Posted by Joshua on Friday, April 29th, 2011
The following is a press release from the liberal wing of the Syrian Opposition. It is notable because it does not include anyone that I know who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic currents of the opposition or speaks for it. Many of the animators of the movement are academics in the US – Najib Ghadbian, a political science professor, and his wife, Mouhja Kahf, a talented poet, both teach at the University of Arkansas.Ammar Kahf, probably a brother, is a grad student at UCLA.
Radwan Ziyadeh is now visiting at George Washington University and was at USIP. Ammar Abdulhamid was visiting at Brookings’ Saban Center. Khawla Yousef, another signer and activist, is his wife.
Osama Kadi is co-founder and president of Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies SCPSS – a non-profit organization registered in Washington DC.
Their strategy is to ask the Syrian Army to turn against the president, as was the case in Egypt. This is an unlikely scenario because the Syrian Army has remained loyal to the President. The opposition has been claiming that soldiers have been shooting other soldiers for refusing to shoot on protesters. This is not convincing and seems to be the product of wishful thinking. Of course, if the revolution grows in size and force, the Sunni military officers will come under increasing social pressure to resign or defect.
The political reform plan is admirable.
National Initiative for Change
Syrian Opposition Demand The Army to Protect Civilians and Facilitate a Transitional Period
Damascus, 29 April 2011
Last Friday, 84 different cities and towns in Syria witnessed massive protests, 400 have been killed since the Syrian revolution started on March 15, with hundreds missing and thousands that have been detained. This popular uprising will lead eventually to the overthrow of the regime. It is imperative that we put an end to the arguments of Syrian exception. Our ultimate dream, as loyal
Syrian nationals, is first to witness our country become one of the best nations in the world. Given that we are witnessing profound “revolutionary” changes not seen in the Arab region since the 1950’s and that we do not want a single drop of blood to be shed by any Syrian, we aspire to learn from other experiences and apply it to our case starting from experiments of transitions to democracies in Western Europe in the 1970’s, Latin American in the 1980’s, Eastern Europe in the 1990’s and what the Arab world is experiencing today as a result of successful popular revolts overthrowing regimes that had been in power for three decades or more.
Syria today only faces two options; either the ruling regime leads itself in a peaceful transition towards democracy –and we are very doubtful to the desire or will of the regime to do so- or it will go through a process of popular protests that will evolve into a massive and grassroots revolution that will breakdown the regime and carry Syria through a period of transition after a wave of violence and instability. Therefore Syria is at a crossroads; the best option is for the leadership of the regime is to lead a transition to democracy that would safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war.
Moving Ahead Syria can accomplish this goal by many means. Political reform should start with re-writing the constitution in a modern democratic fashion that guarantees basic rights to its citizens and emphasizes a system of checks and balances between branches of government. This means a complete separation of the three branches of government: judiciary, executive and legislative. This would also include a radical reform of the judicial system or institutions that have been overcome with corruption and loss of trust by the citizens. This includes the lifting of the state of emergency and all extrajudicial special, martial and field courts -especially the State Security Court-, the release of all political prisoners, the legislation of a modern law governing political parties that would ensure the participation of all Syrians with no exceptions, the reform of media laws and regulations in order to guarantee freedom of the press, the legislation of a new election law, and the forming of a national committee for truth and reconciliation to investigate Syrians who have disappeared and to compensate political prisoners. Above all comes the granting of all political rights to Kurds, the removal of all forms of systemic discrimination practices against them and the prioritizing of eastern provinces in development and infrastructure projects.
The safe transition period in Syria must be based on a firm conviction that the Syrian population completely lost faith in the executive authority, on top of it is the president, his deputies, the prime minister, and the parliament or the People’s Council that has no role in the decision making process and its members are elected with no minimum standards of credibility, transparency and integrity in addition to the election law that regulates the political process rendering it no role in the transition process.
Therefore, the only institution that has the capability to lead the transition period would be the military, and especially the current Minister of Defense General Ali Habib and the Chief of Staff General Dawud Rajha. Both individuals represent a background that Syrians can positively relate with that enables them to take a key pivotal role during the transition process by leading negotiations with civilian representatives from the leadership of the opposition or other respected individuals to form an interim government. By entering the negotiation phase that should take us on a specified timeline to accomplish the democratic transition by first drafting an interim constitution for the country that should be ratified by a national referendum. The transition government will be responsible to monitor the elections and safeguard the successful accomplishment of the transition period beginning with certifying a new constitution drafted by professional constitutional and reform specialists.
Afterwards, the interim government shall issue a new election and political party law to regulate the election process for the president and members of the parliament which is monitored by an independent national committee based on judicial as well as domestic and international observers with an open door policy welcoming the formation of political parties that will participate in the elections.
If the Syrian President does not wish to be recorded in history as a leader of this transition period, there is no alternative left for Syrians except to move forward along the same path as did the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans before them.
Signatories inside Syria:
150 politicians, civil society activists and human rights defenders (names are not published for personal safety reasons but will be provided to media).
Signatories outside Syria:
Yahya Mahmoud, Amer Mahdi, Najib Ghadbian, Saleh Moubarak, Ausama Monajed, Obaida Faris, Mohammed Askaf, Ammar Abdulhamid, Mohammed Zuhair Khateeb, Khawla Yousef, Abdulrahman Alhaaj, Douha Nashef, Mahmoud Alsayed Doughaim, Mouhja Kahf, Feras Kassas, Ammar Kahf, Aref Jabo, Mohyeddin Kassar, Abdulbaset Saida, Mazen Hashem, Hassan Jamali, Osama Kadi, Radwan Ziyadeh
Coordinators inside Syria:
Adnan Mahamid: +963 945 988958
Ayman Al-Aswad: +963 988 760302
Coordinators outside Syria:
Radwan Ziadeh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ausama Monajed: email@example.com
Najib Ghadbian: firstname.lastname@example.org