Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order temporarily blocked immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and put a stop to all refugees entering the US. This sparked protests in the US and elsewhere, and the the order was eventually suspended by a federal court.
The order’s strictest provision targets Syria, imposing an indefinite ban on all refugees from the country. In an interview with French media yesterday, Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad defended the move, in a way.
“It’s against the terrorists that would infiltrate some of the immigrants to the West. And that happened. It happened in Europe, mainly in Germany,” Assad told Europe 1 radio and TF1 television, Reuters reports. “I think the aim of Trump is to prevent those people from coming,” he added, insisting the order was “not against the Syrian people.”
“I am concerned with how to keep the Syrian people in Syria so that they don’t leave for the United States,” he added (link in French).
Assad recently gained the upper hand in Syrian civil war, after his army, backed by Russian airstrikes, closed in on rebel-held areas and retook Aleppo, the country’s largest city, last year. The president has vowed to fight until he regains control of “every inch” of the country.
Assad has repeatedly criticized Western leaders for supporting the Syrian opposition, which he describes as terrorists. In the same interview, Assad lashed out at French president François Hollande, who he implied is a “warmonger.”
Last week, when confronted with Amnesty International’s report that women and children are being tortured in Syria’s government-run prisons, Assad evoked Trump by dismissing the investigation as “fake news.”