Marinella Protested at the ‘Friends of Syria’ summit in Rome
Italian anti-war activist Marinella Correggia protested at a press conference attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi and leader of the so-called Syrian opposition Moaz al-Khatib following the Feb. 28 “Friends of Syria” summit in Rome. She caught worldwide attention when she managed to hold up a large sign that read, “U$A, EU, Italy, Qatar, [Saudi Arabia], and Turkey support terrorists.”
Correggia is an activist in Rete No War Roma, the anti-war network in Rome, and a journalist at Il Manifesto. As part of her anti-war activism, Correggia has traveled to a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, India and Pakistan, to participate in anti-war actions. She has also written numerous books on politics.
The following interview was conducted by Aslı Kayabal, Italy reporter for the Turkish daily soL. The translation from Turkish is by Taylor Goel of Liberation News. The answers have been slightly edited and abridged for readability.
How did you decide to protest the ongoing war in Syria and the parties responsible for it at the press conference of the U.S. and Italian foreign ministers after the Friends of Syria summit in Rome?
My anti-war struggle goes back to 1991, when Iraq was occupied. I have never joined groups that claim to be anti-war but are not in reality. Mine is a kind of militancy against the bombings by Western powers, or the wars that are planned by them as in Syria. Wars that are waged due to strategic and economic motives are being sold to people as if they are just.
In this respect, the Iraqi war in 1991 was an important one. When my country, Italy, which has not been bombed since 1945, bombs the people of other countries in the name of “humanitarian” motives, it appalls me, and I perceive this choice as racist and containing many lies.
Wars bring to mind a mass death penalty. Everything is possible without wars, but with all the wars raging in many regions, nothing is possible anymore. We are facing a grim picture. The wars waged by the West have brought about tragedies. Iraq has been destroyed, people are still dying there, and it is the same situation in Libya. Yugoslavia doesn’t exist anymore. In Afghanistan, U.S. fighter planes are killing children who live in mud huts.
The most painful part was the silence that prevailed among pro-peace people while Libya was being destroyed. In Italy, people who opposed the war in Libya were a minority, as is now the case with Syria. Organizations that had supported the pro-peace groups in 2003 did nothing. I have decided to become a peace activist, all alone in the desert, without asking for anything in return and by sacrificing a lot. I have combined my voluntary activism with my profession as a journalist.
You are an activist with the anti-war network of Rome. What is your thoughts on the Friends of Syria?
The Syrian government has made a lot of mistakes, and they have attested to this. While the Syrian government was taking steps for further democratization of the system, there were already armed groups in the country ready to create a state of chaos. The “friends” of Syria accomplished the rest. The Friends of Syria have supported the groups that wanted to wage war instead of the peaceful protesters who were struggling for more democracy and social rights in Syria. Political, media and financial support and weapons followed.
Who comprises the Friends of Syria? Warmongers like the U.S, England, France, Italy and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are under the control of dictatorships that are a source of shame for the whole Arab world. Why did not certain “friends” act as the mediator between the parties in the conflict in order for the Syrians to go to the ballot box in a peaceful way? The Syrian opposition and “friends” have boycotted everyone including Kofi Annan. Because of all this, we call them the “Enemies of Syria.”
Pro-armed rebels refer to them as “activists,” but women and children who are for peace in Syria are being murdered daily. It is true that there is death in Syria. But who is killing whom? Who issues more statements after events? It has been revealed that most of the “massacre and violence” news stories originating from Syria do not represent the truth.
In reality, there is a war between armed groups in Syria. The army is fighting armed rebels as well as many foreign extremist groups. The civilians, on the other hand, are caught in between. The imperialists are the only party to blame for a war that has been going on for two years. They have caused the destruction of a country and a humanitarian tragedy.
You have been to many war regions—Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Iraq and so on. Have you been to Turkey? What do you think of the Syrian policies of the AKP government of Turkey?
I have been present in those countries you have listed and some others not as a journalist but as an anti-war peace activist in delegations that were opposing these wars as “our” governments and NATO were bombing these countries.
I have never been to Turkey. The protests in Turkey in 2003 against the war in Iraq were very important.
Why doesn’t Turkey enter a dialogue on the issue of Syria? Why does it continue to transport weapons? Why is it allied with Saudi Arabia and Qatar? How about its anti-Iran policies? What a shame. On the other hand, there is NATO and NATO is in Turkey.
These points are valid for Turkey as well. Withdrawing from NATO is equal to withdrawing support for wars. Ireland, which is not a NATO member but still part of EU, does not need to participate in military missions. It is a must to get out of NATO in order to not to participate in wars.
What do you think of Europe’s approach towards Assad? If Assad leaves power, would this drag Syria into a political and religious chaos?
Europe, like the U.S. and other countries that violate the U.N. rule about not providing support for armed groups, does not follow the decisions of the U.N. They say all the steps they are taking are taken in the name of humanity. While they are demonizing one side, they are putting on a pedestal the other wing that they accept as the “representatives of the people of Syria.” This approach is causing the destruction and the lives of many people in Syria. The U.N. supposedly bans support for armed groups. Remember, the U.S. was convicted for targeting Nicaragua in 1986.
Based on your experience and observations, can you draw us a profile of the Syrian opposition?
While I was in Syria, I did not meet anyone who would be called the opposition. The only ones who are out and about are Sunni extremists. I find their actions that kill people while shouting religious verses or their suicide missions appalling. They are mercilessly using a peaceful religion for their ends.
I can also provide information on certain people in Italy who support these armed groups in Syria. These people, whether Italian or Syrian, are bullies. Even if we never communicate with them and never insult them, they shower us anti-war activists and peace supporters with insults. They hold the Syrian government responsible for everyone who is killed in Syria. There is a very strong
propaganda. We are doing our best to resist this, because we believe accusing only one party will result in further wars. These people not only accuse us of supporting Assad, who is demonized by the media, but they also claim that we are funded by him. I reject this. Also, some of our Syrian friends in Italy have had to ask for protection from the police after being threatened by the opposition.
It is claimed that some of the weapons provided to the Syrian opposition have been sent to Saudi Arabia from certain Balkan countries. Do you have any information on this?
No, but there are rumors that weapons are sent to Saudi Arabia from various countries. Before my protest at the summit in Rome, while the people in the room still thought I was just a journalist, a journalist sitting next to me mentioned that he was going to ask a question about the weapons sent to Saudi Arabia from Croatia.
How can the dynamics of the peace process in Syria be activated?
As the Patriarch of the Church of Antioch (a city in southern Turkey on the Syrian border that has been used as a shelter for the opposition forces) has also expressed, first the transfer of weapons to the armed groups in Syria has to stop. All Syrians have to be able to represent their country. Russia is proposing talks in this direction. As in Libya and the African Union, Hugo Chavez had proposed a similar solution, but no one paid any attention. Russia is now partially playing this role