In rare interview, Bashar al-Assad downplays his command over security forces blamed for killing thousands in uprising.
Syria’s president has denied that he ordered the deadly crackdown on an almost nine-month-old uprising, saying that he is not in charge of the country’s security forces blamed for killing more than 4,000 people.
In a rare interview with the US broadcaster ABC airing on Wednesday, Bashar al-Assad maintained that he did not give a command “to kill or be brutal”.
“They’re not my forces,” Assad responded when asked if Syrian troops had cracked down too hard on protesters.
“They are military forces (who) belong to the government. I don’t own them. I’m president. I don’t own the country. No government in the world kills its people, unless it is led by a crazy person.”
However, in his role as president, Assad is officially the commander of Syria’s armed forces, who have reportedly used tanks, warships, plain-clothed militias, and snipers to besiege dissidents in residential areas across the country.
As a result of the brutality, up to 25,000 members of Syria’s security forces have defected to the opposition and have taken up arms to protect civilians from the crackdown.
Tens of thousands of protesters and dissenters have been imprisoned by Syrian authorities since the uprising began in March, according to rights groups.
But Assad insisted he still had the support of the Syrian people and downplayed the violence against civilians by blaming it on “mistakes committed by some officials”.