, I do think that the entire interview should be made available for viewers in order for them to form their own perspectives and opinions.