“There is nothing personal, I’m just a headline,” President Bashar Al-Assad said when questioned about how he feels being called a war criminal in the western media. “The bad president, the bad guy is killing the good guys. It is black and white like George Bush’s narrative. The real reason for wanting to topple this government is because it does not fit the criteria of the West and the United States.”
Sitting next to President Assad was his father-in-law, the director of the British Syrian Society, Fawas Akhras, who looked on thoughtfully. Having been invited to Damascus to attend a two day workshop aimed at expressing the Syrian government’s point of view on the conflict, I had only been told that I would be interviewing the president a few hours beforehand. Now I sat in a ornate parlor room in the presidential palace with journalists representing the New York Times, The New Yorker magazine, and several prestigious think tanks. I was never patted down, put through a metal detector, and did not spot any security staff at the palace.
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