Stemming from its belief that the displaced Syrians should have a say in deciding when and how their return will take place, SACD conducted extensive research on the reasons for displacement and return conditions. A series of diplomatic meetings to relay the findings were held with influential states who have a major impact on the Syrian process and some key academic and policy-oriented international institutions.
To this end, much of the SACD’s effort in July was dedicated to the launch of the #WeAreSyria report, which was a survey of 1100 displaced Syrians in Syria, neighboring countries, and Europe on the reasons of displacement and return conditions. Alongside the report, SACD launched a social media campaign and a series of events and diplomatic meetings in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of what Syrians see as pre-conditions for any safe return to Syria.
SACD held several diplomatic meetings and roundtables that started in July and continued into October with diplomats from The Netherland, Canada, USA, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. In addition, technical roundtables with leading international thinktanks and researchers in Europe and the United States, such as the one organized jointly by the SACD in collaboration with EIP and MEI to discuss key issues of return and the concept of safe environment and sanctions, in addition to the Dutch-Syria NGOs platform organized by The Dutch MFA.
The diplomatic effort was focused on delivering key messages to the major international stakeholders regarding minimum conditions for return from the displaced people point of view and emphasize on the need to include those conditions in the definition of the “safe environment” in any future political solution. The diplomatic effort also concentrated on preventing forced returns from host countries, and on improving the current situation of refugees in these countries, especially in terms of rights and humanitarian support.
The social media campaign contained a series of recorded personal videos from SACD trustees and members explaining the relevance of the report and the importance of involving displaced people’s views on return.
In addition, a conversation with Refik Hodzic, an international expert in transitional justice and strategic communications, SACD’s former Program Director Labib al-Nahhas explained the major new report presenting the main conditions for safe and dignified return of Syrian refugees. Nahhas explained why there can be no constitution, elections, lasting peace or a political solution to the conflict in Syria without the rights of 13 million displaced Syrians being upheld. In addition, Tahrir Institute also published al-Nahhas’ article, “Displaced Syrians are key to the political change that Syria needs”, where he explained why displaced Syrians are key to the political change that Syria needs.
The report received coverage from a variety of media outlets such as The National, Libération, Middle East Institute, Al Jazeera English, Nidaa Al Watan, Al Modon, The New Arab, Syria TV, and Orient TV.
Moreover, meetings have been conducted by SACD trustees and members to discuss the #WeAreSyria report with displaced Syrians from Hasaka, Dier Ezzor, Raqqa and with students at Harran University. Most of the meetings took place in Turkey and Germany.
Furthermore, SACD held some meetings with activists and displaced from Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and other provinces in the Northern Syria (Al Bab, Afrin & Azaz) discussing the report and views and concerns about displacement and return.
As first in a series of analytical papers to examine the impact of “reconciliation agreements” on the prospects for return of displaced Syrians, SACD published an analysis paper focusing on the “reconciliation agreement” in Dara’a. The deteriorated living conditions and the lack of security situation in Daraa with a continuous silent displacement proved that the “reconciliation” model that was applied in the Syrian south with Russian guarantees failed to achieve the lowest level of stability or secure the minimum public services needed for living, let alone as a model to be considered in any way as relevant in the context of organized, safe, voluntary and dignified return.
In light of the decision by both Denmark’s Refugee Appeals Board and Danish Immigration Service to deny asylum to three Syrian women from Damascus, claiming that “there is no reason to assume that everyone will be at real risk of being assaulted”, SACD published an analysis titled “Denmark is setting a dangerous precedent which must be reversed”, explaining how this decision ignores the reality in Damascus and other areas under control of the Syrian regime, which is far from being anywhere close to conducive to return of refugees.
Furthermore, the SACD initiated direct contact with Danish diplomats in order to understand first-hand the official position of the Danish government and to provide comprehensive and detailed information about the real situation in regime-controlled areas and debunk the falsehood of the notion of Damascus being a “safe city”. This effort is still ongoing and being expanded with the help of activists in Denmark.
SACD alongside the White Helmets organized the #NotHostages campaign to remind the world of all the detainees forgotten in Assad prisons. The campaign aimed to amplify the voices of the detainees and their families and strongly reiterate the need for the full and unconditional release of all detainees, and the rejection of using the detainees file to pressure and blackmail Syrians by the regime.
As the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in northern Syria, Dr Anas al-Fatih, member of SACD General Board of Trustees, recorded a video with important medical instructions and precautions to be followed by the people, especially in light of absence of adequate measures and lack of medical infrastructure to protect the people from the virus.
SACD also supported the establishment of the Union of Free Students, which is a base for all Syrian students who believe in freedom and dignity principles. The aim of the Union is to unify the voices of all Syrian students and work together towards having an impact on the policy-makers to convey their messages and guarantee their rights in the future of Syria.