SACD in 2023

The results of the Geneva Conference, held by the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity at the end of 2022, were a rare opportunity and a turning point in Syrians’ interaction and contributions to the UNHCR talks. This was an exceptional opportunity for the international community to understand the challenges of the Syrians and move towards providing a safe environment and achieving peace and stability in Syria. 

In 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity continued its tireless efforts, specifically after the February 2023 earthquake, as the Association focused its efforts on closely following developments in northwestern Syria, and worked to build a communication bridge aimed at providing humanitarian aid to the areas of northern Syria affected by the devastating earthquake. In cooperation with civil society organizations working in those areas, the Association also revealed the biased role and lack of adequate preparation to deal with the humanitarian disaster in northern Syria. In addition, the Association explained the attempts of the Syrian regime to benefit from the earthquake and direct aid in its favor, ignoring the real needs of those affected. 

SACD continued its activities and efforts during the year to emphasize the danger of normalization with the Syrian regime and its negative impact on the return of displaced Syrians, expose the forced returns that some countries are calling for under various claims, and demonstrate the effect of partial solutions in increasing the suffering of displaced Syrians and increasing the displacement and migration, especially to Europe, and constantly stressing the importance of achieving a political solution, the cornerstone of which is creating a safe environment in Syria, so that the return of Syrians to their country is guaranteed safe, voluntary and dignified.

 

SACD in 2023: The Timeline

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
  • - January 2023

    In January 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity continued its tireless efforts, after holding the Geneva Conference at the end of 2022, the results of which were a rare opportunity and a turning point in the interaction of Syrians and the provision of their contributions to the talks of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This was an exceptional opportunity for the international community to understand the challenges of Syrians and move towards providing a safe environment and achieving peace and stability in Syria. 

    As part of its ongoing efforts, the Syrian Association for Citizen’s Dignity organized a dialogue symposium in cooperation with the University of Aleppo under the title ‘Roadmap for a Safe Environment in Syria’. Experts and academics participated in the symposium, discussing the necessary steps and ways to ensure a safe and dignified environment in Syria. During the symposium, the objectives of the Association were explained, and the “Safe Environment” paper prepared by it and the results of its presentation at the Geneva Conference were discussed. 

    The Association has published articles highlighting key challenges and claims. In an article entitled “Syrians must create the movement that will disturb the current paralysis of political process in Syria” I stressed that the steps proposed to achieve a safe environment are not just ambitions, but a realistic plan, and minimum conditions that must be created over time to ensure the possibility of a collective, organized, safe and dignified return. 

    She explained the repercussions of the current situation in Syria and that its repercussions reach neighboring countries and Europe, and its effects are likely to worsen further over time. The calls for private and partial return, which are currently being made by some agencies and organizations operating inside Syria, must be viewed as posing a threat to the lives and interests of displaced Syrians, and replaced with a real and transparent assessment of the current reality and work to find the minimum conditions for return to Syria. 

    In another article entitled “Without justice and reform there can be no safe environment in Syria” SACD focused on the need to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity and bring those responsible to justice. 

    It highlighted one of the main concerns expressed by displaced Syrians in all opinion polls conducted regarding minimum conditions for return related to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Syrians with complete impunity, including the use of chemical weapons, which caused lasting effects. 

    In this context, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity affirms that it is not possible to talk about a safe return to Syria, and Syrians cannot be asked to return, nor can they be forced to return early before the Syrian regime and all war criminals are held accountable for their crimes against the Syrian people. 

  • - February 2023

    In February 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity closely followed the developments in northwestern Syria, specifically after the earthquake that occurred on Monday, February 6. The affected areas witnessed massive destruction and major disasters, resulting in the death of 10,024 Syrians due to the earthquake, including 4,191 who died in areas outside the control of the Syrian regime in northwestern Syria, 394 Syrians in areas under its control, and 5,439 Syrian refugees in Turkey. 

    The earthquake caused the displacement of at least 160,000 Syrians affected by the earthquakes, most of whom were previously displaced and suffering from deteriorating living conditions. Nearly 80% of the population was forced to leave their homes and live outside for fear of aftershocks, which increased the duration of suffering and the accompanying poor living and psychological conditions. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity focused its efforts on building a communication bridge aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to the areas of northern Syria affected by the devastating earthquake, in cooperation with civil society organizations working in those areas. 

    In light of the delayed emergency response by the United Nations, the absence of appropriate response plans, and its tendency to float and lean in favor of the Syrian regime at the expense of those affected and their human rights, the Association revealed the biased role and lack of sufficient preparation to deal with the humanitarian disaster in northern Syria. In addition, the Association explained the attempts of the Syrian regime to benefit from the earthquake and direct aid in its favor, ignoring the real needs of those affected. 

    The Association did not hesitate to accuse the Syrian regime, emphasizing the rampant corruption in the distribution of aid, tampering with rescue tools, and inflammatory rhetoric against those affected by the earthquake, which highlights the lack of transparency and humanity in the regime’s dealings with humanitarian crises. 

    In a categorical condemnation of the regime’s continued bombing of areas affected by the earthquake, ignoring the humanitarian catastrophe ravaging the region, the Association stressed that this aggressive behavior increases the suffering of civilians and hampers efforts to provide humanitarian aid and rescue. 

    The Association renewed its call for non-normalization with the Syrian regime, which shows the continuation of its repressive and criminal policy against the Syrian people. The Association explained the danger of normalization, emphasizing that this may prolong the duration of the conflict in Syria and increase the suffering of Syrians, whether they are internally displaced or refugees in countries of asylum. 

  • - March 2023

    On 17 March 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) and the European Institute for Peace (EIP) held a conference bringing together a large group of Syrian civil society organizations to assess the humanitarian and political situation of Syrians affected by the earthquake in southern Turkey and northwestern Syria. They drafted a letter outlining their demands before International Donors Conference on 20 March 2023. 

    Those directly affected and those working on emergency issues feel that there is an urgent need to convey the short-term and long-term humanitarian needs of the Syrian people in northwest Syria to the international community, donors, and the United Nations with its agencies. This includes their views on the correct political and legal framework for the sustainability of this assistance and post-earthquake rehabilitation. They also feel that their voices must be included in discussions related to finding a political solution in Syria, especially the “step-by-step” approach. 

    After the disaster, the humanitarian and political effects of the earthquake continue to reverberate in the region. Syrian refugees in Türkiye and the general population in northwest Syria are considered the most affected. The speed and nature of the UN response to the earthquake in northwest Syria caused concern among those affected, as did the marked acceleration in Arab countries’ normalization of relations with the Syrian regime in the wake of the earthquake.  

  • - April 2023

    In April 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity shared an important report published by the French newspaper Le Monde entitled “The Syrian Regime Must Be Held Accountable” which shed light on the referral of three Syrian regime officials to the French Criminal Court. It is related to their involvement in the suppression of the civil uprising that arose during the “Arab Spring” in 2011, and specifically in the death of two French-Syrian citizens, a father and his son, in Syrian prisons, without knowing the reasons behind their arrest or death. 

    This trial is the first of its kind in France, and concerns key men in the Syrian repressive regime, who are accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The accused persons are Ali Mamlouk, the main official in the intelligence services and a close advisor to Bashar Al-Assad, Jamil Hassan, the former director of the Air Force Intelligence Services, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, one of his subordinates. 

    Although this trial will be conducted in absentia, it represents a strong message to the Syrian regime that impunity is no longer acceptable. This comes at a time when the regime continues its repressive policy in the areas under its control, and uses the media to color its image and implicate public opinion. 

    The international community should not be carried away by the propaganda of the Syrian regime, nor surrender to its portrayal. There must be a constant understanding that any peace and stability in Syria requires holding the regime accountable and achieving justice. The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity stresses the importance of not normalizing relations with the regime, and urges the international community not to believe that normalization will contribute to achieving a comprehensive political solution. 

  • - May 2023

    In May 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizen’s Dignity shared a message from Dr. Mazen Ksibi, a member of the Association’s General Board of Trustees, about the safe environment and its necessity. In this message, he answers the question: Why has the return of refugees and a safe environment become one of the most important topics on the scene, and what is the interest of Syrians in this proposal? 

    In the message, Dr. Mazen talked about the long journey of work, studies, and questionnaires to determine the important details of the causes of displacement and asylum, and he said: “There is a main reason, which is killing, displacement, and destruction, but there are other reasons. He added that ”The road map paper for a safe environment in Syria “represents the correct path to restoring the Syrian state and ridding it of tyranny. It is a tool that we are pushing to adopt as a cornerstone for any transitional governing body that will take over the reins in Syria at some stage.” 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity commented on the statements of the Assistant Foreign Minister of the Syrian regime about linking and conditioning the return of refugees and displaced persons to carrying out reconstruction and lifting sanctions, and that these comments are nothing but an open attempt to secure new sources of funding for the regime that would ensure its economic floatation and bring it out of a state of complete economic collapse, and these are statements that are close to farcical and are based on crude fallacies that are not strange to the regime. 

    SACD reviewed the issue of the continued crossing of Syrian refugees on death boats from Turkey to Greece and stressed that there is no solution to this crisis other than reaching a political solution that guarantees a safe environment for the voluntary and dignified return of displaced Syrians and refugees. 

    The Association pointed out that the harsh reality that Syrians are living in areas under Assad’s control forced them to choose death boats to escape the machine of killing, persecution, arrest, and the authority of Iranian militias, and to protect their children and give them a chance to live away from the Captagon gangs, relying on their right to protection under international law and what the European Union pledged to protect refugees fleeing the war. 

    The article “Safe Environment First: Normalization with the Syrian Regime Will Not Convince Displaced Syrians to Return!”, published by the Association in May, addressed the bitter truth that Syrians live in Syria, and pointed to the continued violations and repression as the main reason for their reluctance to return. The Association stresses that a decrease in the number of deaths does not mean a security improvement, and the article highlights the continuation of hostilities and human rights violations. It also stresses the rejection of normalization with the Syrian regime and the need to hold it accountable for its crimes before the International Court, while emphasizing that justice and a comprehensive political solution form the basis for a safe and voluntary return of Syrians and a sustainable future for Syria. 

  • - June 2023

    On June 8, 2023, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) and the European Institute for Peace (EIP) held a conference entitled: “Syrian Civil Society Advocacy on Post-Earthquake Humanitarian and Political Reality in NW Syria” The conference brought together leading civil society and advocacy groups active in northwestern Syria and Turkey, in addition to displaced Syrian voices and personalities, along with a distinguished group of international diplomats and researchers specializing in Syria. 

    The outcomes of this conference formed a source of information for the Seventh Brussels Conference and will provide policy makers with clear guidance about what the Syrian people expect from the international community in light of the dire circumstances that were exacerbated by the earthquake. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) expressed solidarity with the families of the migrant victims who were on board the boat heading to Italy, which was involved in an accident in which at least 79 people drowned. In its statement, “Fleeing Death Drowning in the Sea,” it emphasized the following points: 

    1. The Syrians still insist on refusing to return to Syria under the authority of the current Assad regime, and instead find themselves forced to make decisions that threaten their lives, and their pure bodies become food for the fish of the seas. We must highlight this shocking incident and work to protect the rights and safety of Syrians.
    2. We noticed that the vast majority of the victims had left the reconciliation area in Daraa, and this indicates the failure of Russia and the regime to achieve any safety or stability for citizens. Those responsible for this failure must be held accountable and a safe environment and decent living for Syrians wherever they are must be ensured.
    3. We demand that Greek officials be held accountable for this heinous crime and brought to justice. This disaster must be seriously investigated and everyone who caused it must be held accountable.
    4. We demand that the bodies of all the victims be recovered and that their families be granted the right to a dignified burial for their children. They should have the opportunity to say their final goodbyes.
    5. We have to realize that these tragedies and disasters will not stop unless a comprehensive political solution is achieved that includes providing a safe environment that guarantees a decent life for Syrians and the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of all displaced people. The international community must work seriously and combine its efforts to reach this desired solution.
    6. The existence of this criminal regime and its continuous violations must not be overlooked, as it is one of the most important reasons that lead to the recurrence of these horrific humanitarian disasters. We must work together to end the existence of this regime and restore justice and safety to the Syrian people.

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity also participated in the program on the status of Syrian refugees and voluntary return, which was held by the Turkish “Solaris” organization in cooperation with the presidency of the Şanlıurfa Bar Association on June 23, 2023, in the Turkish city of Şanlıurfa. 

    In his speech, Dr. Marwan Nazhan, a member of the SACD’s Board of Trustees, condemned the continued violence and repression in Syria, and stressed the importance of providing a safe environment before considering the return of displaced Syrians. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the loss of confidence suffered by Syrians regarding political solutions to the Syrian issue, and called for taking measures to build confidence and provide practical and realistic solutions. He stressed the need to provide a safe environment for Syrians before any comprehensive political solution, noting that return under the current situation will have negative repercussions.