Adnan Azzam: The Syrian war is a media war

09.02.2020 interviewed Adnan Azzam, a Syrian traveler who crossed several countries on a white horse before arriving in Moscow to engage in what he calls “popular diplomacy.” Azzam hopes to connect the Syrian and Russian peoples, to share ideas and to foster understanding between the two countries.

The decision to engage in this act of gratitude for Russia’s role in the Syrian peace process was made in conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad himself. In April 2019, Azzam started his big trip from Syria to Moscow through Iraq and Iran, countries which had supported Syria during the war. During the trip, he met with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

After completing his mission, Azzam plans to put together a documentary film with the footage he had taken throughout his journey. He's already presented one of his films about Syria in Moscow.

In the central district of Moscow, in cafe Palmyra, the traveler presented an earlier documentary he had done about the war in Syria. We asked him about his journey and plans for the future.

-How and why did you decide to commit to such a long trip under such difficult conditions?

- Well, as I always do at the beginning of all of my speeches, I would first like to remember all of our martyrs in Syria. Not only Syrian, but Russian as well-- all the people who gave their lives to defend Syria and the liberty of the world.

I have been working on the relationship between East and West for 40 years now. I am a specialist on orientalism. Since I was a child I have asked myself why there is such a huge difference between the Western and Eastern worlds? In the Arabic world, I may be one of the few people committed to answering this question.

I took my first trip between 1982 and 1986, it was an exceptionally long journey: it took 4 years, 1300 days around the world on horseback. I was only 24 years old when I decided to make this trip in order to understand the Western world, Europe and America. At the end of my journey, I decided to stay in France - to study, work and live. I wanted to spend some time in a Western country in order to understand it. 

In the European mentality and the Western mentality in general, there is an ever present desire to occupy other countries and people… they also generally target parts of the world less capable of defending themselves. I come from a family which has always fought to defend our nation’s national course. That is why I went to Western world - to understand the European mentality in order to better understand how we can stand up against the colonial ambitions of Western countries. 

-Did you find the answers you were looking for? 

- Yes, sure, the answer is in ourselves. We must act. The answer is not only to take up the sword, it is in acting. That is why since the war started in 2011, I made the decision to leave France and come back to my home country, to be in Syria. I spent 9 years in Syria with my people. Sometimes fighting, sometimes writing. I took on eight book projects during the war, two of them I wrote myself and six being translations from French into Arabic. 

I translated several books written by French citizens, secret service agents and journalists about the war, most of them very negative, as they give only one point of view of the world, the view of the West. I thought it was important to translate these books and publish them in Syria. 

I understood from the beginning that this war is not a military war, it’s a media war. They want to break the people’s minds before they kill their bodies. That is why Syria’s enemies launched a media campaign from the beginning of the war, from March 2011. They had more than a thousand TV programs, radio shows and newspapers! 24 hours in the day and 24 hour of buzzing. Giving people around the world a headache until they were unable to tell the difference up from down. Only strong people were able to resist this destructive propaganda, only very strong people. 

That`s why I decided to devote all of my time to work during all these 9 years fighting Western propaganda, American propaganda, Zionist propaganda, Atlantisist propaganda. At the end of this work in 2017, I made my documentary in Syria about the war, it was especially directed toward the French people. In this movie I made a comparison between the beginning of the second World War 1941, when French people left their houses, put their luggage on donkeys, cows and bicycles, and fled like gypsies. It's very hard to watch, but it was reality. The Syrian people did the same in 2011, many of them having had their minds destroyed by propaganda. Of course, this was not all Syrians, perhaps only 25-30%. I went to France to show them my documentary and realized how many people had no idea what was really happening in Syria.

That is why I went back, deciding to provide more and more information. I decided that I must start with people who were fighting with us against Atlantisists: the Iraqi people, the Iranian people, the Russian people - especially Russian people! Russia is the leader of this Resistance block.

I decided to make this trip in 2018, and chose a route from Syria to Iraq to Iran and finally to Russia, to meet their people. I discovered there is strong ties between leaders, but poor connections between the people themselves. I have been working for 40 years to develop popular diplomacy in parallel to official diplomacy. This is my job, and I must find the way to make my work successful. 

I chose the horse, as always. A horse is the key element for the head, for the heart and for the road. I took two horses and I left Syria on April 20, 2019.

-As I understand, there was a sad incident in Iran…

-Yes, I had an accident, a very serious one, and I lost one of my two horses. 

-A very sad story. Is the second horse already in Moscow? Another city?

-The second horse was left in the city of Tula, 100 km from Moscow. The Russian government told me that going by horse to Moscow would be a big problem. So they took it as a gift to the Russian people, to Mr. Vladimir Putin. A Russian general came to Tula to pick up the horse.

- Given your emphasis on popular diplomacy, what was your impression of Russian mentality? What unites our peoples and what is different, from your point of view?

-You know, the mentality of people doesn't come on its own, we create our own mentality. A mentality is the result of political work and media work. What I noted in Russia, is that the Russian media has done a good job, and Russian politicians have done a good job: more than 50% of Russian people appreciate Syrian people and have a positive image of the country, something completely different in France. In France, probably 80% of people consider the Syrian President to be a dictator. In Russia more than 50% actively like Bashar al-Assad, and consider him a strong man.

-Will you have a face to face meeting with Putin?

-I don't want my work to only be about meeting with the President, that would not be productive for other people. My meetings with average people during my trip – in Iraq, Iran, Russia – that was my opportunity to talk about my country, my people and the relations between our peoples. 

I think Mr. Putin is a great leader, but I am looking from outside, I am following what happens in the world. I can only imagine what would have happened if this war began when Yeltsin was in power. It is often productive to compare people and leaders. 

If Putin was not in power in Russia, the Americans could overtake Moscow now, and American soldiers would be walking through the Red Square. Washington’s purpose from the very beginning was not only Syria – their purpose is to destroy any country friendly to Russia. They can’t attack the main enemy from the beginning, they want to cut its wings first. That is why they broke Afghanistan, Iraq, Algeria, Libya… If you look, all these countries that were destroyed by the Americans, were friends of Russia (or the Soviet Union). America’s main enemy is not Syria – it is Russia. They are acting step by step. That is why Russian President Putin made his great, historical decision. 

I'm sure that the Russian people are not able to understand exactly what Mr. Putin has done – maybe in future, with a new generation. Maybe they will thank him and will say – thank you, you did something amazing. I know they will, because I have been involved in politics since I was 11. Not everyone is able to appreciate a good decision immediately. Mr. Putin had his open eyes and an open mind, and understood that threat America poses to Syria, Libya and Iraq. They are surrounding Russia. 

To me, Mr. Putin is a great leader. I wish I could meet him, but I understand he's very busy. Someday in the future, however, I am sure I will meet him if I really want to.

-Aside from your idea of popular democracy, what other instruments could be used against American hegemony, in order to finally let people know the truth about what is happening in Syria? 

-It would be a very big mistake to think that only one man or one event can change the world. If you have a garden, you have to work on it every day, otherwise it will end up looking like a jungle. I believe that people must and will realize that they have a duty to perform on a daily basis. It's very easy to spend time joking around and having fun and criticizing this or that political leader... 

-That`s what liberals usually do...

-Yes! We must be involved in politics. Nobody will throw you out if you really want to be involved. I think we must (now I am talking about within our axis of resistance) – we as people, as journalists, as writers, as musicians, as farmers, as workers – we have to learn more about each other, develop good relations and stay engaged all year. Perhaps after a month I will come back to Moscow with a Syrian band, maybe I will go to Iraq to talk about Syrian flowers with local farmers. 

As we say in the Arab language, nature abhors a vacuum. If I leave the place empty, somebody else will come and fill in the gap. And as we are not working on filling in the gap, the Americans and the Atlanticists do it with their medida, radio, television, newspapers, internet and movies. We have to actively and regularly participate in order to resist it.

-Let’s discuss movies, as they are one of the main instruments being used to influence the situation. Is something similar happening in Syria?

-Unfortunately, movies play a very negative role, they are often played on television. I’m even sure that our enemy gives a lot of money to some Syrians to make very bad movies (feuilleton télévisé, soap operas), in order to distract from real Syrian films. For example, all Syrians have seen Bab Al Haara. It attracted the attention of all Syrians, everyday, for hours and hours. The series shows an ultra-negative image of Syrian society: men dominate women, women always in a subordinate position... there is a severe lack of creativity and reflection. That's exactly what the Atlantist alliance wants – to destroy our brains, to prevent us from thinking. In my opinion, the movie is working against national interests in Syria. 

-Where can we watch your movies?

-I have my own Facebook page, and a small channel. I'm sure it will find great success in Syria, and that we’ll be able to make it better in better, expanding into different languages.