Upon the invitation of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies and with the participation of 60 Syrian opposition figures, a conference titled “Citizenship and the Democratic, Civil State” was held near the Dead Sea shore. The conference called on the unity of the opposition over a program of common grounds on the nature of the political regime and the state- religion relationship, in addition to the minorities’ rights and disputes over the mechanisms, priorities and issues
Amman, April 22nd 2012:
Upon the invitation of the Al-Quds center for Political Studies, a conference titled “Citizenship and the Democratic and Civil State, towards a new constitution for Syria” was held near the Dead Sea shore. Sixty opposition figures representing the different Syrian political spectra took part in the conference, in addition to representatives from the social and religious components of Syria. Over two days, and throughout seven extensive sessions, the participants discussed major headlines, such as; what is the Syrian future regime, religion and the state, the rights of the individuals and groups, the questions of identity, citizenship and integration.
The final session was dedicated to discuss several proposals and recommendations and the future road map. It has also proposed several ideas and comments that tackled issues, such as: the means for a change in Syria, opportunities and challenges, in addition to the main features of the transitional period into democracy.
The conference witnessed profound and frank discussions in tackling major topics, such as the state and religion relationship and the status of minorities in the new Syrian regime, in addition to the regime that best suits Syria. The participants commended the idea of holding the conference that gathered, for the first time, representative of different spectra at the same table upon the invitation of the independent research institute. They asserted that similar meetings should be held in the future.
The participants, while highly valued the Syrian people strife and their enormous sacrifices, viewed the Syrian revolution as a rare historical chance to get rid of the dictatorship, corruption and tyranny. They also warned against the threats and hazards that engulf this very revolution as they called on fighting attempts to give the revolution a sectarian nature. They asserted that the revolution must maintain a peaceful and popular nature and that the attempts of the Syrian regime and some extreme groups to deviate the revolution from its track, and its core objectives, should be circumvented.
The participants called on the opposition from the different currents and trends to ascend to the level of the great sacrifices of the Syrian people and denounce disagreement to unite their efforts around the revolution’s bigger goals. Nonetheless, this should not eliminate the need for diversity and pluralism. They also asserted that the opposition’s discourse should be moderate and rational, in a manner that preserves the unity of Syria’s soil and people.
The participants agreed that the future Syria should have a civil and democratic state; a state of institutions and law; a state where equal citizenship preserves the rights of individuals and ethnic and religious groups. And while participants had a consensus that the future state should neither be religious or military, a thorough discussion over the nature of the proper political regime took place.
Several proposals favored a parliamentary regime over the presidential regime, in an attempt to avoid reproduction of dictatorships. The regime, according to the participants, is a one that is based on the principle of separation between the powers, a one that empowers political parties and civil society and enhances the role of women in the political regime.
An extensive discussion regarding the relationship between the civil and secular nature of the state took place. The representatives of leftist, national, secular and liberal currents asserted the need for secular state and separation of religion from politics, given the fact that the concept of the civil state is quite loose-a proposal that participants of Islamic groups’ affiliation did not accept as they asserted that “Islam is a religion of the state”. They highlighted the spiritual and cultural dimensions of Syria as the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, while asserting that Syria cannot be stripped off its Arab and Muslim identity. Other participants argued about concept of the neutral nature of the state, they have gone as far as to warn that the state’s identity should be neutral, and warned that setting forth that the religion of the state or the President may constitute discrimination against the other ingenious components of Syria.
On the issue of the relation between Islamic Shari’a and legislations, an extensive discussion about who wants Shari’a to be “a major source” for legislations, and who wants it to be a” source among other sources”, in addition to entrenched customs and the social contract took place. The participants agreed that the rights of different sects and components should be regulated by their religious references. Other participants urged for adopting a “civil law” that enables each group to administer their “civil status” as it wishes.
The participants agreed that the Kurds of Syria were treated unjustly by the current regime and that they should be given their rights. They asserted that there is no such as thing a “the Kurdish solution”, and that only a democratic solution that best guarantees the rights of all individuals is the solution.
Syrian Kurds participants asserted that whenever their rights and future are being called into question the opposition should not use loose expressions. Representatives of some Kurdish movements demanded that the name of Syria should be the Republic of Syria instead of the Arab Republic of Syria, a suggestion that was rejected by most of the participants as Arabs constitute the majority of the Syrian population.
As for the talk on the most convenient regime for Syria, participants rejected proposals for establishing a federal state as it threatens the unity of Syria, instead they demanded a state based on” decentralized government” as in many advanced democratic countries.
The participants agreed that the focus during this transitional period should be placed on commonalities and mutual aspects and discussion of controversial topics should be postponed. They demanded the different community’s components to avoid any exploitation of the “current moment” to press for any unacceptable demands and asserted the need to reinforce partnership in the revolution. They also called on avoiding betting over the disputes among the opposition and maneuvering in the “grey areas” between the authorities and the opposition, a thing that is considered as a costly “extortion” for the revolution.
And for the sake of comforting the different components of the Syrian people, the participants had a consensus on the need to send reassurances to these components and denounce the language of division and escalation to face the different interpretations or “Fatwas” that steer fears among those very components. They also warned against attempts to incite sectarian hate that will stir chaos in the country.
On the sidelines of the conference, 23 participants signed what they called “The Dead Sea Declaration”. The Declaration includes an invitation to unite the opposition and maximize its commonalities. It also pins hopes on the people and their force inside Syria as they are the national guardian of the revolution and asserted the need to maintain the peaceful nature of the activism. It also rejects the military interference and calls for controlling the arming of the opposition under a political reference. It warns at any unilateral settlement with the regime, voices support to Annan’s Plan and calls on the Arab League to resume the initiative to unite the opposition.
In the recommendations session, participants demanded organizing follow-up activities to tackle the issues of “reconciliation and selective justice”, “supporting parties to build national programs that fortify the unity of the Syrian people. They also recommended holding a national conference to tackle the Kurdish issue and minorities in Syria, in addition to other recommendations and proposals to support youth and women programs.
It is well to recall that the participants represent major Syrian opposition political forces and currents and they hold leadership positions in these forces, including: the National Syrian Council, the National Coordination Committee, Damascus Declaration, Building Syria Current, the Democratic Tribune, Muslim Brotherhood, The Kurdish Spring Revival Committees, the Assyrian Democratic Organization, the Syrian Secular Democratic Forces Coalition, the National Syrian Current, and the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party, among other independent activists and representatives of the coordination committees and civil societies.
Al-Qudus Center had organized a conference titled” Syria in a changing region” on 21st and 22nd of December 2011 with the participation of 30 Syrian opposition figures and representatives from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“The Dead Sea Declaration”
We, the undersigned, at the end of our meetings near the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, and of out or our deep belief and conviction, assert the need to unite the Syrian opposition forces for this unity shall impact the political street and its popular activism. We, and based on our deep belief in this movement as the custodian and guardian of the Syrian National Democratic project, and in order to preserve our country’s best interest and save the future of Syria, we commit to the following:
• Transform our opinions and stands into points of interaction and communication rather than points of disagreement or dispute.
• Never adopt or accept any solutions that distort or weaken the major dispute between the activism and the regime, while maintaining diverse and distinctive methods in the public work as long as they are not at odds with a national life based on commonalities and united goals.
• Develop diligently all political and intellectual common grounds based on the mutual aspects among the opposition spectra in order to reach at the one and only goal of the Civil Democratic State to be established after toppling the regime.
• Never work against the people inside Syria and their revolution as they are the custodian of the popular strife and they shall determine their destiny. And never consider foreign bodies but as an assistant factor and not allow for their military interference.
• Maintain the peaceful nature of the activism and its collective social nature and do our best to prevent the regime from continuing its assault and thwart its attempts to deviate the people’s strife from its course, which revolves on demanding freedom as a common principle for all Syrian people. We also commit to prevent the Syrian regime from transforming the popular strife into a sectarian or local fight.
• Control arming and making it subject to a unified political reference and never make politics subject to arms. By doing so, we eliminate any potential nightmare of civil war or foreign military interference.
• No party shall be allowed to have any unilateral settlement with the regime and the options of the opposition will remain unified and have one goal; namely, toppling the regime.
• The signatories of this declaration call on the Arab League to resume talks on the initiative to unite the different spectra of the Syrian opposition to reach at consensus over the document of commonalities to be used to elaborate common political stands on the process of transition to democracy. This process shall cover the issues of the concept of transition, stages, and mechanisms for effectuating it. This transition result in a national unity government that should include the entire effective political forces in the political arena. This process should dismantle the dictator regime and establish the substitute democratic regime, along all legal measures and executive forces.
The signatories renew their pledge to unite the Arab and international stand at the Syrian crisis through voicing their support to Annan’s Plan and the Arab Initiative to prevent the regime from manipulating the discrepancies residing in the Arab and international stands at the crisis, in addition to its attempts to benefit from the Arab disagreements to gain declared or undeclared support from some parties or countries to reach at a united international and Arab stand at the opposition. Therefore, creating a serious transition in the balance forces against the regime is a condition to undermine the Syrian regime.
In the end, we would like to express our deepest pride and honor in the martyrs of the Syrian revolution and those who were displaced inside and outside Syria. We vow to continue their strife to reach freedom, eradicate corruption and tyranny and empower Syrian people to achieve freedom and democracy.
The Dead Sea
April 18th and 19th 2012