(Photo: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazi)
In a rare American TV interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated he did not feel guilty about the 4,000 deaths at the hand of his government.
Assad spoke with Barbara Walters of ABC and issued revealing statements about his attitude toward the United Nations and other trusted news sources. When confronted with the stories of people who had been tortured, Assad questioned the truth behind the reporting and asked for verification.
Assad deemed the United Nations, which issued a report on the Syrian violence last month, as “not credible.”
The UN has called for intervention in Syria should the violence continue. So far, over 4,000 people have been killed; 307 of those have been children.
President Assad insisted, “There was no command to kill or be brutal.”
He also stated that he does not feel guilty about the deaths in his country because “you do not feel guilty when you do your best. You don’t feel guilty when you don’t kill people.”
Walters described Assad as a “dictator by accident,” one who took over after his father’s death in 2000. He was re-elected in 2007 after running unopposed. The uprisings began in 2011 amid the Arab Spring. Syrian protesters have been detained, tortured and killed at the hands of the government.
World leaders including United States President Obama have called for President Assad to leave office. But Assad told Walters that “public support” will determine whether, or when, he will leave office; should his support decline further, he will leave. Assad also stated: “It’s important how Syrian people look at you, not how I look at myself.”
United States Department spokesman Mark Toner issued this reaction to Assad’s interview: “I find it ludicrous that he is attempting to hide behind some sort of shell game [and] claim that he doesn’t exercise authority in his own country.”
He continued: “There’s just no indication that he’s doing anything other than cracking down in the most brutal fashion on a peaceful opposition movement.”
Assad told Walters: “We don’t kill our people. No government kills its people unless it’s led by a crazy person.”