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Monday, May 27, 2024

Meet Adwar Hashwa: Syrian lawyer, writer and politician

Adwar Hashwa is a Syrian lawyer, writer, politician, consultant, and former member of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. Born in Hama, Syria in 1935, Hashwa saw more than 200 students who interned with his office in Syria graduate from law school. Twelve of those graduates went on to become judges, some of whom are still serving on the bench today.

Hashwa has been involved in Syrian political life and has worked within the framework of the Arab Socialist Movement since the 1950s. His writings are characterized by liberation, rationality, and a sense of national and Arab belonging. He has authored numerous books on law, politics, and literature and has continued to write articles that have been published in various Syrian and Arab newspapers for more than half a century. Hashwa has also delivered lectures and conducted research that has enriched the political library. He currently resides in Ohio in the United States from where he  recently engaged in a conversation with SYRIAWISE.

SYRIAWISE: Your books are among the most important books studied as references in law colleges in the subject of labor legislation. Also, you have 29 books banned from circulation in Syria. In 2007, a book titled Ideas from a Coming Era was published. Why was its circulation banned in Syria, as well as the book Dialogues in the World of the Unseen?

Adwar Hashwa: There are legal, political, literary, and constitutional books that were rejected by the regime’s monitoring authorities merely for their titles without even reading or studying them. So, we started printing some books secretly in limited quantities and distributed them confidentially, stating that they were printed at Jarmanous Printing Press in Beirut. Ghazi Kanaan, who was the Minister of Interior before his death, informed us a month prior to his death that the Damascus intelligence had requested that he investigate and monitor Jarmanous Printing Press. He did so but found no trace of them so he ordered that the request be shelved in order to protect me. These books, according to their release dates, are: Oil Explosion in 1969, Voices of the People in 1990, Peace in the Mind of the East in 1994, Arab Issues in 1994, Arab World Order (Arabs, Oil, and Islam) in 2001, Positions in Difficult Times in 2002, The Funny and the Sad in 2002, Iraq and the Impossible Mission in 2003, Saddam’s Trial in 2003, The Mountain and the Sunset of Cities in 2004, Political Analysis in Middle East Issues in 2008, Lecture Series in 2008, Dialogues in the World of the Unseen in 2008, Homs: History and the Garden in 2009, Political Memories in 2010, Lebanon and the Other Arab Voice in 2010, Arab-American Relations in 2011, Literature and Politics in 2011, Syria and the History of Fear in 2013, Syria Changed the World in 2019, Syria and the Constitutional Challenge in 2019, and Syria in the People’s Court in 2023.

“My arrest came as a result of their dispute without any justification and without my having any personal connection to their dispute”

SYRIAWISE: You were arrested in 1963 and again in 1970 and were sentenced to death. How did that happen?

Adwar Hashwa: I was arrested at the beginning of the March 8 coup in 1963 and was imprisoned in the Polish prison in Homs. I was tortured daily and went on a hunger strike. With the intervention of General Hariri and his officers from Hama, I was transferred to the military hospital in critical condition. After a month, I was transferred to Mazze Military Prison, and I was secretly released after the elimination of Nasserist officers. I was then subjected to house arrest in Damascus. 

I was arrested again in April 1970 due to an unknown decision and was taken to Mazze Prison and dressed in execution clothes. My arrest coincided with the conflict between Hafez Assad and the Salah Jadid group. My arrest came as a result of their dispute without any justification and without my having any personal connection to their dispute. Due to being a known opposition politician and an elected member of the Damascus Bar of Syrian Lawyers Association, my detention was challenged with objections from both sides of the conflict so I was secretly released.

SYRIAWISE: You are the founder of the ِArabic Center for Political Analysis. Is it still active?

Adwar Hashwa: The Arab Center for Political Analysis was launched in 2008 to facilitate my political articles that were published in Sourakia magazine in London and Al-Muharrir newspaper. However, it stopped due to the need for personnel and a lack of funds available to cover their expenses so I contented myself with sharing my articles on social media.

SYRIAWISE: There is a short story that you wrote on the occasion of Teacher’s Day in Syria, about the teacher “Youssef Al-Khouri” at the Orthodox Christian School in Hama. Can you summarize your message in that story?

Adwar Hashwa: The story was mentioned in the book Voices of the People about the teacher Youssef, aiming to convey his ideas that “homeland is dignity, and wherever you find dignity, there is your homeland. A homeland without dignity is not a homeland; it is a big prison.”

“It is time for the army officers to understand that the army belongs to Syria, and Syria does not belong to the army, nor to the ambitions of its officers and coups”

SYRIAWISE: Do you regret your participation in the Geneva negotiations with the regime delegation since there were no positive outcomes that came out of those meetings?

Adwar Hashwa: My participation was within the framework of implementing the UN resolution. In the first meeting between the opposition and the regime delegations, I was given the first word, where I surprised the regime by focusing on our future stance regarding the army. 

We want a professional, qualified, and strong army that should not belong to any religion, sect, or party, and politics should be banned within it. A national army should be for everyone so that everyone supports and stands by it. It is time for the army officers to understand that the army belongs to Syria, and Syria does not belong to the army, nor to the ambitions of its officers and coups. 

The regime’s delegation did not address this issue or the constitution; they only praised the brave army, its victories, and its role in supporting the regime. From that time, I anticipated the failure of the constitutional dialogue. When the mini-constitutional committee was selected, I was excluded from it due to the intervention of Turkey and Russia. The regime and the opposition replaced me with people with ridiculous titles, and at that point, I felt regretful.

“The ambiguity and hesitation of the American position are believed to be due to Israel’s support for the regime, which established peace on its borders”

SYRIAWISE: There are Syrian organizations in America that are working hard to get legislation passed that is intended to weaken the regime and hold Assad accountable for his crimes. You participated in some of those meetings in Congress in 2022. Do you see these steps as effective or do you have different views?

Adwar Hashwa: I participated in a meeting with Congress in 2022, and we understood from them that our cause was not their priority due to their involvement in the Ukraine war. They stated that Bashar Assad would not be part of any political solution and advised the opposition to agree on an acceptable alternative. 

After the issue became international, there were international conflicts regarding the possibility of peace and a political solution, each side having its own interests. The ambiguity and hesitation of the American position are believed to be due to Israel’s support for the regime, which established peace on its borders. The alternative phrase in Congress aims at a similar alternative.

“The most important thing is the unity of Syria, whether centralized or de-centralized, or even federal. Power should emerge from ballot boxes, not from the barrels of guns”

SYRIAWISE: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. In closing we would like to ask you what kind of homeland does Syrian politician, human rights activist and writer Adwar Hashwa hope to see in the future?

Adwar Hashwa: The shape of the homeland we want is one that learns from the lessons of war and does not live on its grudges. The most important thing is the unity of Syria, whether centralized or de-centralized, or even federal. Power should emerge from ballot boxes, not from the barrels of guns. 

The constitution should be set by an elected constituent assembly and any solution should begin with a moderate transitional governance body that agrees on declaring a temporary constitution, holding elections, releasing detainees, allowing the return of displaced persons, and restructuring the army and security forces. Foreign presence should be resolved based on a national consensus such as “foreigners, all of you, leave our country!”.

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