The First Lady of Syria 'Al-Watan' Interview

 Mrs. Asma Al-Assad’s Interview Given to the Syrian ‘Al-Watan’ Daily, July 2, 2008:

In reply to a question regarding the newly-founded ‘ The Syrian Development Secretariat’ (SDS) , Mrs. Al-Assad said The SDS  “is a legislative and administrative umbrella for several standing projects, which I supervise like ‘ MASSAR’, ‘ SHABBAB’, and ‘ FIRDOS’,  with the aim of encouraging the Syrian individual as to play the role of the basic dynamo for development, through the stimulation and developments of the individual skills enabling him/her to get integrated with the efforts for development,” noting that the SDS work is to be based on three basic principles: Learning & Culture, Heritage, and Rural Development, within the frame of a constitutional work based on a national plan for development, as well as on a scientific research approach.

Mrs. Al-Assad went on to say “The Learning and Rural Development target the largest class of the Syrian Society” noting that, for example, FIRDOS is based on the principles of partnership and dialogue with the rural societies, as to create a new rapport between the citizen and official, on the basis of participation in defining the priorities, working on their implementation.

“FIRDOS was the first national project to grant loans for small business investment projects; introducing in practice a new means for development work, to be later translated into a law regulating the establishments work of granting of small loans. FIRDOS exists today in 5 Syrian Governorates, as the backbone for rural development in SDS.”

In reply to question about FIRDOS role in Ebla Archaeological Site region, H. E. Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said: “Ebla is an important archeological and touristy zone of the Syrian countryside; what is taking place in Ebla can be considered as an example to follow in other Syrian Archaeological sites. Recently, the work has focused on the investment of this important Archaeological Site, as to meet the needs for sustainable development for the populations of the nearby villages, which are mainly concerned with the development of their region. FIRDOS offers small loans to the populations there, as to create their private projects supporting them to participate actively and make direct or indirect benefit from the natural resource nearby their village or city, represented in the presence of archeology. FIRDOS activity in Ebla leads naturally to deepen the awareness of the citizen regarding the Archaeological Site, to work as to protect and give rebirth to the site to be part of his/her life, and source of living, using the natural resources of the region as to develop it.”

 In reply to a question regarding Learning, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said “The world of knowledge today focuses in a great part on Learning considering the stimulation of every individual desire to acquire knowledge and skills and develop them, outlining for the individual the importance of continued Learning, as to keep pace with the Age challenges. The Syrian Society has a deep-rooted rich history and culture, which enable the Syrian citizen as to desire the acquisition and renewal of knowledge. It is a youthful society, where its inclination for knowledge is natural, with a need provoke and stimulate his/her desire for renewal. This is what we are trying to do through the projects of ‘SHABBAB’, ‘ MASSAR’, ‘FIRDOS’, which are linked to SDS.”

“Learning is linked to the needed efforts exerted by an individual as to get a new information, his/her ability to make use of this information and invest it in bolstering his/her skills, as to be an active member in the achievement of the objective of sustainable development, which we aim and aspire to realize. The role of SDS is to encourage the realization of development through the stimulation of skills and talents.” said the First Lady of Syria.

In reply to another question, Mrs. Al-Assad said: “All SDS Projects are based on the Syrian reality, and the Syrian citizen need for development. This does not mean that we do not have the right to benefit from others’ experience. We have to benefit by others’ experiences, especially the successful ones” highlighting the Harvard University decision to study the Project of MASSAR, as an original Syrian experience, declaring that among the SDS 130 Syrian Employees, there are 2 foreign experts , who also exchange and enrich their experience in working with the Syrian staff.

In reply to a question on ‘AMWAJ MASSAR’ Project in Lattakia, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said that the Project implements music as a means of Learning and Skills developments; Lattakia is the birthplace of the first musical note in the world. Music opens wide several doors of knowledge before the youth and children. Thorough music history can be reached to, like the history of music and its pioneers, reaching, for example, to physics, as far as the mechanism of airwaves transmission, echoes, and waves; to the natural science like ear, hearing and human-sense related matters in general; reaching even to technology through the recognition of modern registration means and studio, not to mention the discovery of artistic talents and skills development. The aims of such centers are, through the selection of music as introduction to several fields of knowledge, the Learning application through diverse choices and methodologies in the line with the learners’ desires.”

In reply to another question, the First Lady of Syria, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said “Keeping pace with the Age without preserving the identity means the loss of the identity. We have our rich and deep rooted cultural roots across a long heritage of history; we have to consider as the basis our cultural and heritage roots of which we are proud of, and which have brought us to what we have today reached to. In any development process, we have to make use of the past as to move forward into the future with invention and confidence. SDS seeks to support the creative initiatives in all cultural fields, asserting the close link among the past, present and future. We want to enrich our modern life with new innovation, new figures of the educated in different fields. We have to work today as to make the generations of the future proud of us. We have to preserve our history, culture, and identity as to inherit them to these generations enabling them to play their role in keeping pace with the Age clinging to our history and civilization.”

In reply to another question if some obstacles were to hinder SDS work, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said: “Bureaucracy, unfortunately, exists in many work posts. All have to work as to get rid of bureaucracy crisis,” reiterating the need as to abolish the issue of exemptions and interferences.

“The door of dialogue should always be left open for all and with all; and not to be only for the officials. I try to be among the people as to dialogue with them, listen to their opinions and aspirations. The dialogue bears several viewpoints; what is important is to use the principle of dialogue as citizens whose all objective is the public interest and the interest of Syria.” said Mrs. Al-Assad.

 “The success is never to be owned by an individual or by a group of individuals; the success is for all the society, where its benefits are for all,” added the First Lady of Syria.

In reply to another question, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad voiced pride over the results yielded by the Projects which “have opened new doors and contributed to the creation of a new climate for development activity in Syria, based on joint work among the governmental sector, civil society, the private sector, and every one seeking to take part in the realization of sustainable development. This very atmosphere has encouraged the will and desire of the many as to work with their own mode to participate in the building of their homeland, building the society able as to encounter and face up the challenges of the present and future. This is but a positive turning point in the development process in Syria.”

In reply to another question regarding the role of the Syrian Expatriates in development, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said “The majority of the Syrians are successful in the countries of expatriation. This success enables them to play a positive role at the service of their homeland as its ambassadors. Most importantly is to consecrate this success in the interest of mother homeland. The SDS is to provide mechanisms and options where the expatriate is able to support the development process in his/her motherland,” asserting the need for spreading the culture of dialogue and spread of awareness as to groom up the generations.

In reply to a question regarding the Syrian Woman, the First Lady of Syria said “We have to exert more efforts and seek more of what we have so far realized in dealing with several basic principles, for example, the mentality of drawing lines between woman and man, equity of opportunities between women and men with no distinction, with the aim of increasing all the society components activity, which forms one of the important factors for national advancement.”

In reply to a question about the Arab Woman political role, Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said “I have very distinguished personal relationships with many Arab First Ladies; these relations go on; though of political circumstances sometimes. The most basic matter in this relationship is that the Arab First Ladies have overcome personal action and politics related factors into a constructive work in the interest of the Arab Woman through the Organization of the Arab Woman; where we are part of an organized constitutional work as to upgrade the woman status in our Arab countries.”

On a question whether H. E. was optimistic over the region future, Mrs. Al-Assad said: “I am always optimistic; this is part of my character. I am, however, realistic at the same time. Our region is rich with potentialities, especially the human ones. Good investment of such potentialities, notwithstanding difficulties and circumstances, is a pivotal matter in the making of the future; this is what we have to plan for consciously and objectively.”

 “ I am a Syrian citizen , part of the Syrian big family” said the First Lady of Syria reiterating her pledge as to continue her strenuous efforts in initiating new developmental projects in the interest of the Syrian Sustainable Development, Learning, Culture, Heritage, and the Disabled .

Edited & Translated

Mohamad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

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