Media Coverage

Narrating the story of Syria’s Little Gandhi January

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in main_page, Press | Comments Off on Narrating the story of Syria’s Little Gandhi January

Narrating the story of Syria’s Little Gandhi January

10 2016 11:41 PM


By Umer Nangiana


Source: Gulf Times


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All he wanted was peace. He fought violence with flowers and killing of fellow human beings was “impossible.” In return for his peaceful overtures, he was captured, detained, tortured and killed. But his sacrifice did not go completely in vain. It stirred reaction from his countrymen which went on to inspire people even beyond his country’s borders.


He was given the title of ‘Little Gandhi’. The Syrian embassy in Doha and Katara Cultural Village Foundation presented the well-known documentary film, Little Gandhi, by award winning Syrian director Sam Kadi at Katara Drama theater here on Saturday.

The documentary follows the life of peaceful Syrian activist Ghiyath Matar, who became internationally known as Little Gandhi for his initiative of facing security fire and violence with flowers and bottles of water.


Ghiyath was a key organizer in leading peaceful protests in his homeland Daraya, a district in the suburbs of Syria, against one of the most vicious regimes in the 21st century, inspiring people worldwide.


His brutal torture and death at the age of 26, merely a few months after his marriage with a baby on the way, outraged the international community and erupted one of the most violent uprising in modern history.


“Ghiyath was a model for the educated youth of Syria who preached the peaceful way of demanding and fighting for their rights and their dignity,” the members of the film’s production team told the audience in a post-screening discussion at the drama theater.


The film features a series of interviews with Ghiyath’s fellow activists who knew and grew up with him, besides depicting the harsh living standards in Syria. It shows how the villages and towns once bustling with life were now in ruins.


The film shows the atrocities committed against Syrian children and peaceful protesters who wanted nothing but their children to live freely in their country. Like them, Ghiyath fought for a better world for his unborn child, one he never met, because his life was taken too soon.


He was someone who fought bullets with flowers, an iconic figure who led the masses of Syrians into a direction of peace, while fighting for their basic human rights that they until now are desperately deprived of.


During each protest that he organized with other activists, Ghiyath laid water bottles for the troops to drink from, attached to the bottles, were flowers and sticky notes reading, “Why are you killing me?”


All throughout the barrel bombs, tear gas, bullets and chemical weapons, protesters continued to march the streets each Friday chanting that they will no longer accept the humiliation that has been brought upon them.


Ghiyath then paid the ultimate price for his bravery. He was captured and tortured to death at the hands of the Syrian government at the age of 26. His death spurred despair and international outrage.


“The film was made to build a better understanding of what the Syrian Revolution is all about and what it stands for. To unveil the truth about the real young educated Syrian heroes who initiated the movement in Syria way before the Arab Spring,” said the team.


The aim was to remind the world about the lives that were sacrificed in order to keep the Syrian movement a peaceful uprising, in spite of the unprecedented violence by the Syrian regime.


It was created with the sense to raise awareness and educate the world about the grave human rights situation in Syria, and it was produced via one of the Transitional Justice Programs sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS).


Little Gandhi, they added, is a source of inspiration and a heroic story that needs to be told and shared with the rest of the world.


The documentary has been directed by award winning director Sam Kadi. Kadi is the writer and director of critically acclaimed feature drama The Citizen. The Citizen was the recipient of five awards on the international film festival circuit, and was named among the “Best 10 Films of 2013” by


Kadi has been recognized by the prestigious Cinema for Peace for raising awareness of human rights issues through motion pictures, and was invited to speak about the same subject before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands in 2012.


In 2014, the SHOAH Foundation, founded by acclaimed director Steven Spielberg, chose Kadi as a “Spotlight Juror.”



Source: Gulf Times

Syria Feature: Opposition Appeals for British Help to Stop the Bombing

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in main_page, Press | Comments Off on Syria Feature: Opposition Appeals for British Help to Stop the Bombing

Syria Feature: Opposition Appeals for British Help to Stop the Bombing

Source: EA WorldView
By July 9, 2014 08:37

In two days of briefings, a delegation from Syria’s opposition abroad has pressed for greater official support from Britain to end regime atrocities and lead a transition away from President Assad’s rule.

Representatives of Syrian Expert House — a group of about 300 human rights activists, academics, politicians, legal experts and defected military officials — met in London with members of the House of Lords, representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Amnesty International, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and members of the Syrian diaspora. Syrian Expert House emphasized the urgency of international co-operation to halt the regime’s indiscriminate use of force against civilians.

Since the inception of the uprising in 2011, leaders of Syria’s political and armed opposition have criticized the failure of Britain’s officials to follow up rhetorical support with concrete measures to end Assad’s rule, with calls for the President to step down since August 2011 bringing little in the way of on-the-ground-assistance to insurgents. The defeat of Prime Minister David Cameron’s House of Commons motion on military intervention in August 2013 appeared to mark a decisive retreat from involvement in the conflict by British MPs, still irked by the spectre of the Iraq campaign.

However, opposition members say the UK still has a crucial role to play in ending violence and mitigating the fallout of the humanitarian crisis.

Radwan Ziadeh, director of the Washington-based Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, talks about the efforts to persuade British representatives to adopt a pro-active policy.

ZH: What proposals has your organisation put to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help end the regime’s attack on civilians?

RZ: We are proposing to find ways of stopping the use of barrel bombs and the Syrian air force. This is the only civil war in history where an air force has been used for almost three or four years. The number of civilian casualties now exceeds that of any other civil war –– for example in the Balkans or Latin America –– because of the use of the air force.

It is clear now that a No Fly Zone is off the table, but we talked about ways of assisting without violence –– for instance, by providing MANPADS (anti-aircraft missiles) for vetted groups within the armed opposition.

We are also linking this to what is happening in Iraq, because you cannot fight the Islamic State in Iraq and forget their presence in Syria.

This is the same discussion that we had in the House of Lords, which around fifteen members attended.

ZH: Recent events in Iraq clearly have major implications for Western policy in the region. How are these ISIS-related developments altering Britain’s approach to Syria?

RZ: Unfortunately what we see here, as in Washington, is too much focus on Iraq. They are not linking it directly to Syria. At the same time, it seems that the US and Britain feel to some extent guilty for what has happened in Iraq and therefore have a responsibility to do something. In Syria, they feel that they are not responsible and so do not need any involvement.

ZH: But isn’t it arguable that the West’s lack of involvement in Syria is partially responsible for what is now happening there?

RZ: Of course. Because if there had been earlier action, we would not have the kind of situation we are seeing now. As for example, in the UK papers we are now reading warnings from the former head of MI6 about terrorist risks from Britain’s approach to people going to fight in Syria. When we don’t take these proposals seriously, and on time, the actions we take later might only make things worse.

ZH: Are policy-makers in the UK drawing an explicit link between Syria and the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq?

RZ: The British are very clear about the connection between Syria and Iraq –– they have a much closer understanding of Syria than the US. But the problem is that the British are too reliant on the US, especially in these kinds of actions, which is why any measures have to be co-ordinated. The UK has an important role in trying to build the understanding of the international community about how ISIS might be the fourth or fifth wave of global jihad and how this could affect not just the Middle East, but the whole world.

At the same time, it is important to emphasise that you cannot fight ISIS while leaving Assad in place. ISIS has gained the ground force in Iraq because there is a political problem there, and the same applies in Syria.

ZH: So how Britain can help protect those areas in Syria that are not controlled by ISIS and provide assistance on the ground to liberated parts of the country?

RZ: We are advocating an approach called “Securing the Liberated Areas”, which means protecting them from both the Assad government and ISIS. It is very important that the Free Syrian Army is provided advanced weapons to be able to secure these areas. The US administration is now moving a proposal of this sort to the congress, and I think something similar is forthcoming in the House of Commons. So we will see how things move, but the situation on the ground is evolving and requires action very quickly.

ZH: And in your view, the UK is waiting for the US to take the lead in terms of providing this kind of material assistance?

RZ: Yes, of course.

ZH: What is the feeling among Syrians in Britain about the UK government’s approach to the conflict?

RZ: Not only Syrians in London, but all around the world, have been very disappointed about the lack of action to stop the everyday slaughter of civilians. This is especially the case among those who lived in the West who believe that their governments could do something, but simply don’t want to.

The issue of British people joining the armed conflict in Syria has become very sexy for the media and public attention always focuses on ISIS. We have called on all governments to make stronger controls on those who are going into Syria, because the majority of ISIS fighters there are non-Syrians. Many foreigners are joining the fight for money, but only a very small percentage of ISIS are Syrians.

The Western preoccupation with this subject totally changes the image of the uprising, which is one for dignity and human rights. The world is actually forgetting the heroes of that struggle.

ZH: In Washington we have recently seen moves to give greater official recognition to the Syrian political opposition in the form of the Syrian Coalition. Do you anticipate something similar from London?

RZ: There are increasing levels of recognition by the UK also, but this actually means nothing at the moment, because there is no legal recognition. It is a joke.

Syrians still have to rely on Assad government documents, and most aid is still being delivered through dealing with the regime. At the same time, the UK has only agreed to accept 500 refugees from the conflict, which is nothing. So unless there is a change in terms of providing more actual assistance to the Syrian people, I am not sure these official measures are of any use.



Zoe Holman is a UK-based, Australian freelance journalist, writer, and doctoral candidate working on projects related to international politics and the Middle East. She has lived in and reported from the Middle East, South-East Asia and Europe for outlets including The Guardian, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald, The Economist, VICE News and OpenDemocracy.


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The plan and the future of the democratic transition in Syria

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in main_page, Press | Comments Off on The plan and the future of the democratic transition in Syria

The plan and the future of the democratic transition in Syria

The Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) organized a symposium on “the plan and the future of the democratic transition in Syria” on Friday, May 23rd2014 in its Montplaisir office where Mr. Radwan Ziadeh, a visiting scholar at the John F. Kennedy School of Political Science, lectured about the current situation in Syria stating the different possibilities and scenarios for the future of the Syrian crisis.


Mr. Ziadeh underlined the relevance of the Tunisian example of democratic transition to post-chaos Syria. Although the Assad regime is still in power, the opposition forces across the Syrian borders do play an important role. He claimed that despite the fall of the central government, the absence of solid institutions gave raise to chaos. Mr. Radwan was in favor of establishing the Syrian House of Expertise which includes six teams working on different aspects of State re-building:


  • Constitutional Reform and law enforcement
  • Political and Administrative reform
  • Political Parties and electoral system reform
  • Security Service and National Army restructuring
  • Economic reform and reconstruction
  • Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation

He explained that the Syrian House of Expertise is an initiative launched by the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies to envision the transitional phase in post-revolution Syria. Nearly 300 Syrian experts, human rights activists, academics, judges, lawyers, political opponents, former government officials, and leaders from the local revolutionary councils, the armed opposition, and the Free Syrian Army will take part in this project to give their remarks and recommendations for the political, economic, social, military, and security future of Syria.


Mr. Radwan believes that the democratic transition process in Syria should be considered as an end in itself. He also spoke at length about the Syrian House of Expertise detailing the prerogative and the job description of each team. Concerning, the security services and military reform and the challenges encountering them to re-build the National Army, Mr. Radwan said that these forces committed numerous massacres against civilians. These forces were never effectively supervised or held accountable for their crimes against innocent civilians. Providing security to all citizens equally should be at the heart of the security service reform. This reform will guarantee the assertion of democratic principles by strengthening the relationship between the security forces and the Syrian people whileoperating these forces under the authority of an elected government.


As for the economic reform and reconstruction, the recommendations mentioned by Mr. Radwan were as follows:


The Syrian people should begin the establishment of a free market economy and strengthen its integration with the market of goods and services to correspond to global norms. The liberalization of the agricultural sector, the privatization of several property monopolized by the state,and the removal of subsidies on goods will promote economic empowerment and production growth.


In the same line of thought, a democratic transition in Syria must be based on a minimum of consensus and support at the domestic level (open discussion across the Syrian cities) and on the International level (Strategic talks with International leaders) as the international community plays a very important role in post-revolution Syria.

He also listed the various reasons for the shift of peaceful demonstrations in Syria into an armed conflict:

  • The first reason was the large number of peaceful protestors that were killed by Al-Assad forces in the absence of a security force to protect them
  • The second reason is the methods of torture Al-Assad regime committed against the protesters
  • The third reason is the success of the Libyan revolutionary forces who took up arms to defeat Al-Gaddafi regime


Mr. Radwan Ziadeh concluded his lecture by stating the threefold dimension of the conflict taking place in Syria

  • International conflict: U.S. – Russia
  • Regional conflict: Iran – Saudi Arabia
  • Sectarian conflict: Shiites – Sunni

En Syrie, « la transition est sanglante, mais elle est en cours »

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in main_page, Press | Comments Off on En Syrie, « la transition est sanglante, mais elle est en cours »

En Syrie, « la transition est sanglante, mais elle est en cours »

LE MONDE | • Mis à jour le | Propos recueillis par Cécile Hennion (Beyrouth, correspondante)


Radwan Ziadeh, directeur du Centre syrien d’études stratégiques et politiques à Washington, est membre d’une délégation de l’opposition syrienne en visite à Paris du 27 au 29 mars, pour présenter une « feuille de route pour la transition démocratique en Syrie ».

Trois cents personnalités syriennes chefs de l’armée syrienne libre, officiers déserteurs, chefs tribaux, avocats, juges, universitaires, chefs de conseils révolutionnaires locaux ont été consultées pour la rédaction de ce document. Une délégation d’experts s’est déjà rendue à Idlib en décembre 2013 pour présenter cette « feuille de route ». D’autres devraient bientôt aller à Alep, Deir Ez-Zohr, Hama et d’autres villes syriennes situées en « zones libérées ».

Vu le contexte actuel en Syrie, n’est-il pas trop tôt – ou trop tard pour parler de transition ?

Radwan Ziadeh : Mieux vaut tard que jamais. Prenez l’exemple de l’Egypte. Les Egyptiens n’avaient pas de plan de transition, résultat : ils ont rédigé trois constitutions en trois ans !

Quant à ceux qui disent qu’il est trop tôt, nous ne sommes pas d’accord. La transition ne commence pas après la chute de Bachar Al-Assad. La Syrie est déjà entrée dans une phase de transition. De fait, entre 50 % et 60 % du  territoire syrien se situent hors du contrôle du gouvernement Assad. Bien sûr, ces territoires restent des cibles faciles et subissent de nombreux bombardements aériens qui y rendent la vie impossible. Du moins, les points de passage de la frontière entre la Syrie et la Turquie ne sont-ils plus contrôlés par le gouvernement Assad.

Lire nos explications Syrie : trois ans de guerre, aucune perspective de règlement

En 2012, il semblait que la victoire était à portée de main pour l’Armée syrienne libre. Depuis, la situation s’est considérablement dégradée. Que s’est-il passé ? Quels ont été les principaux échecs de l’opposition ?

L’opposition a commis de nombreuses erreurs, mais il faut modérer ce constat en notant qu’elle doit faire face à une crise qui outrepasse ses capacités. Le secrétaire général des Nations unies s’est récemment dit « alarmé » par la situation humanitaire en Syrie, en notant que « les fonds manquaient cruellement ». Si l’ONU ne peut faire face à une telle crise humanitaire, comment l’opposition – privée de ressources financières – pourrait-elle gérer la crise humanitaire, la crise militaire etc. ?

Il y a une autre raison. Lors du sommet de Tunis en 2012, il s’était formé une coalition des « Amis de la Syrie », plus de cent pays soutenant l’opposition syrienne. Or cette coalition, en laquelle nous avions placé notre confiance, s’est révélée inutile. Tous les pays qui la composent n’ont pas réussi à contrebalancer le seul soutien [militaire] de l’Iran au gouvernement de Bachar Al-Assad.

C’est ainsi que le régime a repris les villes stratégiques de Qoussair et de Yabroud [près de la frontière avec le Liban]. Sans aucune concession ou considération légale, politique, humanitaire, Assad s’est contenté de les bombarder 24 heures sur 24. Il est impossible de faire face à un déluge de feu pareil !

Nous avons besoin d’aide pour que cette guerre entre le régime syrien et l’opposition soit au minimum équilibrée et, pour cela, il faut mettre un terme à cet usage intensif des bombardements aériens. Durant les sept jours qu’a duré la conférence de « Genève 2 », 186 barils d’explosifs ont été déversés sur la seule ville d’Alep. En une seule journée, les responsables turcs ont indiqué que 80 000 réfugiés syriens avaient traversé leur frontière.

Ce que les « Amis de la Syrie » et la France doivent comprendre c’est que stopper la puissance aérienne syrienne entre bien dans le cadre d’une assistance humanitaire, car ces bombardements frappent sans distinction les civils.

L’opposition a été incapable de se rallier l’armée du régime. Pourquoi n’y a-t-il pas eu de défections massives ?

Il n’y a plus rien qui s’apparente aujourd’hui à une armée nationale syrienne. Il y a certes l’armée de l’air, où plus de 90% des pilotes sont alaouites et d’une grande loyauté à Bachar Al-Assad. Pour le reste, il subsiste la Garde républicaine, la défense nationale et des milices paramilitaires établies sur des bases confessionnelles qui combattent avec le régime. Cet état des troupes explique l’usage intensif des bombardements aériens et le recours au Hezbollah [libanais], qui forme des groupes entraînés et équipés, qui croient idéologiquement en leur lutte et qui sont beaucoup plus efficaces que les soldats d’Assad, prêts à déguerpir s’ils croisent l’Armée syrienne libre.

Côté opposition, l’un de nos échecs a été notre incapacité à mettre en place un commandement central militaire. Or c’est une structure vitale pour l’avenir car c’est celle-ci qui devra rétablir l’ordre et la justice dans les zones libérées. Il y a plusieurs raisons à cet échec. Parmi celles-ci, le fait que la France, la Grande Bretagne et les Etats-Unis aient décidé de reculer et de se montrer tellement prudents sur leur soutien militaire à l’opposition. Ils ont finalement laissé les pays du Golfe intervenir. Or les visions conflictuelles du Qatar et de l’Arabie saoudite se sont répercutées sur le terrain.

La chute de Bachar Al-Assad reste-t-elle selon vous un scénario possible ?

La question n’est plus de savoir s’il chutera militairement ou grâce à des négociations. Il est désormais certain que le régime de Bachar Assad n’est plus et ne sera jamais plus ce qu’il était avant mars 2011 [lorsqu’a éclaté la révolution]. Il n’est plus en mesure de reprendre le contrôle de l’ensemble territoire car il ne dispose plus des ressources humaines nécessaires. C’est pourquoi il dépend un peu plus chaque jour des troupes du Hezbollah. Or le Hezbollah ne peut pas se substituer à l’armée nationale syrienne, ses effectifs sont eux-mêmes limités.

La Syrie se dirige vers deux scénarios possibles : soit le chaos total, qui est malheureusement le scénario le plus probable. Soit une reprise par Assad des zones libérées, ce qui est presque impossible. La transition est pour l’instant sanglante, personne ne peut dire quand ni comment elle se terminera, mais elle est déjà en cours.

SYRIE. “Il est urgent de discuter de la transition démocratique”

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in main_page, Press | Comments Off on SYRIE. “Il est urgent de discuter de la transition démocratique”

SYRIE. “Il est urgent de discuter de la transition démocratique”

Le Nouvel Observateur

Publié le 28-03-2014 à 17h13 |

Pour Radwan Ziadeh, chargé de la Justice transitionnelle au sein du gouvernement de l’opposition, “seule la victoire militaire amènera la paix”. Interview.

Le Dr Radwan Ziadeh est chargé, dans le gouvernement provisoire syrien, du dossier de la Justice transitionnelle. Originaire de Daraya, ce chercheur en Sciences sociales et militant syrien pour la défense des droits de l’Homme de longue date, est directeur du Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS) à Washington (DC). Il était de passage à Paris pour présenter au Quai d’Orsay la feuille de route pour le changement démocratique en Syrie, document qui résume la vision de l’opposition syrienne sur la transition politique dans le pays. Interview.

Vous êtes à Paris pour présenter aux autorités françaises la feuille de route pour le changement démocratique en Syrie. Que dit ce texte ? Quelle est son importance ?

– Cette plateforme est issue du travail collectif de 300 leaders syriens, de leaders, également, de l’Armée libre syrienne, d’activistes de la société civile. On accuse parfois l’opposition syrienne de n’avoir pas de vision commune pour le futur de notre pays. C’est évidemment faux. Il s’agit ici de la vision d’une opposition unifiée. Nous devons aller étape par étape jusqu’à l’écriture de la loi constitutionnelle, de la loi électorale, et la constitution de partis politiques. C’est la base de ce pour quoi nous nous battons : la démocratie, des droits en plus et le progrès économique. C’est ce qui ressort de cette feuille de route.

Plusieurs personnalités de la feuille de route pour une transition ont accepté de faire partie de la délégation à Genève. Mais il n’y a eu là aucune négociation, seulement des cris de la délégation d’Assad contre l’opposition. Nous constatons que seule la victoire militaire amènera la paix. Mais pour que l’issue soit positive, il nous faut réfléchir dès maintenant au futur que nous souhaitons pour les Syriens.

Il est urgent de discuter de la transition. Nous n’avons pas de procédure politique en Syrie malheureusement, mais seulement le régime d’Assad et sa machine de mort. Et le faire tomber est très difficile. Tout le monde croit dans un avenir démocratique avec davantage de droits. C’est ce que nous défendons au travers de notre démarche.

Comment vous situez-vous par rapport à la Coalition nationale syrienne ?

– Nous avons commencé ce travail avant que la Coalition ne voit le jour. Aujourd’hui, la Coalition nationale syrienne participe à notre direction. Et lorsque nous avons présenté cette feuille de route pour la première fois, la Coalition l’a endossée puis l’a adoptée lors d’une réunion de l’Assemblée. Nous avons un accord avec le gouvernement provisoire afin qu’il mette en oeuvre ce projet.

Vous avez bien sûr besoin de ressources financières pour mener à bien votre projet. D’où proviennent vos fonds ?

– La plus grande partie de notre support financier vient de l’Union européenne. Nous avons aussi une aide juridique de la part de l’institution, aide précieuse pour la rédaction de la feuille de route. Nous bénéficions aussi du soutien non négligeable de l’organisation canadienne IDRC, mais aussi d’hommes d’affaires syriens qui croient dans nos valeurs et essayent de convaincre d’autres personnalités arabes de participer également.

Penser à construire une Syrie démocratique à l’issue de cette guerre est évidemment important mais le plus urgent n’est-il pas d’arrêter les massacres ?

– Le plus urgent est évidemment de stopper la machine à tuer d’Assad mais il est aussi très important d’avoir un processus politique pour une transition démocratique. C’est pour cela que nous travaillons avec les Occidentaux en vue de sanctions par exemple, ou que nous avons même essayé de négocier. Mais la seule voie qu’Assad connaît, c’est la voie des armes et les gouvernements occidentaux devraient le comprendre. Ils ont eu l’opportunité, après l’utilisation par le régime d’armes chimiques, d’employer la manière forte. Des pays comme la France et les Etats-Unis ont menacé contre le régime. Malheureusement, cette fenêtre de tir s’est refermée avec l’accord négocié par Assad pour la destruction de ses armes chimiques, sous supervision américano-russe.

Mais les massacres ont continué, preuve que les Occidentaux doivent comprendre que la force est le seul langage qu’Assad comprenne.

Comment faire plier Bachar al-Assad, selon vous ?

– 70% des victimes sont tuées par l’aviation. Réduire à zéro l’aviation d’Assad est la seule voie pour arrêter les massacres. Pendant les sept jours de négociation de Genève, l’aviation d’Assad a jeté 186 barils de TNT sur Alep, rendant la vie sur place tout bonnement impossible. Le nombre de réfugiés arrivant à la frontière turque a explosé, venant d’Alep, en raison de cet usage indiscriminé de la violence contre les populations civiles. Nous avons besoin d’aide pour l’établissement d’une zone d’exclusion aérienne, nous avons besoin de missiles antiaérien…

Nous devons bien sûr penser à notre futur politique mais aussi humanitaire. Instaurer une no-fly-zone ou nous fournir des armes n’est pas une question militaire mais surtout une question humanitaire. Quand des organisations humanitaires me demandent ce qu’elles peuvent faire de plus pour nous aujourd’hui, je leur demande des armes anti-aériennes. C’est la meilleure façon de mettre un terme à cette tragédie.

La présence de groupes liés de près ou de loin à al-Qaïda parmi les combattants a rendu la livraison d’armes plus délicate pour les Occidentaux. Des groupes que rejoignent aussi des ressortissants de nos pays pour combattre sur place…

– Les Français et les Britanniques ont fait lever l’embargo européen sur les armes à destination de la Syrie, rien ne s’oppose donc au fait qu’ils puissent nous aider par ce biais. Mais pourtant cette aide ne s’est toujours pas matérialisée.

Quant à l’Etat islamique en Irak et au Levant dont vous parlez, nous les combattons aussi. Nous avons aujourd’hui deux fronts en Syrie : contre le régime et contre l’EIIL.

Enfin, sachez que si nous avons besoin d’argent, d’aide humanitaire, militaire, nous ne manquons pas de combattants. Nous n’avons pas besoin que de jeunes étrangers viennent mourir en Syrie. D’autant que ces jeunes rejoignent les rangs d’al-Qaïda et deviennent un danger. Je sais que, pour la France, la Belgique et d’autres encore, ces départs sont un vrai problème.

Propos recueillis Céline Lussato, jeudi 27 mars – Le Nouvel Observateur

48H of Syria – Lund University

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in main_page, Press | Comments Off on 48H of Syria – Lund University

48H of Syria – Lund University

48H of Syria is an event organized by Lund University and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The program folder can be downloaded here. (PDF)

The event takes place in Lund during a time span of 48 hours, from 5-7 December. Events include lectures, seminars, theater workshops, concerts and poetry readings. 48H of Syria is a non-political event with the aim of spreading knowledge about the current situation in Syria. Please note that some events are in Swedish only.

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Syrian Transition Roadmap Must Include Sustainable Assistance to War Victims

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Press | Comments Off on Syrian Transition Roadmap Must Include Sustainable Assistance to War Victims

Syrian Transition Roadmap Must Include Sustainable Assistance to War Victims

Washington DC—Center for Civilians in Conflict welcomes the “Syrian Transition Roadmap” released today by Syrian civil society. This document presents plans for constitutional, judicial, political, and security sector reforms, as well as transitional justice goals, including compensation to victims. The Center commends the recommendation for compensation to victims and urges that the roadmap also include plans to help war victims rebuild their lives for the long-term.

“Recognizing and easing the suffering of civilians should be a key priority in any plans for Syria’s future,” said Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Legal and Amends Advisor at Center for Civilians in Conflict. “Syria will only be as strong as its people are—and they need help to rebuild their lives in the short and long term. Transition plans that include financial and livelihood assistance and job training to those who have experienced losses can help build a stronger Syria.”

Over 100,000 Syrians have been killed since the peaceful protests against the rule of Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Over 4.25 million Syrians are internally displaced and over 1.6 million are refugees in neighboring countries. Many survivors are disabled from injuries sustained from rockets, mortars, artillery, and cluster bombs. Others have survived torture and sexual violence and coping with the physical and psychological trauma of the harm. Families are struggling to survive with the loss of breadwinners and without homes.

The Center interviewed Syrians in 2012 and 2013 from all backgrounds who described the harm they suffered and the types of assistance they need to help them rebuild their lives in Syria. Syrians wanted job training, compensation to cope with their losses, and to reconstruct their homes. Syrians will also need assistance for the physical and psychological harm they have suffered.

“Civilians in Syria know the tools they need to rebuild their lives. Listening to what they want is an important first step: any roadmap for the future must acknowledge civilian suffering and recognize their losses,” said Muhammedally.

Center for Civilians in Conflict recommends the following to the Syrian opposition and the international community:

  • Planning and funding to help war victims post-conflict must begin now. A comprehensive Victims Assistance Program for Syria needs to be created to help Syrians affected by the conflict rebuild their lives. All Syrian conflict victims should be recognized and their needs and wants for assistance post harm should be reflected in the assistance. Beneficiaries of the assistance program should include those suffering personal losses due to the conflict.
  • The victim assistance program should include assistance for: medical and psychosocial services, rebuilding of homes destroyed during the conflict, job or vocational training for a sustainable livelihood—including to widows and the disabled—material or financial assistance to restart businesses and farming, and educational scholarships for orphan children or who have lost breadwinners in their families.
  • Given the scale of devastation and losses, financial assistance should be provided to the next of kin of the dead, disappeared, internally displaced and returning refugees to get them started on rebuilding their lives with dignity.
  • Long-term assistance for those who were injured and became disabled during the conflict warrants special attention. Assistance should include prosthetics for amputees and job training for the disabled.
  • A separate community infrastructure program should focus on rebuilding schools, hospitals, and roads.
  • A comprehensive plan for removing unexploded ordnance from fields, villages, and cities should also be part of the transition roadmap and should include capacity for training Syrians to de-mine and safely dispose of munitions.


Voices from Syria: What Civilians Want

Ilyad, a 30-year-old painter from Aleppo was in front of his house when mortar shelling landed near him in April 2013. The shrapnel hit his face, requiring surgery. “Look at me,” he told the Center. “There are thousands of us who will be forever maimed. We will be a constant reminder of the horrors of this war. But I have been given a chance to live and if the fighting stops I want my life back. It will never be the same, but I want to work and help my community.”

Disabled Syrians and widows told the Center they needed job training. Ahmed, whose leg was amputated because of shrapnel injuries, told the Center, “I don’t want to rely on government support forever in a new Syria. Show me what kind of work I can do with only one leg and I will do it.”

Recent widows wanted skills training programs to help them provide for their families. Ayesha told the Center, “Its hard for me to imagine the future. I have lost so much—my husband, my house, my son, but I have two daughters who need to be cared for. In a new Syria I want to learn a trade so I can earn an income to help my family with dignity.”

Some Syrians wanted financial assistance for the losses they have suffered. Fatima lost her leg when a rocket hit her house in Idlib governorate in December 2012. “I will never forget that day. It was 10:00 a.m., I heard jet fighters in the sky. I rushed to get my 1-year-old son and was holding him when the roof started crumbling. A rocket had hit my house. I fainted. A rescue worker pulled my son and me out. My son has lost his hearing. My house is gone, I can no longer use my leg, but we survived. It was a miracle.” When asked what kind of assistance she wanted she replied, “We have suffered a lot. If can get some compensation for our losses so we have a home and get a chance to live with dignity then it will help us.”

Farmers from Aleppo and Idlib governorates told the Center they needed fields cleared of unexploded ordnance and financial assistance to start harvesting. “We are farmers but had to leave our village because of the fighting. I want to return my family home and land, but don’t know whether I can harvest crops if bombs are in the field,” said Abbas.  Another farmer said, “I grow olives, but I have lost everything: my house, my farm, my savings and [I am] now living in a tent. If a new government comes then they need to help us reclaim our lands and assist us so we can start farming and earning for our families again.”

Syrians will also need assistance from physical and psychological harm both short and long-term medical care. Arwa told the Center how her daughter Misran, 12, developed speech problems after her father was killed in 2012. Misran was also shot by sniper firing in March 2013 and is paralyzed from the waist below. Mohammad, a Syrian doctor, told the Center, “The physical and psychological scars of this war will haunt Syrians for decades. A lot of help will be needed to mend the limbs, provide rehabilitation, and psychological counseling so that Syria can be a functional society again.”


Center for Civilians in Conflict

Syrian opposition proposes transition roadmap for post-Assad government

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Press | Comments Off on Syrian opposition proposes transition roadmap for post-Assad government

Syrian opposition proposes transition roadmap for post-Assad government

Syrian opposition activists, including National Coalition members, have drawn up a roadmap to achieve national reconciliation and justice for “all of Syria’s victims,” a statement said Tuesday. The roadmap is to be presented in full on Wednesday, in the presence of National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba, but has not been officially endorsed by the key opposition group.

“National reconciliation will be achieved through a long transitional justice process in which justice is assured for all of Syria’s victims,” said the statement outlining the roadmap.

It comes amid reports of abuses carried out by both regime forces and rebel fighters in Syria’s conflict.

While the country’s uprising began with peaceful anti-government demonstrations in March 2011, it has turned in a bloody war that has left more than 100,000 people dead.

The rebels have been accused of participating in various abuses, including summary executions and torture.

Forces fighting for Assad’s regime, including the army and militia groups, have been accused of similar abuses, as well as sectarian massacres.

The proposals also call for disarming and restructuring Syrian security forces to uproot “corrupt officials”.

“All armed groups will be disarmed, demobilised and reintegrated into Syrian society.”

The roadmap also lays out plans for the country’s political system after the fall of the Syrian regime, calling for a “hybrid presidential/parliamentary system.”

It proposes using the country’s 1950 constitution as the basis for a new charter, with an elected constitutional assembly mandated to decide on modifications.

Syria’s constitution privileges the legislature over the executive and states that the head of state must be a Muslim.

The group behind the proposal, Syrian Expert House, includes some 300 activists, lawyers and members of the opposition National Coalition and Syrian National Council.

Defected government officials and rebel commanders also participated in the drafting process, the group said.

The document is being released as fighting continues on the ground in Syria, with fierce battles in eastern Deir Ezzor and coastal Latakia, the home province of President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite advances, particularly in the country’s north, Syria’s rebels have not shown signs of being able to quickly win additional territory in the country.

Meanwhile international efforts to convene a conference to find a political solution to the conflict have stalled.

Voice of Russia, Daily Star

Syria activists propose transition roadmap

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Press | Comments Off on Syria activists propose transition roadmap

Syria activists propose transition roadmap

Opposition activists in Syria have laid out a roadmap for the country’s future, proposing the restructure and disarming of security forces.



Syrian opposition activists, including National Coalition members, have drawn up a roadmap to achieve national reconciliation and justice for “all of Syria’s victims”.

The roadmap is to be presented in full on Wednesday, in the presence of National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba, but has not been officially endorsed by the key opposition group.

“National reconciliation will be achieved through a long transitional justice process in which justice is assured for all of Syria’s victims,” said the statement on Tuesday, outlining the roadmap.

It comes amid reports of abuses carried out by both regime forces and rebel fighters in Syria’s conflict.

While the country’s uprising began with peaceful anti-government demonstrations in March 2011, it has turned in a bloody war that has left more than 100,000 people dead.

The proposals also call for disarming and restructuring Syrian security forces to uproot “corrupt officials”.

“All armed groups will be disarmed, demobilised and reintegrated into Syrian society.”

The roadmap also lays out plans for the country’s political system after the fall of the Syrian regime, calling for a “hybrid presidential/parliamentary system”.

It proposes using the country’s 1950 constitution as the basis for a new charter, with an elected constitutional assembly mandated to decide on modifications.

Syria’s constitution privileges the legislature over the executive, and states that the head of state must be a Muslim.

The group behind the proposal, Syrian Expert House, includes 300 activists, lawyers and members of the opposition National Coalition and Syrian National Council.

Defected government officials and rebel commanders also participated in the drafting process, the group said.

SBS News

Syrian Center’s Ziadeh: US abandoned Syria

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Press | Comments Off on Syrian Center’s Ziadeh: US abandoned Syria

Syrian Center’s Ziadeh: US abandoned Syria
As the death toll in Syria climbs and the Syrian conflict is causing one of the world’s worst refugee crises, this week’s guest for Monday Talk has said that the Syrian people are disappointed with the US policy on the matter.

“The Syrian people have been calling for air strikes, a no-fly zone, a safety zone and arming the Free Syria Army with advanced weapons. And the Syrian people have been getting none of that. This is why United Nations officials have recently said that the Syrian crisis is the worst since Rwanda,” said Radwan Ziadeh, executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS), based in Washington, D.C., and director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS) in Syria.

UN officials recently said that at least 92,901 people have been killed in Syria — among them more than 6,500 children — between March 2011 and the end of April 2013; and an average of 6,000 people flee Syria every day in 2013. UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said refugee numbers had not risen “at such a frightening rate” since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Observers say that with the involvement of Iran and Hezbollah, the balance of power on the battlefield is in Assad’s favor, giving him less incentive to negotiate, and the West has had no strategy to end the conflict soon.

Answering our questions, Ziadeh elaborated on the issue.

Last year around this time, the talk among Syria observers was how President Bashar al-Assad will come down, rather than when, because the expectation was that his leadership would end soon. Could you talk about the current situation of Bashar al-Assad and why his fall has not happened as expected?

What we have in Syria is a stalemate. The Assad regime was on the defensive at first, and now it has moved on the offensive, especially after the strategic battle of al-Qusayr. Before the battle of al-Qusayr, the Free Syrian Army had the initiative, but after that the regime forces gained some territories that were under the control of the opposition.

The Syrian Army and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah launched the offensive (April 4, 2013) with the aim to capture all the villages around the rebel-held town of al-Qusayr. The town is important because of its location next to Lebanon, and it allows for the control of the border with Lebanon and the Lebanese village of al-Qasr.

In the last year-and-a-half, the Assad regime has lacked the human resources to fight, and he could not control the liberated areas in the north of Syria. And now Hezbollah is filling the gap. The Assad regime has regional backing from Hezbollah and Iran, and he has the backing of Russia, which is providing the Assad regime not only simple weapons but also rockets and missiles. This is how the Assad regime can survive after two-and-a-half years.

In our Monday Talk interview in May of this year, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi said that the Iranian government’s support for the Assad regime keeps it alive and that the war would end if Tehran stopped supporting him. What do you think of this idea?

There are a lot of Iranian people who do not support the Assad regime. But look at the Iranian media; they repeat the propaganda of the Assad regime and ignore massacres Assad commits against his people; they try to brainwash the Iranian people. We support Shirin Ebadi’s and Iranian activists’ position. We hope that the new Iranian president understands that the long-term relationship between Iran and Syria will be protected by the Syrian people, not the Assad regime.

‘Free Syria Army needs advanced weapons’

What would you say about the support for the opposition by the coalition, Friends of Syria?

They don’t really support the opposition with the means. They have meetings after meetings after meetings. … The Syrian people have been calling for air strikes, a no-fly zone, a safety zone, arming the Free Syria Army with advanced weapons. And the Syrian people have been getting none of that. This is why United Nations officials have recently said that the Syrian crisis is the worst since Rwanda. This is the result of the failure of the international community to respond. We know that Assad is a crazy guy who can kill all the Syrians and destroy all the infrastructure in Syria just to stay in power.

What is the situation with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC)? Why isn’t it able to unify the opposition?

The division in the international community is reflected within the opposition. There are two camps within the opposition; the first camp holds the idea that there is no end to the Syrian crisis without international intervention with the implementation of a no-fly zone and a safety zone. But nothing happens there, and this makes the argument weak. Then the other camp supports trying negotiations, but Assad is not interested in negotiations. There are of course ideological differences among the opposition, which is normal.

There have been new elections in regards to the coalition [National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces]. Would you tell us about the results and whether or not the new leadership will be able to present a united front for Syria’s opposition?

At the beginning of July, the coalition conducted elections and had Ahmad Jarba as its president. [The president’s post had been empty since April, when the former president of the coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, resigned, citing frustration over what he called a lack of international support; the coalition has a council of about 63 members including 22 members from the SNC]. The new leadership has huge challenges ahead. There has been, unfortunately, an internal fight in the coalition, whereas the focus should be on the decisions that need to be taken. The Syrian people expect more from the opposition; they need strong leadership.

‘President Obama needs to make a decision’

You’ve been in Washington since 2007, and you’ve been observing what’s going on in the capitol with respect to the Syria policy. What would you share with us about what’s happening in Washington in relation to Syria?

There are not enough words to tell how we feel about the US policy toward Syria. The US abandoned Syria and left the Syrians to be killed by the thousands by a mafia regime, the Assad regime. Washington is doing nothing. It’s a shame on the Obama administration when the situation is like the one in Darfur and Rwanda. This administration is domestically oriented and is not looking at things from an international perspective.

The international community needs leadership from the United States because neither Arab nations nor Turkey can interfere themselves; they need an international coalition to come against the Assad regime. The US administration has missed opportunities to take action in the last two years, and now the administration thinks that it is too late to intervene.

We are stricken by the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry is involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue knowing that there will be no results — as many secretaries tried before and failed — and doing nothing in regards to Syria. He is doing nothing to convince the Obama administration to end the Assad regime.

There has been a new appointee to the UN as the US ambassador, Samantha Powers, who is known to be the person who convinced President Obama to go to war in Libya. With that appointment, do you expect anything to change in President Obama’s view of Syria in regards to a war against the Assad regime?

Yes, she convinced Obama to take action in Libya — now look at Libya and look at Syria. If the international community did not take action in Libya, they could still be fighting, and the war in Libya could be unmanageable. The decision-maker in regards to the issue is the president himself. There are newspaper reports that in Obama’s first term Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the director of the CIA and the secretary of defense recommended Obama arm the Syrian opposition but Obama rejected it. Right now, the US administration is helping the Syrian opposition with arms, but these are only light weapons that would not make much difference.

What is your expectation from Turkey at this point?

We appreciate Turkey’s logistical support for our meetings. We also appreciate what Turkey [which hosts close to half a million Syrian refugees] is doing for the Syrian refugees. And the number has been increasing. It’s important that Turkey does not close the doors and endures problems. There have been attacks inside the Turkish border, which have huge implications in Turkey’s domestic affairs. Turkey has chosen to be on the side of the Syrian people and work with the UN and the United States. Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has a close personal relationship with President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan should use it to put some pressure on Obama to take action because we cannot wait any more, as more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed.

‘We’ll announce Syrian Transitional Roadmap in İstanbul in August’

You’ve been working on a project on how to move towards a transitional government in Syria. Would you explain what exactly the report you are working on suggests?

It’s been a year of hard work; we had our first meeting in İstanbul in September of last year to manage the transition in Syria. The Syrian Center spearheaded the effort with the participation of 200 opposition activists and revolutionary councils, and we established a Syrian experts workhouse with five working groups: political and administrative reform, electoral system and political parties, constitutional reform and rule of law, economic reform and transitional justice. We have come up with conclusions agreed upon by the opposition groups, including the Syrian National Coalition. For example, we suggested a parliamentary system like in Turkey for Syria. Look at what happened in Egypt; two or three years after the revolution, they are back to square one. We are trying to avoid that with a transitional government, and our work is called the Syrian Transitional Roadmap. We will announce it on Aug. 14 in İstanbul.

What steps do you suggest for this transition?

After the fall of Assad, we will need a transitional government, and we suggest that it should last for a year-and-a-half. During that time the transitional government would be able to manage an election through a constitutional assembly that will be the legislative body. And those who have blood on their hands and committed war crimes should be held accountable and be brought to justice. Other Syrian officials can be part of the transition. Our plan of transition will be presented internationally in important capitals.

Apparently, Bashar al-Assad will not accept such a transitional plan, will he?

That’s why we want the international community to forcibly take Assad down through military action. We’ve tried sanctions, negotiations and none of this has worked.

‘Lessons from Egypt: importance of consensus among opposition’

Would you elaborate on the lessons learned for Syria from the Egyptian case?

The Syrian transition would be different from the one in Egypt. The Syrian army collapsed — it is not as strong as the one in Egypt. The important lesson that we should have learned is the importance of consensus among all the opposition groups during a transition and about the need for clear steps as to where to go after Assad’s fall. If there is no plan and more importantly if there is no consensus on a plan, then we would go back to square one like Egypt did. There is a need to build consensus among Syrians first.

What do you suggest in the center’s plan for the transitional government period in Syria in regards to how to solve and avoid sectarian conflict in the country?

This will be done through transitional justice and reconciliation. Without reconciliation, Syrian society will break down. The sectarian issue is the most challenging issue for Syria’s future because the Assad regime has invested in the civil war through arming Alawites against Sunnis. This will have huge implications for the future if we cannot manage it well.

‘Assad dreams of regaining control’

Before we started recording our interview, you mentioned a ministry called the National Reconciliation Ministry established by the Assad regime. What does that ministry do?

No one buys it because no government can call for reconciliation and at the same time continue killing its own people with long-range missiles. This ministry, along with some of the local opposition members, was trying to soften the sectarian language between two villages, an Alawite village and a Sunni village. In Homs, there is a Sunni majority, but there are also Alawites who are still loyal to the Assad regime, so there is a sectarian war among some villages. But the members of the reconciliation committee were trapped and killed by militia close to the government. This also shows that Assad has no interest in national reconciliation.

In one of your recent articles you indicated that Assad is no longer the president of Syria but the governor of Damascus. Would you explain what you mean by that?

When we look at the map, we see that Assad’s army is holding less than 30-40 percent of the country. Even in Damascus, Assad cannot leave his palace. But, of course, he still has the state’s resources, including rockets and chemical weapons. Assad still believes that he will regain control of the areas he lost, but this is only a dream.


Radwan Ziadeh is both the executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS), based in Washington, D.C., and director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS) in Syria. A visiting scholar at Lehigh University, he is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in Washington, D.C., and managing editor of the Transitional Justice in the Arab World project.

Ziadeh formerly headed the Foreign Relations Office of the Syrian National Council, which is influential in the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (referred to generally as the Syrian Coalition or Coalition) and was founded in Doha in November 2012.

He left Syria in October 2007 to be a senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., where he wrote “Power and Policy in Syria: Intelligence Services, Foreign Relations and Democracy in the Modern Middle East.” His earlier book “Human Rights March in Syria,” written in 1999, was published in Beirut and forbidden in Syria.

 Today’s Zaman