Eleven years have passed since the Syrian revolution started in March 2011 with the demonstrations in the city of Deraa. Eleven painful years, in which we lost hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, while hundreds of thousands more were arrested, raped, tortured and deprived of seeing their loved ones.
Yet, those years were not in vain. Nor did they pass in vain. In those years, and from those years, we learnt the lessons of freedom, broke the barrier of fear, made the tyrant and his aides lose the fake auras with which they surrounded themselves, and exposed the horrific corruption that ruled the country.
In those years, we established our first transparent local councils to carry out the tasks of the state and fought many honorable political and military battles. We formed our opposition and negotiating bodies, engaged in successful international talks, and kept Syria on the agendas of most friendly and brotherly governments.
“Caesar” brought us to the United Nations, we mobilized Western media and parliaments, and we established our own alternative media parallel to the media of the system. Leaders emerged from our ranks, both men and women, in politics, civil society, journalism, art and literature.
Is our performance bad? Yes. Often. We armed ourselves, even though we knew that weapons would make us lose the political battle with the regime. We allowed the regime to drag us to places where it was stronger. We went for revenge instead of justice. We divided into factions and sects, and we failed to unite around one leadership.
We fought where fighting was not a duty. We competed when competition was not in our interest. We closed our eyes to grave mistakes, as we put the cart before the horse, the goal before the means, putting our trust in parties and people who were not up for the task. We killed Abu Furat and appointed Abu Amsha, and subjected our decisions to the will of Ankara, Moscow, Riyadh and others.
And here we are today, trying as much as we can to correct some of those mistakes, trying to put the cart back on track, and give it a first push in the right direction. Yet, in order to successfully do this, we must agree on the following principles, and stand behind them with strength and transparency, and without confusion or shame …
The Syria we want to build is a democratic, united and sovereign Syria, based on the rotation of power, equal citizenship, the rule of law and the right of everyone to freedom of expression, assembly, candidacy and vote, without obstacles.
Power in Syria shall be for the people, through an elected parliament of citizens, according to a constitution agreed upon by the Syrians for their interests. Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs, Assyrians, Turkmen, Armenians, Circassians, and all others are absolutely equal before the law.
Men and women are absolutely equal before the law. They enjoy the same rights and the same duties.
Syria is a friendly and peaceful nation for all people. It is part of the fabric of Arab civilization and enjoys complementary relationships with its neighboring countries.
It adopts a free economy and is economically, culturally and humanly linked to the democratic world, based on international human rights.
To establish the Syria we seek, the integrated work of Syrians in politics, culture and science will be indispensable. It requires integration between the opposition, civil society forces, and Syrian intellectuals and thinkers of all colors.
While Syrian opposition forces are present on the ground and have achieved tangible success in several places, we need to make a breakthrough in their performances by developing new mechanisms of action and creating a new mechanism for communication between opposition parties, civil society groups, research centers and intellectuals.
We need to inject young blood into the institutions of the opposition in a way that leads to a real difference in performance. We also need to strengthen relationships between these institutions and Syrians at home and abroad, while mobilizing Syrian society in exile as a tributary and guiding force for those institutions. We could use their capabilities and experience of having lived in democratic societies.
These mechanisms will help reposition the Syrian issue as a matter of a people and a nation, and not as a crisis that should be resolved. The Syrians did not provide millions of victims, displaced and destroyed homes for their revolution to end up as a crisis, for some parties to resolve on the basis of “neither winner nor loser.”
Such formulas were tried in Lebanon and Iraq, and the results were not in favor of neither the Lebanese nor the Iraqis. Any political solution that ignores justice is a sinister one that has no future.
As the estrangement between the Syrians and the corrupt regime has deepened, and a renewed combination of the two parties is no longer possible, the choice will inevitably be between one of them: the people or the regime, justice or injustice, right or wrong.
The new mechanisms will allow us to open up to all Syrians, except for those who have been corrupted and have corrupted the country or committed grave human rights violations.
We have a great goal and a great mission: to build a new nation, to awaken it, and put it back on the map of the world, as a modern, prosperous and peaceful country. Such goals cannot be based on one section of the Syrians.
Rather, they require the cooperation of all: those from the north, the coast, the center and the south. They need their skills, talents, perseverance, money, and relations. Unless the Syrians put their hands together, with strength, understanding and responsibility, the target will always remain miles and miles away from us.
There are things that we cannot turn a blind eye to: the stifling humanitarian conditions facing our people in the camps and in exile, as well as those who still live in Syria’s villages, towns and cities, suffering from a pressing economic crisis, a collapse in infrastructure, a lack of financial resources, and a shortage of food, medicine, warmth and shelter.
If we do not bear in mind the necessity of removing this great injustice, we will not find anyone among them to support and strengthen us.
We will put Syria back among the priorities of the governments of the world. Syrians are able to make a difference in the dealings with friendly governments, turning the issue from mere human sympathy and formal recognition to a participatory relationship in search of a solution that protects the interests of the Syrians, the region and the world.
Fatigue and boredom regarding the Syrian issue have replaced the enthusiasm initially shown by our Arab and Western friends at the start of the revolution. It will be necessary to remind them that the corrupt regime in Damascus cannot be ruled by fatigue and boredom.
For the failure to resolve the Syrian issue democratically, on the basis of transitional justice and reconciliation, would only continue doing the damage that has befallen on our neighbors in the region and in Europe. The regime’s criminality must be put to an end.
The solution for Syria cannot be real unless it includes several pillars, on which it will be based, namely:
Accountability, transitional justice, and community reconciliation, including the release of all detainees, knowing the fate of the missing, as well as compensation and reparations;
An actual political transition that moves Syria entirely from one era to the next;
The return of the displaced who wish to do so, and securing the economic, social and psychological infrastructure required for their return;
Writing a modern Syrian constitution, by Syrians, and in the interest of Syrians, and holding free and fair elections under the supervision of the United Nations;
A real reconstruction, with the participation of Syrian communities and Syrian capital at home and abroad, as well as the support of friendly countries and the United Nations;
Neutralizing Russia and defeating the Iranian presence in Syria, because the latter is the cornerstone of Iran’s control over the Fertile Crescent;
The exit of all non-Syrian forces, and the initiation of a real reform of the military and security sector in Syria; Reform of the judicial system based on the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.
Who among us today is able – as I am – to extend a hand to others, to those who are in this hall and to those who were unable to participate today for reasons beyond our control, as well as to the broader spectrum of Syrians inside the country, in the camps, in exile, and throughout the world?
Who among us dreams, as I do, of a modern, democratic and prosperous Syria? Who among us is able to turn that dream into reality?