CHRISTIANS in Syria are understandably anxious about their
future in the event of regime change and Islamist domination, the
Aleppo-born novelist Nihad Sirees (above) has suggested.
But he is confident that in the long term the Syrian people as a
whole will never tolerate the exclusion of Christians.
Mr Sirees was speaking during a visit to London this week to
promote the English translation of one of his novels, The
Silence and the Roar. The book features a writer who lives in
a dictatorship - a state of affairs familiar to the novelist.
"Over the past two years, it has become more difficult and more
dangerous for writers and activists in Syria. I am not an activist,
but I write against authoritarianism and dictatorship." In January
last year, Mr Sirees moved to Egypt.
The Syrian novelist, who has achieved fame throughout the Arab
world as a TV dramatist, is not optimistic about the short-term
future of his country. "I believe the killings will continue, and
there will be more intensive fighting, especially in Aleppo." Even
before the start of the uprising in March 2011, "the regime used to
use excessive violence. But it was largely out of view, away from
the eyes of the media and the people." When peaceful
street-protests began, the government responded in the only way it
knew: with violence.
The aim, he said, was never to start a popular revolution, but
when people saw how the authorities were reacting to the protests,
they could no longer keep silent. Syrians took to the streets
because "they wanted to feel dignity again, and they wanted an end
Mr Sirees said that he could not predict how long the chaos in
Syria would continue. As long as the international community was
unwilling to take action, and Russia and Iran supported the Assad
regime, it was hard to see an end to the crisis. "It has become a
war between the government and the Islamists," he said. In his
view, the Islamists will eventually take over, "because they are
the ones with the arms".
But he believes that Islamist domination would be short-lived.
"It will not be easy for the Islamists," Mr Sirees said, "because
the population will be against Islamic government. Our people want
a moderate way, not their way."
This is why he believes that Christians in Syria will ultimately
be able to resume normal lives. "The regime has been spreading
fear," he said. "It's something they are very good at: fear among
the Christians and the West that if the current regime fell, then
it would be the end for Christians." After "all the noise has
finished", Syrians of all faiths and backgrounds will sit down to
sort out their future, he says.