2021 has seen SACD fully assume its position of a voice of displaced Syrians recognized in key decision making forums, with access and ability to make the policy makers aware of the position and rights of displaced Syrians when discussing policies that affect them.
We continued to struggle on several key fronts: documenting and reporting on the ongoing displacement, fighting premature return, establishing the concept of safe environment as the key precondition for safe and dignified return and any hope for a lasting peace in Syria and preventing normalisation of a regime that continues a systematic policy of displacement, repression and demographic change.
We strived to engage in all relevant forums, from the direct contact with diplomats and decision makers of key countries and institutions involved in Syria as a credible source of information and position on behalf of displaced Syrians.
Our ability to engage and mount impactful advocacy efforts was significantly affected by the ongoing Covid pandemic, but we persevered. The highlights of that work are presented in the review and include the effort to dispel any notion among the policy makers that elections are possible in Syria under the Syrian regime and in absence of a safe environment that not only guarantees the free and fair participation of all Syrians but also their safe return to their homes.
In 2021, SACD provided policy makers ample, ongoing analysis of the failure of the so-called reconciliation agreements as a model to be considered as relevant in the context of discussions on return. The most striking example of this failure, which continues to drive Syrians into displacement towards the North and further towards Turkey and Europe, is that of Daraa. The deteriorating security situation in Daraa illustrated the safe environment as defined by Russia. In that “safe environment” Syrians still suffer from murder, kidnapping, arrest, displacement and death while trying to flee.
Through a series of conversations with senior officials and experts, we strived to illuminate the Syria-focused policies of some of the key countries such as Turkey, Germany, Lebanon, and Denmark.
Denmark came into a sharp focus of our advocacy due to its flawed, inhumane policy of stripping Syrian refugees from Damascus and its countryside of protection under the explanation that it is safe for them to return. The policy remains in place despite the joint effort of SACD, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups, which continue to document and inform the relevant actors that Syria, including Damascus, is far from safe for returnees.
SACD has invested significant effort to change the conversation on the delivery of aid to North Syria, which remains subject to open blackmail of Russia in the UN Security Council. In this effort, we secured support of leading international law experts to present an alternative to the current status quo which allows for a brutal weaponization of aid against the most vulnerable among the displaced Syrians.
SACD continued to lead on providing a deep, detailed insight into opinions and perceptions of Syrians living under the Syrian regime and documenting a reality in which horror of repression has been normalized.
Unfortunately, one of the main fronts where we needed to intervene and dismantle the narrative of normalisation of the Syrian regime as a “guarantor of security” to returnees was that of public statements given by the most senior UNHCR officials in Syria.
The intensifying efforts of some countries and international institutions to normalize the Syrian regime in a situation where it continues to repress, murder, displace and torture countless Syrians, have also become the subject of our advocacy effort. One of the key puzzles in that picture is the role of the UN and international aid agencies in Syria. We have engaged some of the most senior policy makers in relevant countries and institutions on the issue, seeking greater transparency of the oversight mechanism which is supposed to ensure the end of corruption and the regime’s control of the aid sector in Syria.
In 2022 we will continue to face enormous challenges as the world continues to turn its head away from the plight of the Syrian people, and displaced Syrians in particular. But, as before, we commit to strive to do even more and to elevate the rights of displaced Syrians to the top of the agenda in all conversations on the future of the country. We will fight for the rights of displaced Syrians everywhere, for a safe environment for all Syrians in Syria, for the right to a safe, dignified and voluntary return, for the displaced Syrians inherent right to define the conditions of return, against premature return and against any decisions harmful and detrimental to the rights of displaced people. We are committed to the cause of millions of displaced people who may have lost everything, but will never give up on their dignity and rights. We will continue to build a powerful movement which will make sure that no decision is taken in our name, without our voice being heard and taken into account. For we are Syria.