The Question of Syria: What Next?

– It’s a great honor to be
standing here before you all and to be invited by the
Al Hilal student club and the Students for
Justice in Palestine club to moderate this event on the topic of The Question for Syria: What is Next. Please let me start by
introducing our three panelists. Today we have with us
Dr. Mohammed Hosam Hafez, who has a PhD in international
law and is a lecturer, lawyer, and former diplomat. He was a member of the Syrian opposition negotiation delegation of 2014 and the head of the legal bureau of the High Negotiations
Committee between 2016 and 2017. He served as a Syrian diplomat
in Tehran, London, Yerevan, and worked as a lawyer (mumbles) in the Damascus Bar Association. He has also taught as a professor of public international law and international humanitarian
and human rights law in few academic institutions,
including Qatar University. Today we’re also pleased to have with us Dr. Noha Aboueldahab,
who is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. Her research focuses
on transitional justice in the Arab region. Her book, Transitional
Justice and the Persecution of Political Leaders in the Arab Region: A Comparative Study of Egypt,
Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, challenges mainstream
transitional justice practices and scholarship using original material from interviews she
conducted in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen between 2011 and 2017. Aboueldahab is also vice chair
of the Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Interest
Group at the American Society of International Law. She’s a member of the
Society of Legal Scholars, the Middle East Studies Association, the Law and Society Association, and the American Society
of International Law. Last but not least we
have Dr. Jamal Elshayyal, who’s an award-winning journalist. Did I pronounce it wrong? – No no. You just gave me a PhD for free, so. – Well then that’s great. Who’s an award-winning
journalist and news producer, currently with Al Jazeera English. He’s a graduate of
London School of Oriental and African Studies. As a journalist, Jamal is
not afraid to take risks to make sure the voices of the people he is reporting on are heard. In 2010 he was covering the Gaza flotilla when it was stormed by the
Israeli Defense Forces. He also made a name for himself
covering the Arab Spring, providing on-the-ground coverage from places including Egypt and Syria. Without further ado,
please join me in welcoming Dr. Mohammed Hosam Hafez to the stage. – Good evening everybody
and thank you very much for the Law Society and
for Georgetown University for this kind invitation. And you will excuse me
if you find my sound a little bit awkward because
of this cold I’m having. So before having to start to have this analysis about the current situation in Syria and what we have as
prediction for the future, let me just have a quick look about, or at the stages that
the Syrian Revolution had from the international
relations and international law point of view. So the Syrian Revolution started 2011. The first international
text or decision was taken in 2011 was to do with humanitarian issues and then we have the
intervention of the Arab League and we have troops sent to monitor the situation in Syria in 2011. And then 2012 we have the
famous Geneva Communique, 30th of June 2012. Before that we had the mass aggregation of the Syrian opposition in Cairo. Or in parallel with that, that introduced, that produced two very
important documents. Then we have like a
stalemate for some time ’til we have the chemical
attack on Ghouta, 2013. 2013, that was a massive
killing by the regime. Then the international community came again and introduced the very famous 2118 United Nations
Security Council Resolution to punish the regime supposedly, to strip the regime from
the chemical weapons and to start a negotiation
process, political process. That has started in 2014 in Geneva when 42 countries
came together to Montreux and then they’ve had
very, if you remember, very supportive stand
with the Syrian opposition and sympathizers were many among them for the Syrian Revolution. 2014, just two rounds of negotiations, but the beauty of which, or the distinguish features were that it was a direct negotiations between the regime delegation and
the opposition delegation. At that time the opposition
had just one entity representing most of
the political factions and some affiliated with
the military faction as well on the ground. Just two rounds, did not produce much. Then again we had a very long period of stalemate ’til 2015 where everything
started to change. 2015, we had the interference, the direct intervention of the Russian forces
in Syria in September. And we had a understanding in, two understandings between Kerry, the foreign minister, the American foreign minister
at the time, with Lavrov. That produced a new strategy
for the peace process in Syria. As a result the Syrian opposition came together in Riyadh and produced a new delegation,
or in fact it produced the High Negotiation Committee
as a political reference. And then the High Negotiation Committee produce or elect, or
appointed a delegation to start the negotiation with the regime. 2016-17 there were around six rounds of negotiations. All these rounds were proximity talks. There was no direct talks between the regime and the opposition. During the first two sessions
or two rounds of negotiation there was, the reality on the ground was there was a little of
balance between the powers. The regime had started at the time campaigns to regain some territories, but still the opposition
were very strong at the time, and the map was a bit, there was a balance between the powers. That changed in 2016 when the international
scene and the regional scene started to change as well. The tipping point was
Aleppo, when we lost Aleppo, when the opposition lost Aleppo in 2016. And after that started the
understanding between the Turks and the Russians. Then we had no balance of
powers whatsoever on the ground. So the Turkish priorities
shifted after the attempted coup and they had new strategies. As a result we had new realities
for the Syrian opposition, namely the Astana process. The Astana process removed
the clothes of the opposition. They neutralized the military powers of the opposition and so we have new strategies started by minimizing the effects on the ground of the military operations. The international community again came to, some of the international
community came to aid the peace process, so we
had another round in 2017. But also it was, there was no end result whatsoever. And again we have a changing in the international circumstances when we have a new American administration that produced a new reality
for the Syrian case, for the Syrian cause. After we lost the balance between the two, the regime and the
opposition on the ground in terms of military operations, we lost the power on international
political aid balance between the two when the Americans started to speak about withdrawing
troops from Syria. So after all of these talks, we lost any leverage in the peace process. Now if we have a look at the current situation inside Syria. Many of the commentators are saying that the regime has won the war and in military terms that’s right. The regime has won the war by the aid of the
Russians and the Iranians. That’s why to a great extent, but the regime is also having difficulty in running the daily business, daily life in Syria
because of the presence of the Russians and Iranians. Although in principle they
are not friends at all, the Russians and Iranian in Syria, they have a very competitive relationship, but still they can’t
continue to be there without the cooperation and
the help of each other. In terms of the strategic decisions, military decisions in
Syria, we have the Russians, and in terms of the on
the ground operations we have the Iranians. So the Russians don’t have
much boots on the ground, so they have to compensate
through the Iranians. In the time that Iranians don’t have military equipment so they have to aid the
regime that is also, the regime is taking the aid of the umbrella of the Russians. So although the relationship
between the Russians and the Iranians are not a very good one, but they have to cooperate to continue being in Syria for the
time being at least. Also in terms of the regime itself, the regime lost most
of his military powers and is having very difficult times in covering all corners of Syria. The regime has shortage in
personnel, in military personnel because of the shortage
and lacking of recruitment. Many, as you know, like
half of the population went out of Syria, became refugees or misplaced in Syria and they are avoiding going
into the military service. So the regime is having
difficulty in that regard. So in this regard the regime
is trying to compensate by the militias and the
para-militias on the ground, most of which are Iranians or Iraqis. That is not the strategy for,
the Russians are not like, are in a position to this strategy because they would like to have most of the refugees back to
compensate for the manpower. And also to trying to achieve
at least some conditions for the reconstruction of Syria for the international community. Each of Iran and Russia are trying to harvest the fruits of
their intervention in Syria by being part of the
restructuring of Syria. However, they have totally
different opinion on the ground in terms of how to run the state and how to allow or not allow
the refugees to come back. However, the regime has
another theory here, another strategy. The regime is trying to compensate by dividing the community,
dividing the society and by doing major demographic changes. The regime is trying to, and
is doing that policy in fact on the ground in Damascus,
in Homs, in Deir ez-Zur. He want to break the mass population from Arab-Sunni background. So he does not want to see
the scenes of 2011 again. So the only way is to divide the community by pouring in new elements from outside Syria basically. At the same time the regime
is not having the same mechanisms that he used
to have in the past. During Hafez al-Assad, mostly in the ’90s, before and after, and then
Bashar al-Assad, the son, the regime had basically three
mechanisms to rule Syria. The first one is the military, the army and the security apparatus, then the government, the civil government. And then the, to some extent, Hizb Al-Ba’ath, the Ba’ath Party. That was changed completely after Bashar al-Assad came to power, when there was a diminishing of the power for the Ba’ath Party
and we have enlargement of the intervention of
military and security. Now we have the military now
have the upper hand in Syria because for them they tried their best to rid Syria from the
conspiracy as they see it. So the military now in
Syria having the upper hand and they are controlling most of the areas and we have now many new circumstance, or new elements, new
factors in the Syrian scene inside Syria and in the controlled,
regime-controlled areas. The war changed the economy altogether, so we have a new war economy
still running in Syria inside the areas under the regime control. The army and to some
extent the security offices now run in their own, like parts of their villages or neighborhoods in Damascus and around, and they’re providing the
daily basics for the people. So the civil government is not the one that is running the
daily business in Syria, including providing the commodities and the basics for the people. It’s now the military to
some extent and the security. And Ba’ath Party became
just one of the faction, one of the para-militias or paramilitary entities in Syria. It lost its hegemonic power,
it lost its reputation and character, so. Just to cut it brief because it’s apparently I took too much time, the scenario that I see that is coming is continuation of the current scene, the current status quo. It’s gonna be for longer period. We might see some changes here and there in terms of the local
affairs, in terms of Idlib and in the southern part of Syria as well, but I don’t see any major changes, no game changes in terms of the politics, in terms of the central peace process that started some time ago. For example you have, we had
new delegation 2018 ’til now, it’s almost more than one
year, more than one year. They did not have any rounds
of negotiations whatsoever. So we have delegations
ready for negotiation but we don’t have negotiations. Because of the lack of the will from international community,
the lack of interest from the American administration, and to be quite frank, the lack of vision from definitely the
American administration, and to some extent the
international community. So we don’t have much in the horizon as big changes, or game changes in Syria. One of the big elements that I guess it’s gonna
come to the scene is the war crimes and the legal part of the revolution where the evidence that have
been collected and accumulated against the regime now is bearing fruits in many corners around the world, in Europe, in France, in Germany. And I guess that will be the main development in the future, and that would bring Assad and his family to the justice, or at least that will make the price of protecting him in the
long run for the Russians and for the Iranians
much bigger than before. Thank you very much for listening to me. – My talk is going to focus on questions of justice in Syria, and I’d like to start with two questions. First, how do you pursue
justice for mass atrocities while a war rages? And secondly, even once
that war has ended, how do you pursue justice
while a brutal dictator continues to reign? So to try and address these
questions, I’d like to highlight three closely related aspects of the use and abuse of justice in Syria. So first, as the previous
speaker just mentioned, the pursuit of prosecutions
for alleged Syrian perpetrators in Europe through this mechanism known as universal jurisdiction, and secondly the Syrian
documentation movement, and third the Syrian government’s so-called reconciliation agreements and the death notices
that it issued last year for 800 forcibly disappeared Syrians. Some of you may have noticed
the news a couple of weeks ago when three Syrians were
arrested in Germany and France. They used to work for the secret service, or the Mukhabarat, and
they’ve been charged with torture and killings
of Syria detainees. And last year, Germany issued an international arrest
warrant for Jamil Hassan, and this was huge news, right, because he headed the Syrian
Air Force Intelligence. And the charges there are
crimes against humanity and war crimes for overseeing
the torture and murder of hundreds of Syrians. And then of course there
are multiple other cases throughout Europe, in
several European countries. So given the brutality
of the war in Syria, and the difficulties in obtaining material that meets certain legal thresholds to conduct proper investigations and to pursue criminal cases, these arrests and
investigations are a big deal. But there are difficult
questions that remain. For those high-ranking Syrian officials who remain inside Syria,
will they ever be arrested. But at the same time
we can ask the question does it matter if they’re arrested or is the arrest warrant itself sufficient to name and shame and limit their mobility for fear of getting
arrested on their trips. Look at for example Sudanese
President Omar al-Bashir who has had an arrest
warrant hanging on his head for almost 10 years now from the International
Criminal Court, or the ICC. Sure, he may have limited
the number of destinations on his travels, but he
continues to rule the country, and he’s received by heads
of state in Africa and Asia, and indeed here in the Middle East. Apparently he’s been
on more than 150 trips since the ICC issued arrest
warrants against him. And one of those trips of course
was to Syria last December, making al-Bashir the
first Arab leader to do so since the Syrian war started. The symbolism of that trip
is not lost on anyone. But on the subject of the ICC China and Russia vetoed a
Security Council resolution that would have referred Syria to the ICC. And that same Security
Council is the reason that Omar al-Bashir has these ICC arrest warrants against him. And that same Security
Council didn’t even entertain the idea of referring Yemen to the ICC for the crimes being committed by the 27 countries involved in that war. And that same Security
Council gladly and swiftly referred Libya to the ICC. Now of course, this is all
realpolitik, very unsurprising, but it has some very real
consequences for justice. But in a smart move following
this Security Council veto for Syria, the General Assembly
kind of circumvented that and established the Triple IM, the I think it’s Independent International Impartial Mechanism for
the Collection of Evidence. It’s got a horribly long name, but basically the
establishment of the Triple IM was hailed as this
landmark unprecedented move and its purpose is to collect evidence for future prosecutions. And then of course we also have the Commission of Inquiry for Syria. Now none of these
prosecutions, and none of these international mechanisms would
be able to function properly if it weren’t for Syrians who document. Many of you I’m sure know about the incredible documentation
movement that’s led by Syrians. Where you have lawyers,
activists, defectors, civil society actors, victims documenting violations
since the start of this war and also a lot of them have
been filing these cases in Europe, Mazen Darwish,
and Anwar al-Bunni are among several of them. So this incredible documentation
movement is very diverse. So you have professional documenters, but you also have ordinary
Syrians documenting. So while some international
lawyers frown upon this because they’re concerned
that the procedures that these documenters are
following are not necessarily up to par with so-called
international legal standards, I think that this critique
overlooks the power of this victim and survivor
led movement to document. But also, and I will come back to that, but also who from the Triple
IM or the Commission of Inquiry and these other international mechanisms would station themselves
long-term in places such as Homs, or Idlib or Daraa, etc.
to collect evidence according to international
legal standards. Sure, of course you need evidence that meets these thresholds
in order to conduct a proper criminal investigation, but this documentation
movement does not only serve the purpose of prosecutions. It’s also become a very
powerful form of resistance. Resistance to the farcical
security narrative, which prioritizes an
equally farcical notion of peace and stability at
the expense of justice, but also resistance to
resurgent authoritarianism. And resistance to the
authoritarian regimes that preceded 2011 and
those that came after it. So the documentation
movement is essentially resistance to the hijacking
of history and of narratives. Which brings me to my third point. So this hijacking of history is happening before our very eyes on a daily basis. We know that the Syrian government issued these fake death notices last year for 800 Syrians who were
forcibly disappeared. Many of the notices state
that the cause of death was cardiac arrest, dehydration
and other natural causes. And these death notices
were only for 800 Syrians and estimates of the number of
forcibly disappeared Syrians are between 80,000 to 90,000, so think about this for a minute. If the student body here at Georgetown as I’m told is 250 students, that’s the equivalent of
360 Georgetown campuses. So that’s 90,000 families
who continue to suffer from this heinous crime
of not even knowing if their loved ones are dead, alive, or alive and getting
tortured on a daily basis. And this was and continues to be the case in parts of Latin America. So for example, more than
30 years ago in Argentina there were about 30,000 Argentinians who were forcibly
disappeared by the brutal military dictatorship
that was in power there. Their relatives, their
mothers, their grandmothers and other relatives continue to protest to this very day on a
weekly basis in Bueno Aires to demand information about
the fate of their relatives. Every now and then you
hear these heartwarming but also very heartbreaking
stories about some of them getting reunited. And this may very well
be the case in Syria decades from now. So we’ve also seen the
Syrian government’s attempts to steal land and property,
and the made up charges that Syrian refugees who
have come back to Syria are forced to sign in these so-called reconciliation agreements. These reconciliation agreements
were basically meant to, as an amnesty process,
whereby Syrians who return would have to register with
their local security authority within six months in return
for not getting prosecuted and generally just being left alone. Now of course, these agreements
turned out to be a farce and a form of intimidation and a tool for arbitrary detention. So here you have the latest examples of how the Syrian government
and many other governments in this region for that matter, of how they use law to
repress their subjects. These death notices and
reconciliation agreements are legal documents, and they’re both framed
by the Syrian government as a gesture to move
on from the dark past. So the language and the tools of justice and in particular of reconciliation are used to bury any attempts
for a proper reckoning with the past in Syria. But this is why the
documentation movement is central to transitional justice in Syria. When I say transitional justice I mean it in the broadest sense, basically addressing the
past, a painful past. The documentation movement
is not only a means of collecting evidence
to be used in the future but as I said it’s a form of resistance to these ongoing crimes and
these legalized injustices that the Syrian regime
continues to perpetrate. Now of course documentation
has always been integral to moving transitional
justice processes along, but the Syrian example shows
that it’s a lot more than that. It shows that documentation is a way to preserve history. As one Syrian civil
society leader told me, preserving history is a
form of accountability. So to add to this, the documentation can be
pursued in the immediate term without having to wait
for a political transition to take place or even
for conflict to subside. It’s also a movement that
draws the participation of Syrians inside Syria and those who fled and the more established diaspora. So I think that this is
very empowering for victims, for their families, and for civil society whose expectations of transitional justice are repeatedly dashed by this
counter-revolutionary assault that much of the region suffers from. So if we think about justice in this way when we look at the difficult
contexts of conflict and renewed authoritarianism, I think that the justice expectations
of victims can evolve. And understandably they seek a rapid and retributive justice. And I think that despite the brutality of the conflict in Syria, the pursuit of prosecutions in Europe, and the ways in which
Syrians have been documenting what is now the most
documented war in history, opens up opportunities and possibilities for the future of
justice, not just in Syria but for others in the region as well. And I’ll end it there, thank you. – It’s a pleasure to
participate in these events. My participation tonight
is maybe a little different in the sense that my background
isn’t an academic one so it may not be as smart as
what you guys have just heard. But hopefully you may
find some benefit in it. I want to start off by saying a phrase and then maybe we’ll come back to it. And that is my belief that
you cannot change reality unless you change the rules of the game. And we will come through this
when we start talking about how I viewed things unfolding in Syria in terms of my reporting
there, not only inside Syria, but also through the different processes that have taken place, the political ones, be it Astana or Geneva, or other ones. I think it’s important to, when we come to try and
figure out what’s next, or to ask what will happen, is to first figure out what has happened. Right, you cannot try and
predict or to look to the future without understanding the past. And right now I think
that’s the first struggle. There is currently a
narrative that has been, that has been pushed for several years now that seems to be a dominant one. Noha referred to it, but it
really does need a lot of effort to rectify, which is this narrative that what has taken place in Syria is a war against so-called terrorism, that there was a need for
international intervention in order to combat a group
that nobody had heard of and then suddenly it just appeared, controlling swaths of
lands in Syria and Iraq, namely Islamic State. And that suddenly the only time
the international community was able to agree on
anything was to counter this. The reality of the fact
is completely different. The reality is that in 2011,
young Syrians protested, initially demanding reform. They were met by probably or arguably the most brutal regime in the Arab world, and maybe even in the world at the time. And the way in which they were treated essentially gave rise
to widespread protests which very quickly then started demanding for a complete overthrow of a
regime that had been in power for decades and had done
nothing for the country. And when the orders came in to essentially massacre people en masse
there were some who had a moral compass which directed them towards defecting from
the Syrian military, and thus the Free Syrian
Army was born out of that. And that quickly then became
into an armed conflict, but not one between a terrorist militia who were trying to target innocent people, but one between armed groups that were trying to protect protestors and an army that was
trying to prop up a regime either because of its sectarian alliances or because of the regional
support it was given, or even the international
support it was given by Russia or Iran and so forth. So it’s important to look
at that narrative first. And why I say this, because then you understand
the root cause of the crisis. There may have then developed other issues that have confounded the crisis, but the root cause of the crisis in Syria is much the same as the root
cause of the crisis in Egypt, in Libya, Yemen, and other
places in the Arab world. And it very simply is summed up into the awakening of a large
section, I’m not gonna say all, because the reality is there
are still large sections of the Arab world who do not want this, but the awakening of a large
section of Arab society that wants freedom, that
wants self-determination, that believes they have a right to life, not a right to survival. Believes that they have a
right from their government to actually improve their
well-being, to elevate them, not necessarily that they
are only there to get a job and so long as there’s
a roof over their head then it’s okay, we will
just adhere to whatever our government or our
military establishment or our monarchy says. We understand that as a root cause, we then look into identifying
the different roles that were played over the years. In order for us then to go
into the responsibilities which a large part of that
will go into seeking justice and then after that looking at lessons, roles and responsibilities. What makes Syria maybe more unique than the other countries that we
mentioned in the Arab world, obviously is that there
are maybe more players that are directly involved. So with Syria you have
obviously Assad and his family, you have Russia, you have Iran, you have Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates, you have Turkey, you have
to some extent Qatar, you have the United States,
and you have the opposition, of which there is many
different factions within it from let’s say the Islamist-oriented ones like the Muslim Brotherhood to more liberal or
secular ones and so forth. In each one of those, and
that’s even before we get into also within the opposition of
the armed groups and so forth, and before we even discuss
the other armed groups that suddenly were created
in order to be a smoke screen or a diversion to what has taken place. The roles that were played
by each one of those again needs to be identified. I mean, there are some
that were very clear, and possibly the most brutal
of them were the most honest, ironically, so for example
when you think of Assad or you think of the Russians, from day one it was very
clear what they had. Assad is staying in power at all costs, by any means necessary
and there’s no budging. And Russia and Assad did
not shift a centimeter from the beginning, in fact
they dug their heels down more, they used every possible
tool at their disposal and then some to essentially obliterate any possibility of changing things. So there was never a time where you hear Bashar al-Jaafari or any
person from the Syrian regime even entertain the idea that
Assad would not be in power even if it were for a transitional period. There was never a time where
the Russians would ever accept something like that. Whereas for example if
you look at some parts of the opposition, or at least
maybe some of the countries that were allegedly supporting
it, they would waver, or they would come out with different statements which would allow
for that survival to continue. Dr. Hosam gave a very detailed timeline of some of the events that took place and I remember for example 2013, prior to the first mass reported
use of chemical weapons, there was the statements
coming out of the United States that this was a red line, we would never allow for
this to happen and so forth. I remember having a private discussion with the prime minister of
one of the regional countries, or actually at the time it was, he was with the Turkish Foreign Minister, and he relayed to me a story
where when this took place he was in London at the time, and he had received a phone
call from the Americans and they had agreed that the line had been crossed
and that there was a need for military intervention to
protect the people of Syria. However the Americans through John Kerry had requested that it would be the Turks who would call for it because
the Americans were still wary post-Iraq and Iraq unilateral, or what appeared to be, and in reality unilateral intervention
and occupation of Iraq, and therefore it was
Turkey’s responsibility to demand for this and then the
Americans would follow suit. And the prime minister at the, or he was the foreign
minister at the time, had a, an interview with the BBC from London where he clearly stated
that there was now a need for the international
community to intervene. The deal was the Americans
would then come out and there would be a statement made by the Obama
administration following that to corroborate it and then talk about it. That statement never came. According to the story
that was narrated to me, to which the Turks then
called the Americans and Kerry said well, it seems that there isn’t the political will, is how it was described,
to follow through. Why I bring up this story not only to show the kind of
different shifting stances of the different political powers, but also that whilst
all of this is going on there was never any
equilibrium in this conflict. There was never any balance of power. And that is something that ultimately the people who have paid the
price for is the Syrian people. Identifying those responsibilities and who was responsible for what, not only domestically within Syria, but also regionally in
internationally is important. Talking about for example
the loss of Aleppo and the shift that Turkey
took following that as a direct result of the
instability or insecurity felt by the Turkish government
post the failed coup attempt. The Turks will say, well
you know, we tried our best, we’ve welcomed so many million
refugees and to be fair Turkey has probably done
more for the Syrian people than any other country did, but it also positioned
itself as the savior of the Syrian people and with
that comes a responsibility that requires to be at least addressed. One of the important
things again looking at when we ask ourselves what’s next is also understanding the
interconnectivity of Syria. And by that I mean the interconnectivity regionally speaking. Again, to my first point, when I spoke about what happened in Syria not being different from other countries, this is primarily important. It’s very good that this
event has been co-organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine because my belief is
that with each country of the Arab Spring, there was an intrinsic link between those calling for justice and
freedom and their belief in the fact that the oppression that they have been experiencing is directly corroborated with
the fact that there has been a constant effort by the
international community and Western powers to ensure
that there are governments or regimes in the Arab world that would ensure the safety
and wellbeing of Israel at the expense of everything else. So as much as Assad would
like to claim that he was some sort of resistance axis or whatever he says to
himself towards Israel, he never once actually
reciprocated or responded to any attack that the Israelis themselves committed on Syria. The Golan Heights remained occupied and he would always use
this as just an excuse to try and garner support. The belief amongst many in the Pentagon as well
as other Western powers is that if there was to
be some sort of freedom or free elections or
self-determination in Arab countries then born out of that
would come governments that would start demanding for
the rights of Palestinians, that would start demanding
for the return of refugees, that would start demanding for an end to the illegal occupation. And this is something where again, you could find the international community aligning on regardless
of their differences in terms of their kind of colonial agendas to the region. That is was important to
ensure that at all costs none of these uprisings or
revolutions would succeed in order to benefit the Israelis. And this has also been
documented in the past year. There have been articles and
other pieces that have come out that have shown that
the Israelis expressed that it was their belief
it was much better for them that Assad remains in power
than for him to be overthrown. Lessons that should have been learned and haven’t been learned
but still we look at, for example when we
think about the future, again there’s a difference
between what I think will happen and what I hope or wish would happen. In reality there is a lot
like what has happened post invasion and occupation of Iraq, which I believe will continue in Syria. In the sense that you will
have the daily instability or have the daily violence
maybe at a smaller scale than the civil war itself has taken place, but you will continue to have
a country that is divided between different regional
and international powers. It will not essentially
recover whilst it is under that occupation, be it Russian occupation, Iranian occupation, or others. And this then comes up to the idea of the, what I call the pieces process,
and not the peace process, because the idea behind
it, especially Astana, was essentially to divide up Syria. Whether people like to admit it or not, the Turks were given a
certain part to control or to have an influence on, the Russians theirs, the
Iranian were given leverage in certain areas, and the
Americans to some extent, encouraged by the Saudis
who were demanding America to be present in order to
counter Turkish influence in the region, also were given theirs. And that’s why it was
very difficult to see that this process was
anything but disingenuous. Because if there was any
real intention to find peace then the international community would have been a lot firmer. For example we look at
Venezuela now for example and the statements that are
being made against Maduro and the sanctions that are
been put in place and so forth. Compare that to the destruction of Syria, the displacement of millions of Syrians, the killing of at least half a
million, if not more, Syrians and not even a fraction
of what has happened, or what has been said or the
movement has taken place. So coming back to it, why I was
saying the first statement of, you can only change the reality if you change the rules of the game, I believe maybe without
coming too hard down on the opposition, I think
one of the things we’ve, that we noticed when I
was looking at the role of the opposition to a certain
extent was that they allow, and this not only in Syria by the way, or let’s say the pro-revolution
forces not only in Syria, this is across the countries, was they allowed for
themselves to continue playing by the rules that were being set by those dominant powers, right. So you go to negotiations,
yes you need to go. You need recognition,
the only way you can get recognition opposition is if you kind of make concessions on certain things. But there was no concessions being made on the other side, right. And I think that maybe, that is one of the
mistakes that were being, that they fell into, and in order for a new reality to emerge, whereby you have a region
which truly is able to secure some sort of freedom
and self-determination for it, those who are calling for that revolution or calling for that change,
need to stop adhering to the customs and norms
of international diplomacy that have been set because
they aren’t customs and norms as much as they are essentially shackles that have been put in
place in order to maintain a world order that in
reality the vast majority of the people in the region
have continually suffered under. Thank you. – Okay, let me first start
by asking you a question. You mentioned in your talk,
I mean you touched upon the intervention by the West in Syria, when it came to chemical weapons, and in different instances. My question really has to do
with the right to protect. So the Western countries have
claimed that they are using their right to protect
to intervene in Syria given the humanitarian conditions there. While the Russians have argued that the Syrian case does
not meet the conditions in international agreements
that has to do with, international agreements
that have to do with the right to protect. What do you think about that? – Thank you, very interesting question. The thing is, most of the
international community intervention in Syria was not based on humanitarian legal basis. The Russians, as you said,
are claiming that they have the invitation from between quote unquote the legitimate regime. The United States for
example is there because they are fighting terrorism. If we mention for example the letter that the US
representative in the UN sent to the other members
of the Security Council, she was highlighting that the
regime in Syria is not capable or is not able or not
willing to fight terrorism, that’s why we have to go in and fight ISIS and other organizations. So it’s not humanitarian-based at all. Other countries that have
the coalition with the US are also having this on other legal basis, basically fighting
terrorism, and trans-border violence and terrorism. The only resolutions to United Nations Security Council resolutions was to deliver aid in Syria. So there was no military green light for them to go in because
of the divided nature of the Security Council. And regarding the right to protect, they did not invoke it
whatsoever in their resolution, so the right to protect, there is no international agreement per se saying that in order to protect you have the right to go in
order to protect civilians. It’s embedded in other
kind of legal themes and legal doctrines, but unfortunately there
was no political will to stimulate and to act as humanitarian protectors based on international law in
the Syrian cause, Syrian case. – Noha, Dr. Mohammed touched
upon this in his remarks, and you did towards the end
of your remarks as well, that the way ahead is
that there’s potential for prosecutions in the West
against Bashar al-Assad and this might be one of the ways to put pressure on the al-Assad regime. Early on in the beginning of your remarks you mentioned al-Bashir, and the warrant that
was issued by the ICC. To what extent do you think
that the prosecutions, or the cases against Bashar
al-Assad in international courts and against him by international
organizations as well, could actually lead or
materialize to anything basically. – I don’t think it will. Like as it stands now, and as I mentioned in my talk, the ICC, the International Criminal
Court is not really an option, it was vetoed. There has been talk of establishing an international tribunal but even then, a specialized
one for Syria, but even then, who will arrest Bashar al-Assad? And have him physically transferred to wherever this tribunal will be? That said, I think that
it’s not all doom and gloom. Sometimes these things
take decades, right. A lot can change and I
think that this is why I was talking about expectations. I think it’s important to
look at criminal justice as a process. As opposed to this immediate outcome. And it’s very difficult
for victims of course, who want to see officials such
as Bashar al-Assad in prison. So I guess my answer is, it’s not looking great. But there are other ways
of thinking about justice, and this is why the documentation
movement is so crucial to sort of preserve all of this material. There are other avenues as
well, like truth commissions. Now of course, with the
current state in Syria, a truth commission is gonna be, you know, any truth
commission that’s established is not gonna be credible. But this doesn’t preclude
the possibilities of these avenues in the future. – [Host] Jamal, you’ve been
someone who was there on ground in Egypt and in Syria. Eight years on now since the
Arab uprisings erupted in 2011 who do you think has learned
more from the lessons of the Arab uprisings
and their precautions. Is it regimes, or the people? – The unfortunate answer is the regimes. To be honest, I don’t think
the people have learnt, and I think that’s because, I mean firstly, knowledge is power, right? So understanding, and one of
the reasons why the people or these regimes have been
able to remain in power is that they have systematically ensured the ignorance of the masses
throughout their rule. Right, so if you look
at for example Egypt, 30 or 40 years ago, people
would travel the world to study at its universities. Right now the primary education in Egypt is literally the worst
according to UNICEF, the worst in the world, right. And this is something that’s
significant in the sense that it does have the ability to
understand what’s going on. So the conspiracy theories that were put forward by the regimes, the kind of defaming of those who were
actually trying to maybe improve the situation in the Arab world and making them seem as satanic is something that was
successful because of this. But also I think there is something in the old saying of divide and rule, which is something that the
regimes also participated in was ensuring that if you
look at the high points of all of the uprisings, they were always when
there was a united front by different political inclinations who were agreed on the fact that there was a need for freedom and a need for change. And the low points were always
when there was that disunity. And Syria is no different. When 2012, 2013, when
you were talking about Assad barely controlling
10 to 15% of the country, you had unison between the
different armed factions, between the different political
parties to a great extent. But then suddenly thrown into the works was issues of who would be responsible, head of the opposition, even though it had no
real power on the ground, or which armed groups
should be given more arms by different countries,
and who would be leading and who would be responsible for different areas within Syria. And whilst maybe on a day to day that may have seemed
important or significant, but in reality so long as you
are still under occupation or under that oppression, it meant nothing unless
you got rid of that. So there was definitely
an awakening amongst, I mean if we call it the Arab awakening, there was definitely
awakening amongst the regimes that unless they acted their
days in power were numbered and they’ve definitely learned a lot more than I think the masses have. – [Man] And nowadays as you
see, there are many coups that occurred in many Arabs countries. And if we look back into the
Syrian history we could notice that how was it Assad came through a coup. Do you think that the crisis
occurring now in Syria could occur in other Arab countries? My question is to Jamal. – So just so I can make sure I answer, you are asking do I
believe that the crisis that’s occurring right now
in Syria, if it could happen in other countries in terms
of an armed crisis, right? So I think that’s something
that’s been talked about a lot and to be honest, those who
have been warning about it have been more so the
regimes than the people. So for example in Egypt, whenever there’s been a call for change, recently it’s been, the
response by the regime is oh do you want us to
be like Syria and Iraq. Similarly in Libya and some
other countries as well. There is something in what I would call the self-realized prophesies, right. So just because I’m warning against it
doesn’t mean I don’t want it, and I think what the regimes
have done purposefully is to make these self-realizations happen in order to justify their existence. The reality, like I say,
it’s important to go back to the narrative. 2011, when people took to the streets, it wasn’t the people
who started shooting up. It wasn’t the people
who asked the Iranians to send in militia. It wasn’t the people
who asked the Russians to send in weapons. The people were simply asking
for more freedom and reforms, they didn’t even start by asking
for Assad to go, actually. And therefore the sole responsibility for what happened in Syria to then become a civil war and then a regional war and the destruction that has taken place, that firmly is laid on
the doorstep initially of Bashar al-Assad and then
all those who supported him. Can it happen in other countries, of course it can happen
in other countries, because the powers that
be, if they wish to flood the areas of those countries
and start propping up organizations or groups
or setting them up. Let me tell you a story, if you will remember right before, it was just when the
international coalition to fight ISIS was established
there was what happened in Kobani or Ayn al-Arab, right. Kobani is a small town on the border of, on the Syrian side of the
Turkish-Syrian border. I went to report, I was
on the Turkish side. There’s some hills surrounding it, and it’s a few hundred meters
there, anybody who’s been in that area knows that all of these areas they’re like farm land,
so they’re like flat. You can see kind of throughout,
and we were on a hilltop on the other side looking
over those fields, and I had a former British SAS soldier with me. A lot of the times when journalists go they’ll have like security
personnel just to see. And we were there for a good
few days and we were monitoring these aircraft that was done, that were essentially allegedly
bombing ISIS targets there. Now at that time, and we had
gone to the displacement camps that were inside Turkey, the Turks had registered something around 180,000 that had gone inside. The population of Kobani was
registered to be around 200,000 so at most let’s imagine that
only people who fled Kobani went to Turkey and nobody
fled to other places that there was maximum
20,000 people there, which again is unrealistic, but let’s say for argument’s sake. Now anybody who saw how
the Americans participated or undertook their military
operations in Iraq, for example when you think
of Fallujah and other places, their MO is to carpet bomb places. They don’t really care, if
they believe there is al-Qaeda or if there is ISIS and so forth, they go in with full force. But what we were noticing
were, and he had his binocular, we had everything there
looking at it and filming, that there were these bombing campaigns or whatever you want to
call, missions taking place, where they were targeting
literally empty fields. And I asked him, what I can see is that they’re attacking empty fields. And he said to me, and we
monitored and we filmed it, and there was very little
being targeted inside Kobani in what appeared to be a show
to the international community that had gathered on
the other side to say, oh we are targeting, and this
for me was the pivotal point of turning the narrative and getting the international community to start focusing on this. So the reality is unfortunately if it comes to a point
where it becomes evident that on the ground the
people genuinely are calling for change and
that the regimes are unable to hold back those tides of people and the waves of people asking for change, then yes, very quickly you
can get regional powers, or the international community
suddenly deciding to, okay let’s turn this from
an uprising to a civil war. – [Woman] First of all I’d
like to thank you for taking the time today to come
and talk to us over here. I have two questions, and the first one is
directed towards Dr. Hosam. Considering the apparent
interest of Israel in the Iranian presence in Syria, whether it be through the
airstrikes or whatnot, do you believe that the
region may be drifting towards an even bigger conflict
between Israel and Iran? – [Host] Ask your second. – [Woman] Okay, the second
question is directed towards Mr. Jamal, so you
mentioned that the opposition would need to change the rules of the game in order to have any real effect. So how exactly can the opposition do that, and what options are
available while the opposition has essentially lost its
influence and power on the ground and has been divided
into numerous factions. Thank you. – To my mind, I don’t think that there gonna be a major
operations, military operation between Israel and Iran
in the near future. I guess what we’ve been seeing
and what I predict to see is just the very contained
environment of conflict between Iran to demonstrate
their presence in Syria and because Israel has some problems with the military presence
of the Iranians in Syria. The Iranians in Syria mostly
are now within the fabric of many communities inside the main cities so it’s not really, you can’t recognize their military presence there so Israel can’t go on pounding. So Israel is having some problems with the very flagrant military
presence in some places and Iran understand that. But from time to time
Israel will bomb some, basically some military
outpost here and there but I don’t think that will, is candidates for more
escalation, thank you. – In terms of options for the
opposition, I think it’s more you have to think now more long term. And this again I think
applies more so to the region, but seeing as we’re
discussing Syria right now, these are rounds of change. I don’t think change happens overnight and I think maybe one of the mistakes that everybody fell into maybe at the time when we saw the changes happening on 2011 there was maybe this belief or maybe even it was a subconscious wish that suddenly everything was gonna change,
everything was gonna be better. You can’t reverse decades of
colonization or oppression or ignorance and corruption
within 18 days or a year or two and I think it takes processes
and even possibly generations for that to happen. And that’s where I think it’s important whether it be education or
understanding what’s happened but also the ideas of transitional justice and also identifying key areas where societies can
improve and strengthen. So what I would say right
now it is pretty much going back to the drawing board, but for people to start realizing, and I think there is, I think
maybe one of the benefits so I don’t sound too pessimistic, I think there have been positives that have come out of the Arab uprising. That there is, especially
amongst young Arabs, now more of a concern with
their day to day lives. That they are more engaged
to a certain extent. Of course there are elements of society that have maybe drifted to extremes, but generally speaking
there is more of a concern to start thinking about
their future in a better way. – [Woman] Hello, good evening. Thanks for Georgetown to held this as one session or sections because it’s very important for us. My question is Syrian people
is destroyed for everything and still Bashar al-Assad kill, not stop. There is no, any hopes or wish from
all the people (mumbles) to stop Bashar al-Assad
or remove it and we have government clinging to catch story and help is be able to solve
this one problem, not now, in near or future? Thanks, that’s my question. – I guess we’ve been witnessing some very lazy international community, a very reluctant international community that did not intervene
when Bashar al-Assad was massacring his own
people by chemical weapon. So I don’t see it in the future, as I said in my talk any
game changer in that regard. However, I guess we have
to rely on the peoples. I mean, the awareness
that the Arab people had during the Arab Spring will not go back to the same starting point. Look what’s happening in other places. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we have won the war in
civil or military terms but still the Arab peoples now are much more aware of
their rights and their future. Look what was going on
now in other places, in Sudan for example. The regimes are acting as if they are, they have been students
in the same school, always raising the flags
of international conspiracy and then the military
came to the scene and threatened the people
of that is not the time for such acts, for demonstration
and so on and so forth. But the peoples are in the street. It is very difficult to see the future without this kind of awareness. But we don’t have to rely any more, I mean the Arab peoples and the Arab, the revolutionaries in the Arab world have been taught a lesson by
the international community not to rely on that
kind of slogans anymore. – [Woman] Thank you very much, that was very informative speak. My question is for Dr. Noha
and also for Dr. Hosam. So Dr. Noha, we were seeing
lately the ending of ISIS, right, and we’re having this debate about whether they should be shipped
back to their countries, especially the foreign fighters and the ISIS brides, quote unquote. My question to you is
within the context of Syrian and then let’s have the HTS in Idlib, how do you see, or what do you think that the type of social
justice between militias among each other, we know that we should prosecute Assad for his atrocities, but what about how can we,
you know, like document the atrocities between the militias, the armed groups between themselves, and also the HTS atrocities because they have been
doing a lot of atrocities. And then link it back to
what’s happening in ISIS. Are those fighters
should be tried in Syria, in their countries, or there should be another
international court. And then my question to Dr. Hosam is let’s entertain the scenario, and I’m not sure if the
Syrian opposition did, let’s assume that nothing is
gonna change, as you said, and then we’re gonna go for elections and we will go for
writing the constitution, whatever that means. What is the opposition
doing at this moment to enter these alleged elections. What is the opposition vision
if that scenario unfold. Thank you. – There’s a lot to be said about local, local justice processes if we can call it, but in the broadest sense. So you asked about prosecutions
with these militias and so forth. I think it’s important to look,
not to dismiss prosecutions but to sort of pause it right now and think about other ways to achieve some form of accountability, especially because in the case of Syria and in the case of many other
countries in the region, it’s impossible to have a fair and effective
prosecution domestically. It would have been ideal,
it would have been better to have a domestic
prosecution than to have one that’s conducted internationally, but right now that’s just
not, it’s not a viable option. That’s doesn’t mean that those communities that have been directly
effected by these atrocities can’t do anything right now. Documentation, coming
back to my earlier point, is something that can be done right now, and it is being done by Syrians
inside and outside of Syria. I think that hopefully as things kind of, well at least as the violence
perhaps eases a little bit in some of these communities and towns, you can start to see some local sort of efforts geared towards some
form of reconciliation. Whether it’s a truth commission that’s very very very localized. But at the same time, having
said that I think a central sort of process at the national
level is equally important. But it’s just not a viable
option at the moment. But as I said there are
many other initiatives that can be pursued in the immediate term. – I would like to
comment on first question before I come to the second. I don’t think there is any
problem of like prosecuting the international elements,
the foreign elements who have been fighting in Syria under the banner of Daesh or
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham or others when the war ended because
the international community, the old services, the
old intelligence services around the world will
hunt them and haunt them and they will be brought into justice. But that does not apply to the regime. To take an example of the three officers that have been captured in Europe. Three of them, at least two of
them they have defected 2012 and they have been of great
help of the opposition. One of them was sort of an advisor for the opposition delegation 2014. And yet the international community, International Organization for Transitional Justice picked these two up and brought them to. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I mean, look what happened, the defected
officers brought to justice while we have dozens,
maybe hundreds in Europe and of course around the
world from the regime that have not been approached at all. Regarding your second question, the opposition are divided on this issue, on the issue of participating in the Constitutional
Committee and beyond that, the elections and whatsoever,
and whatever coming after. For example I myself, I see
the Constitutional Committee as a trap for the opposition. Once we have a presence there we will give legitimacy for the regime
and for the coming election where the only capable candidate is Assad. The opposition and the other factions, they don’t have the means
for political movements, for political, to come together and to form in this very short period of time, political parties and so on and so forth. Because of the long time of oppression and suppression by the regime,
we don’t have any political, proper political parties in Syria. So when it comes to the elections I don’t see any other
means than boycotting it or at least to change
the rules of the game. But if we are willing to be part of it, that will give legitimacy I guess for Bashar al-Assad and the regime. Other opposition members,
some of which at least, some of them are willing to participate. They are arguing that if we leave this opportunity maybe we’ll
never have another opportunity. So as I mentioned before it splits as a division between
the political opposition. – [Aman] My name is
Aman, so my question is we’ve seen how like Russia and
Iran has interfered in Syria and right now even though Bashar al-Assad is like the president of Syria,
he’s just like as a puppet. Right, basically the people
who are controlling Syria are Russia, Iran, and like Turkey. And as a result the thing got
out of control of the Syrians ’cause even if they want
to go against Bashar it’s not even in the
hands of Bashar al-Assad to make any changes, it’s
mostly what those countries who are occupying the Syrian state. So how is it gonna be in the
future, how could people, or how could Syria restore
its sovereignty or power against all those occupational
powers in its lands. – I guess the answer
is a political change, a political transition. That will take time of course. As long as the regional, I mean Iran and Russia, are seeing Bashar al-Assad
as the only focal point for their interaction in Syria, and as long as they
don’t have alternative, they will support Bashar al-Assad. But there will be a time that the burden of protecting this
dictator will be much more than the price that
they are willing to pay. And now we are witnessing
and hearing always rumors or sometimes information about the competition between
the two countries inside Syria grooming up some officers
in intelligence services or in the army that lenient
towards this and that. So I guess there will be a time. We don’t have any means now, I mean the Syrian opposition is very weak, we don’t have any leverage on the ground, that’s the reality. But it’s very unlikely I guess for at least the medium term that Bashar al-Assad will stay the answer, will stay the key figure for protecting the interests of all of these factions, all of these powers, regional powers and Russia as a super power
in Syria for a long run. – Just to add to, I think it’s
important to note something. Firstly there’s something
maybe which we fail to give credit to, which is the reality is those who have been
calling for change in Syria have been doing so against essentially the entire world, right,
so when you think about it, against the Americans,
against the Israelis, against obviously the
regime, against Russia, against Iran and so forth. And that in itself, the
fact that whilst we, the fact of the matter is on the ground they’ve lost militarily but to have sustained
itself as a revolution or a call for change for so
long is something impressive considering the imbalance in
power that has taken place. What’s significant or what’s
important to the Syrian people must start asking themselves
is not who are they against, but what are they for. So imagine anyway Bashar
al-Assad was removed. Yes, I personally don’t
believe that the Russians or the Iranians care for
Bashar al-Assad because his name is Bashar
al-Assad or for who he is. It is what he represents that’s important. Representing a regime that will do things at the behest of them that represents a minority and so forth. What’s ironic is that the Iranian regime and the Iranian people should be the first to have actually supported
the Arab revolutions and not been against it,
because when the Iranian people decided to rise up against the government or a monarchy represented in the Shah, which was not doing
what the people wanted, or at least the majority
of people wanted there and were calling for freedom,
they were able to secure it. So actually if they were
to be true to their history and to what the Iranian Republic is essentially allegedly founded on then they should have been first in line to support the revolutions,
unfortunately however, as we see sometimes victims of the past become oppressors of the present. The question here why I say
what you are for is that we saw for example in Egypt it was very easy the
military got rid of Mubarak because he was irrelevant
as an individual, it was more about maintaining and the survival of the military regime, and therefore they replaced him with Sisi. So the Syrians, yeah it’s not
about who you are against, it’s about what you are
for, are you for freedom, are you for a pluralistic
society, are you for democracy, and that’s what’s important. So focus on that rather than focusing on who is the person that’s
trying to be against you. – [Man] Thank you very much. I’ve learned a lot hearing the
three different perspectives. I think this question was
originally for Dr. Hosam, but I’d be interested
to hear if anyone else has an opinion on it as well. It’s a bit of a prickly
question, so how much blame do you think can be placed at the feet of the Syrian opposition for
how things have played out. And the follow up to that is
in what shape are they now. They’ve had eight years really. We can make arguments about Assad destroying civil society before, but they’ve had eight years
now to get themselves in shape. What shape are they in moving forward? Thanks. – How much blame we can put
on the Syrian opposition of the current situation in Syria. I guess we, they’ve
played some role in very specific times but overall just imagine
that the Syrian opposition were much more lenient towards the international community’s proposals and they did whatever
they’ve been proposed to do. I don’t see anything that
will change the reality that now we are witnessing. Of course the Syrian opposition is not great in terms of the political interaction
with international community and so on and so forth, and
above all the relationship between the opposition factions and between them and the Syrian people were not always very good as well. So in that regard they, we should blame them. If we’ve had a political leadership that all the opposition
were riling up behind that, I guess that would be at
a certain point in time, a game changer. However, because I was
part of the negotiations we had many arguments and many
debates inside the opposition about every step we took at the time of negotiations. But I’m just imagining that we did, there was always proposals from
the international community and from the special envoys and from the representative of the UN Sometimes we were leaning towards having more interaction with them, sometimes we did not want to give up, or to give any concessions
without having the prize. If we did everything that
we’ve been asked for, that would not change anything because the other party,
the regime and the Russians were very stubborn and
they did not want to have a meaningful negotiations to start with. In 2014 we had some discussions, some sort of political discussions inside the chamber of negotiations. But that last only for two rounds, and not always they were discussions, most of the time Bashar
al-Jaafari was yelling at the other party and using all bad words that you can imagine. At that time under the Brahimi, made some very clever movements and make the other party
listen to the steps of a political transition in Syria. But that’s it. So I don’t think we can
blame the opposition too much over what had happened. We have still the coalition,
the Etilaf is based in Istanbul and is still the umbrella
of most of the opposition groups and factions. And we still have the HNC, or the negotiation committee that followed the HNC,
it’s based in Riyadh. But we don’t have a
negotiation so the HNC, or the negotiation committee is not doing negotiations
so it’s just a collection of intellectuals and politicians that are, they do the debates on,
between now and then. But the coalition is still there but is has very minimal role in terms of how political
things are moving. – I mean, the opposition
sort of in the broadest sense is up against a lot, right,
it’s not just Bashar al-Assad. In December, we had the Doha forum here and we had this panel on justice in Syria and Palestine and Yemen. And one of the speakers was the now former UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. And we also had Fadel Abdul Ghany, the Chairman of the Syrian
Network for Human Rights. And it was very interesting
to see the disagreement on something so fundamental. In the meetings, whether it’s
in Geneva or other countries, where the peace, the sort of
negotiations were taking place, you hear this constant disappointment especially from civil society that sure they’re included
in these meetings, they’re invited to some of these meetings, but they have no sort of meaningful role in first of all setting the agenda, and secondly their demands, they’re very sort of clear demands with regards to whether it’s
the political transition, whether it’s including the language of a political transition
in these meetings, or justice are not, they’re
not always taken into account or they’re dismissed. And so I think, as I said,
they’re up against so much and they disagree over these
very fundamental issues. So I guess I’m equally
pessimistic unfortunately. – [Man] Thank you for this
very interesting talk. We come from two European
countries, Italy and France, that have been flooded by refugees in the last few years. And we came to this talk because we were interested
in the title, What Next? Mrs. Noha was mention
about future justice. I want to ask where we can find suggestion by international law makers how to solve the problem of the foreign fighters family because now our daily striking
news on our newspaper, on our TV are regarding
accepting or not accepting the wives and the children
of these foreign fighter. I think almost 90% of
the men are already dead, but the ladies are there and especially the children are there. So how can we avoid a future atrocity in rejecting these children to come, trying to live a normal life, thank you. – I want to make sure I
understood the question, so– – [Man] How can European people
could be guided, suggested, to take the proper decision
to accept, or not accept the remaining families
of the foreign fighters. – Who are citizens of Italy and France? – [Man] Hey, of course. – I mean, if they’re
citizens of Italy and France. So you’re saying they may
pose a threat for justice in the future, because they’re– – [Man] If you read our newspaper, 50% of the population is against
and 50% they say, why not. – I mean, I think if they are
citizens of Italy and France then they have the right to
remain in Italy and France. You’re talking about the
relatives of the foreign fighters. – [Man] Wife and children. – Yeah. So I mean, if they haven’t
committed any crimes, or if they’re not
implicated in any crimes, I don’t see the problem
in having them remain in Italy and France. – The international law
is quite clear on this. If somebody has committed a crime outside the territories of his own country he should be brought to justice basically in his own country. So if these people have
committed any crime they should be brought
back to their countries and be prosecuted there. On the other hand, if we
for example just rejected them coming back to their country that they have their
citizenship, as you suggested, then that is a very
clear recruiting surgent for the future terrorists
around the world. So the only answer is to
have them back and to try to integrate them in the system, in education system and
cultivation system and so on. And this is the only
thing I can think about. – If you don’t mind, I just want to, again here there is a
narrative issue, right. I mean firstly, I don’t believe European countries were
flooded by refugees. But I would see to be
honest the Middle East has been flooded by European militaries and colonialist powers for decades. And I think it’s important
here to note a few things. The reason why many in the Middle East, you suddenly found them as
migrants or refugees in Europe, as we say, the saying is,
or at least as somebody who was raised in the UK, what I would tell people is I
am here because you are there. So had the British not been
in Egypt, I probably would, my family would never have
moved to the United Kingdom. Similarly, particularly France
when we talk about Syria, France has a very important
role with regards to Syria, either as a former colonialist power there or also by propping up the regime. And even ’til now with
all the condemnation that the French may
give to the Assad regime it still continues to help support that. So this is one thing that’s
very important to understand. When we think about foreign fighters, again there’s a duplicity
in how we deal with them. So for example, in the United
States, and the United Kingdom you have many dual British
and American nationals who are also Israelis who go
and serve in the Israeli Army but there is never a question
about what to do with them even though they commit crimes
against international law in terms of occupation and so forth, or even in the wars
against Gaza and so forth. But also in terms of
radicalization, this word, these people weren’t radicalized, those who went to join ISIS
or whatever it’s called, they weren’t radicalized in Syria. They were radicalized in Italy or France or the United Kingdom and so forth and therefore the
responsibility is squarely there also for that to understand. I remember as a student during the build up to
the invasion of Iraq, we very firmly as people
who were anti-war, warned that if this war was to take place there would be radicalization, that there would be groups
that would be preying on young angry people who would
be seeing the injustice. Throughout whenever I started
getting politically involved, we warned that unless there was a solution to the continued illegal
occupation of Palestine, that there would be material for young people to be radicalized. There are numerous studies
that have been done that prove this. This responsibility is firmly,
squarely on Western powers that continue to allow for this to happen. So if we want to solve
the root cause of it, we identify the root cause of it. You want to talk about migrants coming and refugees as if they
came out of nowhere and they suddenly just appeared, then we’re never gonna solve the problem. – Yeah, I mean, I
definitely agree with Jamal on this issue of narrative and the way that the question was framed. And I’m sorry I didn’t
understand your initial question. But Italy is really a great
example of illustrating this. We had a meeting recently
with a senior EU official who said this is, we were talking about this issue of migrants, and he said, this is not about Europe,
it’s about the Middle East. And it is in fact about
Europe, and the Middle East. And I say that Italy is a
really good example of this because of this case
that you might know of, might know about at the
European Court of Human Rights against Italy for supporting
the Libyan Coast Guard in intercepting these boats of migrants in the Mediterranean, bringing them back so that
they don’t go to Italy. And then having them die
in horrible conditions in these detention centers in Libya. And so I think certainly
this issue of narrative and how you frame these
very crucial questions would then turn everything
the other way around and show that it is very much about Europe as well as the Middle East.

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