Wed 24 Apr 2019

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Civil tools for the exigency of change in Syria

A father raises the flag of the revolution with his sons in a demonstration in the city of Sarmada in rural Idlib - 15 March 2019 (Ammar al-Zeir)

A father raises the flag of the revolution with his sons in a demonstration in the city of Sarmada in rural Idlib - 15 March 2019 (Ammar al-Zeir)

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Enab Baladi’s investigation team

Enab Baladi– Dia Odeh/ Mohamed Homs 

Eight years ago, popular protests calling for freedom, dignity and justice began in Syria, but today the revolution is undergoing a complex political and military reality that brought the Syrians back to the starting point and threw the concepts of “homeland”, “change” and “democracy” into a state of blurry and uncompromising controversy with no accurate results in the horizon.

 

The Syrians have been moved away from the decision-making process. The political map in Syria is being led by regional states from Geneva to Sochi and Astana. The land is divided among three powers, which are unable to take the decision and shaping their future, despite being in charge on the ground.

Years from the revolution, the use of the slogan “The People Wants” might have changed between the dominant parties on the ground. Although this phrase has remained the main slogan for a wide range of Syrians, the concepts of change that the people demanded have not been clarified. This has reinforced the great social rift that has afflicted the Syrian society, in addition to a sense of defeat which already dominated a segment of those demanding change and is in the course of overwhelming other segments.

Today, political initiatives are at the forefront of events in Syria, most notably the Constitutional Committee, which is appointed to pass a new constitution. Thus, there have been fears about the possibility of undergoing further military operations on the ground, especially in Idlib and the areas along the border with Syria. Such general atmosphere has directly affected the Syrian civil tools for change, and has limited the scope of vision of the future, which is no longer beyond the boundaries of the region in which the Syrian citizen lives.

It may be already known that Syria is out of the scope of any near change, as the political decision-making procedure is controlled by influential countries that manipulate the Syrian file. However, several civil, and not political, tools may play a role in the change, which would establish a new phase for which the Syrians would aspire to be a part of.

Kurdish fighter shoots Bassel al-Assad’s statue in al-Hasakah - May 2017 (Reuters)

Kurdish fighter shoots Bassel al-Assad’s statue in al-Hasakah – May 2017 (Reuters)

 

Civil society: The possibility of complementarity and change

Civil society has emerged as a key player that has stood for an important and pivotal role in the Syrian conflict, relying on its independence and the novelty of the civil activism concept in Syria, where it has provided support and assistance to large segments of the Syrian people and has taken the role of the observer, capacity-builder and peace maker, in addition to laying the foundations and strategies that were not previously employed in Syria before 2011, to a certain extent.

The civil society, with its organizations, trade unions and councils has not been away from politics. Civil society activists have been indirectly introduced to the political life in Syria by the international community, especially now through the Constitutional Committee, which civil society organizations make up one third of its members, in a step towards drafting a new constitution for Syria. That is why, the civil society, as a major partner in the process of creating change in the country, cannot be overlooked;, which means guaranteeing the full involvement of civil society organizations in the post-conflict phase.

According to the World Bank, civil society refers to a wide range of organizations: community groups, NGOs, trade unions, indigenous groups, charitable and religious organizations, as well as professional associations and foundations.

In Syria, civil society was divided into two parts at home and abroad. Although the first section was established on the ground, the Syrian regime tightened the circle around it as it is aware of the hazards of expanding civil society’s work and the threat the authorities might face in case civil society organizations manage to become powerful. The other section, which carries its activities abroad, has succeeded to gain access to decision-making circles, and to attract support for Syrians outside Syria and on the ground, i.e. in areas beyond the control of the regime.

What role can civil society organizations play in bringing about change in Syria? This is a question that needs to be answered in order to specify the role these organizations can play in the post-conflict reconstruction process, and the way civil society will be involved in such phase; in addition to analyzing the likelihood of its success or failure.

Zaidoun al-Zoubi, CEO of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) believed that civil society will not play a real and important role “unless it is truly transformed into a civil society.” In other words, civil society institutions in Syria, so far, stand for limited communities that are loosely attached to fragmented and divided organizations.

Al-Zoubi told Enab Baladi that the most important role that civil society organizations can play is to start breaking the boundaries of conflict and to form a unified front, first, despite differences. That is to say that civil society in Syria needs to develop a sense of belonging to a single sector instead of being affiliated to divided sides. He noted: “Civil society organizations must have a unified formula, first, in order to be able to work collectively.”

As a starting point in the process of change, civil society organizations must break barriers to be able to influence society in the future. Thus, civil society organizations must create a code that regulates collective work. Such an advanced step, which can be employed in Syria, has the potential to bring about tremendous changes; especially that the concept of civil society activism, as recent as it is, is still in the phase of construction. However, it can be considered as an advanced approach of social activism regarding several issues that must be the foundation for future development.

Civil society, today, which is divided into three segments at best, can be politically categorized, based on geography and the political party it is inclined to support, according to al-Zoubi, who considers that providing civil society organizations with a space to work will lead to the democratization of society and the state. If civil society bodies manage to dismantle the boundaries hindering its unity, this will lead to the formation of a cohesive civil block and a space for action, which will bring about a radical change at social and political levels.

Al-Zoubi indicated that “civil society organizations will play many other roles in the future, namely in the reconstruction process as well as transitional justice, in addition to its role in reinforcing social cohesion, relief and re-development in accordance with the needs of  each sector.”

Based on the key role that civil society organizations must play in breaking mutual barriers, the current circumstances in Syria necessitate a refocusing on the idea of organizing these establishments to serve as the main tool to achieve social change. As such, Syrian civil society organizations will take part in the future change, especially in light of social rift and political turmoil Syria’s streets are witnessing nowadays.

The importance of creating strong civil society organizations is that these initiatives have the potential to provide an alternative and stand as the “only hope” that could lead to the change aspired by the Syrian people, which is beyond political road maps and plans made by regional states,  in some way.

Al-Zoubi pointed out to an important point, which is the complementary role played by civil society organizations. If we try to create a unifying structure within the civil society, there will be few rivalries and enmities.

As for the two segments furnishing the civil society milieu in Syria, we find that the group of civil society actor which carries out activities outside the country has greater access to donors, decision-making circles, UN organizations, and expatriate communities, in addition to all kinds of resources. This segment also receives considerable material support at home and abroad. However, its ability to change in the inside is very weak.

Al-Zoubi explained that civil society organizations which are active inside Syria are capable of being directly influential and making changes since they carry out their activities on the ground. This segment of civil society organizations faces difficulties in reaching the global decision-making circles, and gaining access to financial and intellectual resources as well as to expatriate communities abroad, which is estimated at one-third of the Syrian population. The integration of these two spectrums within a single civil society body will create new mechanisms and tools that will help to rebuild the Syrian society.

Al-Zoubi believed that the importance of civil society lies in its ability to present a critical view of the currently conflicting parties, on the one hand. On the other hand, civil society is present in the constitutional committee. However, civil society organizations are still operating in a prefixed space which is determined by the international community. Thus, the possibility go beyond such framework is considered as “dangerous” as al-Zoubi puts it.

Therefore, conflicting civil society organizations, without exception, are operating in such predetermined space without taking the initiative and looking for new spaces or other opportunities to expand their activities. Al-Zoubi stressed that for civil society organizations to achieve the desired change at least as recommended in written texts, it must reach new areas other than those made available by the international community.

 

Young men march in support of the Syrian regime in Qamishli – December, 2018 (afp)

Syrian demonstrators wave the national flag during a demonstration in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on December 23, 2018, asking for the Syrian army’s protection as Turkey threatens to carry out a fresh offensive following the US decision to withdraw their troops. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

Cover the pros and highlight the cons

A way to change the media

The Syrian people has lived for half a century with irreplaceable and incontestable one-sided media, led and manipulated by the Syrian regime in whatever way it wishes. At the beginning of the protests, it was necessary to address the truth and describe what is going on without censorship. This new media was described sometimes as “revolutionary” and other times as “alternative”, and with all the novice labels, the Syrian media has developed to a greater extent than it was expected in terms of spreading awareness and nurturing a new way of thinking based on the culture of change among the Syrians.

Speaking to Enab Baladi about the role of media in the current stage, journalist Nasser al-Yousif, recalled , that for fifty years of “al-Assad family gang” domination over the Syrian people, they took away every good aspect distinguishing the character of the Syrian citizen. They established instead a set of concepts such as “hypocrisy and flattery”. Thus, the Syrian society has fallen “sick, which necessitates the intervention of psychiatrists and sociologists.”

Al-Yousif added that the Syrian society needed a violent shake-up to uproot the negative habits and guide it towards the natural social, political, and economic development that has occurred in all free societies. However, such shake up had some awful repercussions.

Today, the role of the Syrian media should be reflected through main pillars, namely, providing media coverage, avoiding the fabrication of news, and the manipulation of decision makers in power.

Al-Yousif stressed that media must maintain standards of credibility while reporting the pros and highlighting the cons as well as exposing them. On the other hand, media outlets need to avoid exaggerating the errors of particular people in order to cover up the mistakes of others. These outlets need to avoid over praising achievements. Al-Yousif considered such practices as a “grave error”, arguing that “the revolutionary media” committed atrocities and failed a big time in this context, which enabled al-Assad regime and his allies to get ahead and score many points at its expense.

If one tries to compare where the “alternative” or “revolutionary” media succeeded and where it failed in the process of change, it is clear that successes are far less than failures. Al-Yousif asserted:  “Unfortunately, every single media outlet is playing its own melody, which led to multiplying and fragmenting efforts. When efforts are dispersed, it is difficult to achieve victory.”

Taking into consideration that change is an urgent need for the time being, media is one of the most important tools of change that can make positive alterations for the benefit of the society and the Syrian people. According to al-Yousif, media should be involved in refining the mind of the Syrian citizen using the usual means available, i.e. audio, visual and intellectual means, and not to overlook the pros and cons regarding the reform of education, knowledge and thinking aiming to create the new Syrian citizen. On the other hand, all the negative aspects should be highlighted by media, in addition to using the expertise of experts of political sciences, sociologists, and media professionals to provide service to the community.

Al-Yousif asserted that biased media, which is an easy tool in the hands of the decision-maker, is one “straight” ways to failure. This type of media distorts the intellect and leads to the creation of enslaved minds incapable of thinking. As the pro-government media goes on praising the qualities of the ruler, the Syrian citizen is left unable to understand the social phenomena and social movements that surround her/him. Accordingly, the decision-maker or the dictator can easily manipulate the people as he pleases.

 

 

The Syrian human rights file is a tool of restriction and restraint

With the third tool of change, the Syrian human rights file has created an ideal situation with two effects, one of which is short term and another is long term. The most prominent human rights file was the “Caesar” file, an officer dissident of the Syrian regime, who leaked 55 thousand pictures of 11 thousand detainees in 2014, who were killed under torture. The pictures were presented in the US Senate, which approved the “Protection of Civilians” law in Syria, known with the same name of file “Caesar”, and guaranteeing the punishment of the Syrian regime supporters.

However, human rights files in Syria and holding al-Assad accountable abroad are not a substitute for political change at home, said the journalist and human rights activist, Mansour al-Amri, in an interview with Enab Baladi. He pointed out that through such accountability, al-Assad may continue to rule Syria for a while, but in the Cuban or North Korean style as he will remain isolated and hated in most countries of the world.

Prosecution, advocacy and justice have a political aspect, according to al-Amri. They prevent European governments from cooperating with a convicted criminal in their courts with respect to files of reconstruction, refugee return, and regime rehabilitation.

The human rights tool helps curb projects and proposals by some states or politicians to return refugees or deal with al-Assad in any way.

The role of human rights professionals in the community, according to al-Amri, is to be committed to what they work for “personally and morally.” Human rights activist should not change facts, conceal them, exaggerate statements or talk about the usefulness of his work, and should be away from the formation of gatherings or fake pages with attractive names which may make people lose faith in human rights.

Al-Amri added that human rights activists should deal positively with the media and respond to it as much as possible to help it carry out its duties by highlighting this work and clarifying it to the public, supporting justice and human rights efforts, spreading a culture of accountability and highlighting the importance of justice for the Syrians to build a healthy and proper society away from political interests.

The media has a similar role to play in accessing sources to show the facts, making it easier for human rights organizations and activists to have clear means of communication.

The human rights activist Mansour al-Amri thinks that human rights organizations are making efforts to preserve and restore the rights of the Syrians. He added that these organizations should provide a platform for publishing their work in detail without any selectiveness, ambiguity, or generalization in presenting their work news, and publishing a detailed statement to the Syrians with the data of each international conference and meeting.

Raising public awareness is one of the tasks of human rights activists and organizations concerned. This task is achieved through devoting part of the organizations’ efforts to explain the importance of accountability, justice and the preservation of rights, methods of reporting crimes, encouraging victims to report and identifying legal reporting methods in each country as available, and urging anyone, who has evidence about these crimes or has information on the whereabouts of any perpetrator, to report on it. The confidentiality of evidence and security of the reporter is a priority for police or judicial authorities in Europe and for Syrian organizations and lawyers.

This is done through the written, visual and audiovisual media, and allowing for activities related to this matter, such as workshops, lectures, and even through smart applications in phones, which are considered the most important and most popular means available for the public.

According to al-Amri, human rights organizations are required to coordinate among themselves, and cooperate away from abusive competition that harms the entire human rights file, and therefore the Syrians in general, considering that these organizations bear the current and historical responsibility towards the Syrians. Any unjustified negligence or wrong competition will negatively affect millions of Syrians. The Syrians have the right to know exactly about the current situation of the human rights file from these organizations and human rights workers according to their specialization. The Syrians equally have the right to know the current and future strategies of this work.

 

A survey: The chance of change in Syria is conditional

The views of the participants in a poll conducted by Enab Baladi in its e-platforms were almost convergent. There were participants who felt that there was a chance for change in Syria and linked it to the possibilities available to the Syrian people and others who considered that the opportunity did not exist because of the multiplicity of spheres of influence and division that the Syrian territory is experiencing.

Enab Baladi asked a question through its official website and its Facebook page: “Is there still a chance for change in Syria… why?” 1332 users participated in the vote.

Fifty-eight percent of the respondents felt that there was a chance of change in Syria, but had divergent views on this.

Commenting on the poll in Facebook, Abu Jamal al-Okidi, said that “there will be a new Syrian spring and this time it will be faster and more dangerous to the regime. This is because we learned from our mistakes, but the regime lost all its statesmanship and malice, and its economy is collapsing and its army is no longer able to bear another revolution. It only needs to ignite the spark in Daraa and Damascus.”

Mohamed Tamimi considered that the chance of change exists even though its possibility has diminished “and faith in God is great and change is coming anyway.”

42 per cent of the respondents ruled out that there is any chance of change in Syria, and this may be caused by the division of the Syrian territory and international interests.

Hajar Okash, said on Facebook that “Syria no longer exists unfortunately … It is currently a geographical location of the map only, but in reality it is a block of ice which is melting little by little.”  

 

What is the possible change in Syria?

Each of the Syrian player regional states drew a change for Syria, each on its way in order to serve its objectives since it interfered in the Syrian file. This leads the Syrians to choose the form of their state and the bases on which it will be established, and their future social relationship, under which they will live in the “Syrian territory.”

 

Scenarios for change by States

The Syrian academician and researcher, Talal Mustafa, believes that it is necessary to emphasize a major political postulate in terms of the future horizon of change in Syria, which is the exit of all Syrians from the equation of the next change, whether the Syrian regime or the Syrian political opposition.

Mustafa said in an interview with Enab Baladi that the current reality refers to multiple scenarios for change in Syria in the future, and some can be weighted on the others, including the Iranian scenario, which has worked since the beginning of the revolution in 2011 to bring the Syrian regime back to control as was the case before 2011, and even in al-Assad’s father era in the 1980s. “This is what has been observed on the ground through the unlimited military support of the regime under the auspices of Iranian hegemony to achieve the Iranian dream through the Iranian-Iraqi coalition to Lebanon through Hezbollah military dominance in Lebanon.”

The other scenario for change in Syria is Russian. Mustafa explained that this scenario depends on the continuation of the Syrian regime’s rule, which is evident through the direct Russian military intervention in 2015 that prevented the fall of the regime.

The Russian scenario differs from the Iranian one that it tends towards constitutional and civil reforms with the participation of some opposition figures such as the expansion of local administration and the setting up of some national rights of Kurds and others constitutionally, in addition to the formation of an expanded government of the regime and some opponents. Some Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE may be inclined to this solution because they will think that it would weaken Iranian influence from Syria, according to Mustafa.

As for the Syrian regime, the researcher considered that it is leaning toward the Iranian solution without declaring hostility to the Russian solution because it cannot do so on the ground. Therefore, it tries to maneuver between the Iranian and Russian scenarios.

In the meantime, there is no clear scenario for the Syrian opposition, “it is divided between Astana and Sochi negotiations projects, the delegation of the Geneva negotiations, and the role of both groups is to give legitimacy to the countries that hold such meetings with the presence of representatives of the Syrians.”

The Turkish scenario emerged from among the scenarios of countries in Syria. Mustafa explained that Turkey aspires in terms of political will to overthrow the Syrian regime and replace it with the opposition, especially its ally.

The researcher said that Turkey is aware of how difficult this scenario is. Therefore, it turned to Russia and Iran at the Sochi and Astana conferences to reach a compromise acceptable to everyone, including the removal of Kurdish militias hostile to Turkey from the Turkish-Syrian border, with fundamental constitutional and political changes in the structure of the Syrian regime through the participation of the Syrian political forces allied to Turkey in the new political regime. The decentralized regime can be adopted, and therefore the Turkish influence remains in the north of Syria at the level of economy, education, and even security.

In case the mentioned scenario did not occur, Turkey will remain in the north of Syria in the Turkish and Greek Cyprus style, according to the researcher, who pointed to a European-American scenario “which clearly rejected all previous solutions and stressed the necessity of a political solution through a new constitution and multiple elections.” This is reflected in blocking the reconstruction of Syria before implementing the political solution.

 

Russian military vehicle near poster of Bashar al-Assad and Putin in Aleppo - June 2018 (Reuters)

Russian military vehicle near poster of Bashar al-Assad and Putin in Aleppo – June 2018 (Reuters)

 

The Syrians’ interest is their compass

The Syrian dream “seems to have not been achieved, for several reasons, foremost of which is the international will, which is far from the aspirations of the Syrians to reach equality, justice, and democratic governance without discrimination or separation, as well as the social rift between the segments of Syrian society, as one of the repercussions of the Syrian conflict on the ground and what the Syrian regime has worked on since Hafez al-Assad era.

There is no guarantee that the Syrians’ dream of change will not come true, despite the “faint glimmer of hope.” Achieving the Syrians’ dream actually depends on different issues mainly moving away from fear of the past and the spirit of failure, and thinking of solutions that would open a new phase based on learning from an eight-year experience.

According to the view of the Syrian opposition figure Samira Moubayed, the revolution is a sign of a radical change launched in Syria and extended to those who did not participate, and if it has not yet achieved its goals, the biggest barrier to this was based on the social rift, “which tyranny has founded and thanks to which it continued to rule for five decades, relying on the regional, sectarian, class division of society.”

Moubayed told Enab Baladi that “the Syrian regime has followed the strategy of division among the Syrians throughout the years of the revolution as well, and it was even more severe in implementing it, which significantly contributed to the catastrophic situation we are experiencing today.” She pointed out that “if it did not find an environment which accepted this incitement, it would not succeed, and here comes the role of the Syrians loyal to their homeland and its future by realizing the tools of destroying the society, confronting them, and developing alternative tools.”

The opposition figure thinks that the most important change in Syria is to build the human being properly without the influence of the factors of injustice and repression which leads him on the one hand to extremism or the factors of discrimination and authoritarianism, and on the other to tyranny.

In order to support the change, there must be a common desire among all the Syrian parties to realize the extent of sabotage and its seriousness. Moubayed added that there should be reliance on the development of integrated tools to make change, including educational curricula and establishing a sound political life and contemporary parties to meet the needs and demands of the community on the one hand and to be open to the international environment on the other.

In addition to the establishment of a civil life through civil society organizations emanating from society, which achieve its development and objectives and contribute to raising awareness of the public interest and its importance and rejecting any extremist orientation, as well as restoring confidence in the law and its institutions as the most important regulator of the behavior of society.

Researcher Talal Mustafa ruled out that there would be a radical change as the Syrians aspired in their revolution in the first months of 2011 without a review of the political course taken by the Syrian opposition during the previous eight years and an objective evaluation of the failed and successful political courses.

According to the researcher, an opposition political body should be established based on the purely Syrian national requirements, and ignoring the interests of the allied or hostile countries. This should be accompanied with a media body by developing a political discourse with a distinct Syrian identity that overcomes ideological, political and other differences, as “this should be only developed in accordance with the Syrian people’s interest.”

 

The Syrian civil movement, from confrontation of the regime to confrontation of ideological visions

Omar al-Khatib

Omar al-Khatib, Syrian writer and journalist

Omar al-Khatib, Syrian writer and journalist

“With the demonstration’s progress, there had been a group of young men forming a chain that was advancing the demonstration and standing in front of the doors of shops that were left open by their owners as well as the public institutions to protect them against any angry attempt to ruin them.”

The previous description is one of the societal aspects that accompanied the Syrian revolution, which showed an initial societal awareness of the concepts of social solidarity and the high sense of responsibility towards the society as a whole. This scene and other scenes had been repeated in most of the demonstrations that broke out in Syria.

It is interesting to note that the demonstrators’ keenness to protect private and public properties had accompanied demonstrations since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, even before the formation of coordination. This shows the demonstrators’ high sense of responsibility and respect of properties.  

Since it had noticed this phenomenon in the early days, the regime had concentrated its efforts to counterattack it and prosecute the activists through their assassination or arrest.

The Syrian regime, like all totalitarian regimes, has criminalized and prevented any civil activity, considered its activists to be enemies and traitors, prosecuted, and arrested them. This led to the creation of many emerging societal experiences, leading to the transformation of ideas of civil society and social development into secret ideas, similar to political ideas that call for freedom and resistance of repression.

With the start of the revolution, civil society activists had a prominent role and prompt presence. However, their pursuit by the regime and the arrest or mass murder of many of their prominent leaders forced them, like other activists, to turn to secret activity or move to liberated areas or outside Syria. Unfortunately, despite the social and educational nature of these activists’ activities and ideas, they have been considered political activists by many factions and even by the international community.

The traditional social leadership and the emerging new leaders, especially the religiously extremist leaders in liberated areas, have tried to control and contain social activity in order to serve their objectives and principles. The destructive role of some opponents of the religious orientation cannot also be ignored, as their extreme hostility towards this trend has negatively affected civil society activists who tried to reach understandings that would help them carry out their role. Thus, the activists of the civil movement have been again subjected to pursuit and attempts of taming.

Outside Syria, the focus on political and military issues and attempts to stereotype the revolution to suit the countries and their claims, has turned activists of the civil movement into victims of the international community’s tensions and attempts to exploit the revolution’s activists as a whole to pass certain ideas. Some non-governmental organizations and human rights centers might be excluded from this, as there are few of them.

The current situation in the regime-controlled areas seems to be understandable. The regime is continuing what it has already been established on, namely prosecution and prevention. However, what is happening in the liberated areas is saddening, as the new social leaders are mostly associated with ideological projects that these leaders try to impose on the community and prevent opposition to their trends. This has led to a significant absence of civic activities, and social development has thus turned to a few manifestations, which are reflected in few and negligible steps in the sector of education and psychological assistance of children and women.

The deprivation of the Syrian society during the rule of Ba’ath Party could not kill the spirit of society and sabotage the collective view. The manifestations of social solidarity that accompanied the revolution are the best evidence of the vitality of the Syrian society, its extraordinary ability to regeneration as well as its faith in unity and ability to change. However, what this society is being exposed to and its prevention from self-treatment through the imposition of ready-made ideas and totalitarian visions is very alarming. Therefore, it is crucial now more than ever before to resist the new form of imposition of a narrow social vision on the Syrians. In addition, the work with the Syrian society as it is, and not as ideological visionaries from the far right to the far left wish, has become more necessary than ever because of the inhuman conditions to which this society is being subjected.

 

What does “change” mean to the Syrians?

Enab Baladi has asked questions to a number of acting figures in the Syrian civil society sector about the definition of “change” according to them and if they have possible solutions to achieve this change. The most prominent answers were as follows:

 

Arif al-Shaal

Syrian lawyer

The desired change for me must be revolutionary encompassing the political, social, economic, and legal fields. In the political sphere, I aspire to a healthy political partisan life and elected councils with real and not fake representation. On the human rights level, liberties and civil society must be freed, and the rule of law and the sovereignty of the judiciary must be achieved.

Arif al-ShaalSyrian lawyer

Arif al-ShaalSyrian lawyer

This change should of course start with the Constitution and the system of its complementing laws, such as the laws of parties, elections, the judiciary, the media, local administration, and other fields.

It is well known that the constitutional reform and thus its complementing legislative process are awaiting the end of the complications of the international community’s consensus on the implementation of Security Council resolution No. 2254. This means that, under this state of international stubbornness, there are very limited and almost non-existent potentials of the Syrian individuals and institutions of all political trends to make any real change on the ground!

Until this consensus is achieved, the Syrians, each one from his position and field of activity, can work within the available means to spread and develop community awareness of what is required. For example, jurists can shed light on the weaknesses of the existing legislative structure that disrupt “the rule of law” and restrain the “autonomy of the judiciary,” although they are clearly stated in the currently in-force Constitution.

In terms of the sovereignty of the judiciary, many jurists practicing law, including judges and lawyers, are unfortunately unaware that the flaw that allows the executive authority to override the judiciary, in both its ordinary and administrative branches, is found in the formation of the Supreme Judicial Council and in the absence of an independent and effective council that manages the administrative judiciary or what is known as the State Council, in addition to the gravity of the exceptional penal courts on public and political life.

The work on raising the awareness of what has happened in the past, through research, studies, different symposiums, articles, and other available means, contributes to the formation of an organized public opinion and a drive for legislative reform that guarantees the real independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in a smooth manner with little resistance or obstacles, when the right moment comes, and so on.

 

Anas Jawda

Head of Nation Building Movement

Change is required on three basic levels. The first concerns the homeland itself and its final shape and identity. The second is related to the nature and role of the state that governs the life of citizens. As for the third level, it is related to the type of relationship between the citizens and the state of government. In other words, we in Syria need to look at all the frameworks that govern public affairs. Throughout the history of their state, the Syrians have not been able to look in a wise and aware way into the rules of relationship among each other. Coercive factors have instead been the dominant influence, including foreign

Anas JawdaHead of Nation Building Movement

Anas JawdaHead of Nation Building Movement

interventions, military coups as well as the imposition of a political ideology since the establishment of the modern Syrian state to date.

This concept of change is much deeper than the current dualism of the regime and the opposition that is being currently imposed. This dualism is futile and inadequate to answer the ways and means of change. Change first requires the existence of real societal and political forces capable of promoting society and carrying the burden of development. It also requires a broad and deep national dialogue between these forces and decisive measures that guarantee freedom of expression, movement and public activity, in addition to regulations as well as a comprehensive national framework.

The change cannot be achieved at a touch of a button, nor with the change of countries’ positions. What is built on uncontrollable variables is also variable and unstable. The possibilities do not come from the waiting for the change of reality alone, but from the serious and deep social work that deals with the individual’s awareness of the other, his concerns and aspirations, and the consolidation of the understanding of citizenship, as well as a responsible political action committed to the achievement of the Syrians’ interests wherever they may be. These possibilities are always available through different and several ways.

We certainly cannot ignore the international and regional factor for the Syrian file. However, it must be dealt with in terms of the work on its neutralization and reduction of its role as much as possible in the way of dealing with the status quo and not in terms of the content of change, which we must work to keep it as purely Syrian as possible.

 

 

Maria al-Abdeh

Executive Director of Women Now For Development Society

Maria al-AbdehExecutive Director of Women Now For Development Society

Maria al-AbdehExecutive Director of Women Now For Development Society

The clearly desired change is a society that respects human rights and freedom of expression and which ensures everyone’s equality before the law as well as access to economic and social services and rights. These rights should be certainly granted for men and women. The change that I see reflects the demands of the revolution of freedom and dignity, on which we must individually and collectively work to achieve.

As for the available possibilities for achieving this change, the most important of which is having faith in these principles and the will to implement them, especially within the Syrian civil society organizations, which must be institutions that work to implement democracy and transparency within its work system today, in order to be an effective model in society.

Though this is a difficult objective, it is still possible. It is important that the establishment be as participatory as possible and that the principles of respect for women and humans be reflected in the daily life of the institution and thus in the life of society.

 

 

Siruan Hajj Hossein

Director General of Radio Arta FM

Siruan Hajj Hussein BerkoDirector General of Radio Arta FM

Siruan Hajj Hussein BerkoDirector General of Radio Arta FM

The desired change in Syria is the foundation of a democratic, pluralistic, civil order in which the rule of law, justice and equality prevails among all individuals and society components.

This ruling regime must constitutionally ensure the rights of minorities and their participation in the government as well as in local and national administration at the economic, political, and social levels.

The tools for the desired change are peaceful civil activity, awareness, and advocacy campaigns, and a comprehensive national dialogue under international auspices.

 

 

Moataz Murad

Syrian writer and political activist

Moataz MuradSyrian writer and political activist

Change is in the essence of life. The world cannot evolve without change. When we say change, we mean the movement of permanent development forward, while some consider that change can be achieved by the return to the past and to references and old forms.

The most important tools of change are freethinking, lifelong learning, non-acceptance of self-replication, continuous exploration of experiences and other societies and acceptance of the norm that this creation is always evolving forward. Therefore, man must be part of this process of development.

The greatest projects the world is seeing nowadays are the outcome of the belief in the theory of change and the necessity to move forward to a better a direction.

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