A R A B I C A ارابيكا
By Kristen Gillespie
FAISAL AL-QASSEM V. SYRIAN REGIME
One of Al Jazeera's most famous talk-show hosts, the combatative Faisal al-Qassem conducted an interview with a Syrian official that has gone viral in the Arab world. The highest-rated host on the highest-rated network presided over what can only be described as a takedown of epic proportions.
In this YouTube clip called "Faisal al-Qassem breaks his silence," a viewer edited down the hour-long interview to the most provocative statements. Al-Qassem, who is Syrian, opens by asking, "Why does everything in the Arab world have to be about foreign conspiracies and foreign-backed coup attempts? How can you say that looking at the Arab world today?" The official responds by blaming a Facebook and Twitter conspiracy, adding that actual citizens and parties are not involved in the trouble that "thugs' are stirring up. Al-Qassem, apoplectic, begins shouting: "Are the three million people demonstrating in Hama imaginary? The 500,000 people in Deir a-Zor?"
Al-Qassem goes on to list half a dozen cities and towns that are rising up against the regime, saying "for the love of God – then why has the Syrian military brought out its heaviest weapons and is occupying these cities and towns? Why are you trying to break up these movements?"
Al-Qassim, whose politically charged rants are high-volume on the calmest of days, shouts louder and slips into Syrian dialect and says, "Why are you trying to diminish something so important to Arabs? The wall of fear has disappeared – why do you not see this historic transformation?"
The official, who spends much of his time shaking his head and looking down as he is unloaded on, tries to insist that Syrians are happy with the government. Al-Qassim shouts back: "Why do you think Syrians are raising their voices and shaking the earth? Because they are put in jail by the security services for even discussing the price of lettuce and potatoes…Are you not ashamed for calling the Syrian people thugs?"
The unnamed official tries to stay on message, declaring that President Bashar al-Assad represents the will of the people. Al-Qassim responds promptly: "If the Syrian regime is so strong and the will of the people is to be led by Assad, then why don't you hold presidential elections and allow other candidates to run?"
But the grilling is not over yet. "How do you respond to Arabs who say, the devil himself is better than Arab rulers? If you listen to the official Syrian media, you'd think your regime is stronger than God. Are you stronger than the rest of the world? You don't have a single friend left – even Iran has distanced itself from you."
October 5, 2011
photo credit: illustir