The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria

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Syria’s Assad Steps In for Ambassador

Monday, 14 June 2010

•Democracy campaigner takes Ambassador’s speaking slot

•Ribal al Assad supports David Cameron’s stance on Gaza flotilla

Ribal Al-Assad: An Ambassador for Change in Syria

The Savile Club in London is known for its famous lunch meetings, where a high profile speaker talks to a room of distinguished guests. Recently, the Syrian Ambassador was due to be one such speaker. However he, and several senior embassy personnel, pulled out at the last minute upon discovering that one of the lunch guests was Ribal al Assad, a well known critic of the Damascus regime.

Just days before the event, organisers were left without a guest speaker. Baffled by the Embassy’s behaviour, they turned to Ribal al Assad, the Director of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, who accepted the invitation to speak, commenting that “every Syrian is an ambassador for their country.” He was due to speak at the Club in September.

Assad told the audience of senior diplomats, journalists and policy makers, that the Syrian economy must be set free in order for Syria to develop into a democracy.

"A lot of people say that there are great investment opportunities in Syria. But how can anyone invest in a country where there is no rule of law and no security? Corruption is rife in state institutions. The economy is operated on the basis of nepotism and favouritism.

“There are a handful of people who treat the Syrian economy as their personal company. Syria must move towards becoming a transparent market economy with innovation and enterprise. There must be an end to state corruption. Then and only then will foreign investment be viable and safe in Syria."

Assad also backed UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s stance on the Gaza flotilla incident.

"I echo the words of Prime Minister David Cameron. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla is totally unacceptable as is the loss of life. The blockade must end and Gaza must be opened up consistent with UN Resolution 1860. Humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza."

The Savile Club lunch was the third speaking engagement for Ribal al Assad in as many weeks. As well as addressing audiences on the need for democratic reform in Syria, Assad continues to meet senior politicians and diplomats in the UK and Europe.

Last week he met Lord Janner, the notable Middle East peace campaigner, to discuss the campaign for democracy in Syria and the current situation in the Middle East.

"I was honoured and privileged to meet Lord Janner. We had an excellent discussion about the campaign for democracy and freedom in Syria and the need for a real and lasting peace in the Middle East. I look forward to working with Lord Janner to help bringing peace, security and prosperity to the region."

Assad says that he has a “full schedule” of meetings in London, as part of his campaign to raise awareness of Syria and Middle East issues amongst Western policy makers.


Notes for Editors:

The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS) is an independent body, which promotes democracy, freedom and human rights in Syria and the Middle East.

ODFS researches and analyses current events and policy in Syria and the Middle East, and provides information to parliamentarians, civil servants, the media, think tanks, academics, students, the public and all other interested parties in Britain and around the world.

Ribal Al-Assad is the Founder and Director of The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria. He is an international campaigner for democracy, freedom and human rights. Ribal, 34, was born in Syria and has lived in the West since being exiled from his country as a child. He brings new ideas and perspectives to campaigning for democracy and freedom in Syria and the Middle East and is a regular speaker on political and human rights platforms. Ribal regularly interacts with politicians, civil servants, academics, journalists, think tanks, pro-democracy, and human rights groups all around the world.

Ribal is also Chairman of the Arabic News Network (ANN) satellite television channel, which broadcasts throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and promotes democracy, freedom and peace in the Middle East.

Ribal is extensively involved in promoting interfaith dialogue and relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians around the globe. Over the last few years Ribal has successfully been involved in helping to tackle inter-religious and intra-religious conflict and violence in Lebanon. One of his notable achievements was to help facilitate a rapprochement between the Alawite and the Sunni Muslims in North Lebanon.

The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria campaigns for:

- An end to the State of Emergency, in place since 1963

- A commitment to human rights for all groups, religions and minorities

- An end to corruption and the liberalization of the Syrian economy

- An end to press and internet censorship

- Greater rights for Syrian women and their greater representation in the political, economic, and social fields

- Peace in the Middle East through a two state solution with a viable, independent and democratic state of Palestine and the return of all of the Golan Heights to Syria in a land for peace deal

- An end to extremism and violence

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