Our projects

Active voices

As part of the joint project cooperation between Globally connected and International Alert A number of people 13 participants coming from different Eu states (Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark) who came together under the EU funded program Active voices took place in Zandaam to design and look into their Action research results where they can design their community action along with the hosting communities in some of the EU members states.

Active Voices: Coming together for a second time in Zandaam

Written by: Zita Luiten and Yara El Moussaoui
Syria’s ongoing conflict has left the country and its people scattered and shattered, with over 11 million refugees all over Europe and the Middle East. No longer able to dream of going back, they all have to face the reality that most of them are to stay. This creates challenges and gaps. How do refugees fully integrate into a new society and still stay connected to their Syrian identity? How do they lose the title ‘refugee’ and still feel like a united Syrian people? Active Voices gathers Syrians to tackle this problem exactly. It’s no secret that in any country that allows refugees, there is a problem of integration. Refugees are facing a big challenge of integrating into a completely different society, while often facing harsher judgements than any other. There’s a strict eye on you. And you have to find the balance of integrating into a new society, but also preserving your own culture and identity.

While many refugees are left to do this alone, there is a group of Syrian refugees who have gathered forces to help each other with this problem, and they call themselves Active Voices (Aswat Faeela). They are young refugees who live either in Europe, the Middle East or in Syria, who want to have a voice and help Syrians everywhere. How do refugees integrate better into their host communities? And how do we help people within Syria? Or refugees in neighboring countries? These are the type of questions they try to answer. In the weekend of 20-21 January 2018, a collection of this group came together in Amsterdam for a workshop. Obai, the facilitator of the workshop, says: “It all started in July 2017, when we (a small group of Syrians in Europe) decided to conduct a series of in-depth social research in every area, so we can learn more about the life of Syrians, their relationships with each other, their relationship with the host community, and their relationship with the Syrians who are still in Syria. Engaging around 1750 Syrians, we researched the best ways we can help improve their reality in Europe, the Middle East or in Syria.”

All within their respective host communities, these young active voices reached out to fellow Syrians and interviewed them, held focus groups and talked to people from the host communities to try and find out what is the best way to help Syrians everywhere.
All these active voices are in way ambassadors. But more than that, these young people are bridges. They are bridging gaps between Syrians everywhere, and bridging gaps between Syrians and their host communities. They are coming from a place of war, continuing onto what sometimes can only be called a journey of horror, reaching a new community, but then not merely settling down into this community. They are working hard to improve their role in this society, and their role in the Syrian crisis all over the world. Their revolution goes on.

Building and bounding

Globally Connected Joined a joint program supported by GIZ in 2018 in phase one and continuing the program through its phase 2 and recently phase 3

 

The program:

  •  Brings extensive experience of working together with Syrian constituents (including women and marginalised groups), as well as with local, regional and international actors, whether in the Syria Peace Initiative (SPI) co-funded by the European Union (EU) and Germany and implemented by GIZ, or on overall advocacy for a peaceful and inclusive Syria. We adopt a conflict sensitive approach and promote context-specific methods and arenas needed for different formal and informal civil society and grassroot actors to increase inclusivity and representativeness at all levels of the formal and informal peace architecture.
  • The program is designed to strengthen dialogue, mediation and peacebuilding initiatives with communities and local leaders and connect these dialogues with Syrians in the diaspora – namely Lebanon, Turkey, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It will build on the achievements and lessons learnt of two previous phases of SPPSI and diverse multi-country youth development
  • Outcome 1 – A joint ‘Citizens’ Charter’ with recommendations to national and international stakeholders of the T1 negotiations is developed – highlighting the importance of embracing diverse identities, peace values, justice and participation of civil society .
  • Outcome 2 – Recommendations emerging from the Citizens’ Charter and community level dialogue sessions are communicated with local and international networks and key stakeholders, and connected into T1 and T2 processes

About the Building and Bonding initiative:

The Building and Bonding project is an initiative that works on
developing key ideas, aspirations, and messages to support the
peacebuilding processes for Syria. The initiative supports the
integration of concepts of peace, justice, and the role of civil society
in these processes.
This work is led by the British Council, in partnership
with Globally Connected Foundation, and International Alert.
The research team would like to thank all interviewees, and the
reviewers for their valuable contributions.

Effective participation and inclusion in the Syrian peace process
RESEARCH PAPER

Researchers and co-authors: Alaa Totonji, Hadeel Abbas,
Hinad Al Shuhuf ,Israa Abdeen, Lujain Ajk
Lead author: Hinad Al Shuhuf
With contributions from Caroline Brooks
April 2022

Table of Contents

Introduction

Within the framework of the Building and Bonding project1, International Alert, the British Council,
Globally Connected, Mobaderoon and Darb undertook a research study aimed at exploring ways to
improve effective participation and inclusion in the Syrian peace process.

Methodology

First, a literature review was conducted on inclusion in peace processes and multitrack diplomacy
to situate this research in the wider context. The literature review formed the basis of exploring the
issue within the Syria context. The team of five researchers then contexualised the literature review
in the Syria context and developed a qualitative research methodology based on semi-structured key
informant interviews (KIIs. The methodology was chosen because of its suitability to the main research
question and the opportunities for interactive dialogue with the participants.

During preparation for implementation, a list of key people to interview was developed and discussed in
a participatory manner, and a sample of participants was selected based on the following criteria:

  •  having direct and in-depth knowledge of Syrian society;
  •  possessing practical or theoretical knowledge of the issues that the research is investigating;
  • showing capability to develop forward-looking visions of the future based on a deep
    understanding of reality; and
  • displaying objectivity: objective experts were chosen who had no prior and definitive excluding
    biases.

The nominated list of participants included 33 candidates. The experts on the list were contacted
successively, within the timeframe available for implementation, and positive responses were received
from 12 experts. The research sample included a variety of experts including journalists, academic
researchers, specialists in administration and civil interventions related to peacebuilding, and civil
society activists.
The main research question required delving into a set of sub-questions, which form the sections of this
paper:

  1. the current political process.
  2. the different perceptions of an inclusive peace process in the Syrian context.
  3. actual participation and inclusion.
  4. motives for confidence in the peace process.
  5. the role of civil society.
  6. the role of Syrians at home and in the diaspora.

Limitations of the research

Several factors limited the scope of the research, resulting in the following key limitations:

  • The results of the research do not constitute a representative opinion that can be generalised;
    rather, they are the opinions and perceptions of the specific sample of participants, as described
    above.
  • Among all the challenges the research process faced, the limited timeline of the project
    represented the biggest challenge and hindered the possibility of expanding the sample of
    participants. The results of the 12 interviews did, however, cover an acceptable diversity of
    opinions that could be considered to reflect the range of possible views on the topic in question.

The current political process

Researching opportunities to improve effective participation and inclusion in the peace process in Syria
necessitated addressing the current political process and the previous attempts to find a solution to
the Syrian crisis within the international community. The main focus was on evaluating the work of the
Constitutional Committee from the research participants’ point of view, considering the Committee’s
work to be the most evident manifestation of the current political process, in addition to the outcomes
of the Astana meetings, the Civil Society Support Room (CSSR), the activity of the High Negotiations
Committee (HNC), and the last Doha Forum in February 2022.

The participants evaluated the political process, with a broad consensus on the flaws and shortcomings,
which make it a “waste of time and a hindrance for progress”. The existence of the political process, in
its forms and its ineffectiveness, has a negative impact on the aspirations of the Syrians because it gives
them the illusion that there is a possible solution soon, while this is not the case.

The meetings of the Committee cannot be considered a political process in the actual sense; the meetings are at a stalemate and their outcomes are unpredictable. At the same time, however, for the same participants, the political process retains some leverage points and advantages. Most agreed that they are a necessity that should not be compromised, hinting at what the current political process needs
to be reliable more seriously and effectively.

“From my point of view, the main disadvantage in the political process is that Syrians, with all their
political affiliations, partisanships and even personal interests, are expressly outside the framework of
the political process.”2

The participants attributed the prevailing stalemate and futility to a variety of reasons, some of
which are structural and relate to the establishment of the Constitutional Committee and the way in
which it was formed. The establishment of the Committee took place within the framework of the
implementation of International Resolution 2254 on Syria in December 2015, a decision that each of the
conflicting parties interpreted in a different way. Moreover, the Committee was formed in a way that
comprised those who represent the dominant forces in Syrian society, not the ordinary Syrian citizens,
because the latter do not have the freedom of choice and action. This perception is supported by the
obvious reticence of the Committee members to express their agreement with the other parties on
certain points despite consensus, for fear of accountability and shaming. This results in the suspension
of the Committee’s work and its limitation to rhetoric discourse, amidst the absence of those looking
for a shared consociational space that does not seem close at hand. As a result, the parties are unable
to negotiate, leaving all Syrians outside the framework of the political process, while the parties
representing them are subject to many disparate agendas, particularly on the opposition side.

According to the results of the research, the failure of the political process was also related to the
performance of the conflicting parties and the tools they use to manage and invest in the conflict.The participants confirmed that the political opposition and the regime resemble one another, in that
they both belong to the “pre-2011 ideology”.3 This ideology is based on proposing zero-sum victory
solutions, in which the other party does not have a foothold or interest; we can observe such solutions
unfolding in the narrative of the regime-backed delegation stating that ‘the government is waging a war against terrorism and trying to protect citizens, and nothing is happening in Syria but that’. With
this rhetoric, the regime can stall indefinitely while militarily gaining more ground and power. On the
other hand, the opposition is proposing major unrealistic solutions such as ‘the departure of regime’
and the facilitation of talks about achieving a political transition, once the constitution is written and
subsequent presidential elections are held a few months later. This exclusionary ideology also manifests
in the opposition parties’ adoption of preconceptions of the solution in Syria, based on examples of the
experiences of other countries. This performance and these tools push the Syrians interested in public
affairs to alienate all parties and lose confidence in them and their capacity.4

In addition to the above, there are other obstacles to engaging in an actual dialogue – for example,
the differing orientations of the opposition representatives, which cover a large spectrum from the far
right to the far left and which limit their ability to meet around specific goals and agree on priorities.
While the representatives of the regime form one cohesive unit, the representatives of the civil
society are divided without the desire and/or ability to search for common ground and bridge the gaps.
Furthermore, some of the participants considered the basis for the failure of the political process as the
lack of international resolve to find a political solution in Syria. They reflected that the solution is not in
Syrian hands because it does not depend on the nature of the Committee and the performance of the
parties in it, but rather the whole issue has become more complex as it has turned into an international
and regional geo-political affair. The solution is subject to the course of pending issues among the
major powers, namely Russia and the United States, and other matters that concern the interests of the
regional powers, headed primarily by Turkey, Iran and, previously, some of the Gulf countries.

Despite the consensus on the above-mentioned, the participants did not consider the meetings of the
Constitutional Committee to be completely inadequate. On the contrary, they stressed the necessity
of the Committee’s existence and continuance, even though it had contributed to Syrians’ lack of
awareness of the reality of the balance of power; their loss of confidence in the possibility of finding
solutions; and their reluctance to track the meetings’ developments. These meetings remain to this
day a “bad recipe with no viable alternatives”5 – a tool that exists but is not used ‘correctly’. In fact,
any change in Syria will inevitably have to go through the constitution, and the establishment of any
political system will have to incorporate the social contract, which cannot be overlooked.6 In that case,
the Committee itself might turn into a ‘transitional governing body’, possessing as it does ‘genuine
legitimacy’ because it has not gained its legitimacy from a mandate by a decree or law issued by any one
authority.7

One of the most prominent positive features of the current political process mentioned was that it
represents an opportunity to ruffle the water of “the political quagmire”8, so as not to leave it stagnant
and allow the ‘mould’ to increase. On the other hand, the meetings of the Constitutional Committee
might allow – in better conditions – for the intensity of polarisation to reduce between members from
all sides who are accepting the principle of serious negotiation between the regime and the opposition.
Consequently, these meetings could constitute the nucleus of a common space, in which problematic
issues could be seriously addressed and a common ground be found, based on the desire to end the
suffering of Syrians and an agreement to reject division and embrace the need to allow all segments of
the Syrian society to become part of the solution. Such a space could establish an alternative culture to
that of hatred, fear and exclusion.9 Also, if this dialogue were to be activated, it would be the framework
for testing erroneous ideas and theories until they are trivialised and rejected (such as zero-sum victory
propositions of one part-, or raising perceptions of unrealistic or non-inclusive solutions of major
issues like the nature of the state and the economy, institutional reform , and Syria’s foreign affairs and
investments).10

The participants believed that several indicators can support the possibility of activating the political
process, the first of which is the “state of attrition”11 that the de facto forces have reached, and in
which everyone is now trapped. The regime cannot enter Idlib or the northeastern regions, and it
cannot put an end to the security concerns in the southern region. In return, the dominant forces in the
north cannot change the balance of power. On the other hand, the participants agreed that the forces
controlling Syria are not independent forces, but rather, forces supported by allies. Consequently, every
change in the agreements among the supporting parties is reflected on the parties to the conflict and
their representatives in the Constitutional Committee. This will not, however, be enough to trigger the
process; it will also require public acceptance of both the opposition and the regime negotiating, and a
rationalisation of the discourse, such as the opposition parties abandoning major solutions and placing
their emphasis on specific issues that can be used as instruments of pressure at the negotiating table,
such as the previously vastly misused case of detainees. It is also important for the regime to rethink the
frameworks that allow citizens to communicate.

The propositions in this section represent the participants’ opinions about the current political process
and ways to activate it, but the issue of an inclusive peace process goes beyond discussing the political
process and the local, regional and international circumstances and dynamics it revolves around. The
following section presents participants’ perceptions of an inclusive and meaningful peace process,
which are not necessarily related to the course of work of the Constitutional Committee or other parties
involved.

Perceptions of an inclusive peace process in Syria

There are different and overlapping connotations of the term ‘inclusive peace process’, which is the main
topic of this paper. The participants considered what an inclusive peace process means in the Syrian
context; they deconstructed the abstract phrase into realistic manifestations describing actual peace at
both political and social levels. Opinions varied depending on the interpretation of the two key words
– peace and inclusion; each of the participants dealt with an aspect of our main question, which in turn
was divided into several sub-questions:

  • Does Syria have political and societal forces qualified to represent the general Syrian population?
  • How can Syrians produce elites that represent them?
  • On what grounds do Syrians meet, and what are the commonalities that can bring them together
    today?
  • Who should be included in the dialogue? (This question is expanded further in the third part of
    this paper.)
  •  What are the topics of the Syrian dialogue that would achieve real and inclusive peace?

First, participants tackled the question of who has the capacity to represent the Syrian population
by delving into the mechanisms of how ‘societal political forces’ have emerged in recent decades in
Syria. Some participants believed that the mechanisms for forming elites in Syria did not follow their
natural course and create the space that allows citizens to invest their skills, experiences and talents
in order to occupy a high position in society. Indeed, authoritarian intervention in the mechanisms of
elite formation adopted ideological and security criteria that boil down to the degree of citizen loyalty
to authority, which deprived Syrians of true political and societal power. Instead, the regime created
links with society that act as a liaison with categorised classes or groups, and these liaisons are reduced
to specific individuals who can be controlled through power and gains (for example, Ratib al-Shallah
was the system’s liaison with the merchant class, and Najah al-Attar is the liaison with the intellectuals,
and Ahmed Amin Kaftaro is the liaison with the religious segment, succeeded by Mohammed Saeed
Ramadan al-Bouti). The regime gave those individuals influence to ensure their social status, and in turn
they protected and defended the interests of the regime, meaning that their legitimacy came from the
regime and not from society, and their role was reversed; they represented the authority before society,
and not the other way around. Despite the decline in their role since the year 2000, the alternatives to
these mechanisms did not differ because they were also projected on Syrians from a place of power.
For this reason, today Syria lacks real forces that society trusts.12 Participants also expressed that there
are no ‘real intellectuals’ and Syrisdoes not have the ability to produce them. This resulted in the loss of
confidence in the political elite on both sides, and here lies the need to build a new political society that
links ‘the general population’ with ‘the generality of Syrian politics’, and that will remobilise Syrians and
restore their relationship with politics and public affairs.13

When asked about an inclusive peace process, other participants referred to an alternative mechanism
for producing elites that could represent Syrians. The discussion centered on the individuality and
spontaneity of this act, with the aim of forming representative community-based networks. According to the participants, whatever the desired change is, and in order to adopt the change, society will
need the maturation of a set of circumstances that will enable it to propose change and chart its path.
The best way to secure these conditions is the individual action from the outset, “that is, for each
individual to drive their stake in their social environment, field, community, or profession” and to allow
these stakes to connect with each other later on to form a network that allows people to cling to it.
This network will provide tangible community services and cater to specific needs, motivating citizens
to adhere to it and protect its interests. This maturity requires time, but in every scenario, it must be
spontaneous, especially since Syrians have been dispersed in societies inside and outside Syria, and
there are entities, organisations and associations now with which they can network through crossborder
activities. The required inclusive peace must be led by ordinary Syrian individuals through the
generation of capable representatives. This is how we can achieve a societal change: by changing the
methodology and ideology to one that focuses on bridging differences, enabling Syrians to connect with
each other. A good example is the idea of local coordination committees at the beginning of the Syrian
revolution, which represents the “post-2011 ideology”.14

On the other hand, some participants believed that these elites actually exist and can be used as levers
in an inclusive peace process, since they enjoy genuine social standing. These are the non-polarised
individuals who have a pluralistic viewpoint and believe in diversity and the right to belief regardless
of the subject’s identity, opinion or religion.15 Those holding this view, however, also agreed that the
interconnection of these forces and their formation of networks must be spontaneous and/or voluntary.
Civil society organisations have tried incessantly to create such links, and United Nations institutions
have made a number of attempts to network, most of which were fabricated and unrealistic attempts
because they “did not originate from the bottom, and they did not mature instinctively”.16 It became
natural to reach the following conclusion: Syrians were not able to form a civil society in the form of a
pressure bloc. This does not deny the existence of a few successful experiences that were framed by the
initiatives of individuals at times and those of civil society organisations at other times.

Some participants questioned the inclusion, because in their opinion, the process could not be inclusive
if Syrians did not first seek to include themselves; thus, the challenge here is “that we create the
space, that is, we should not wait for the international frameworks to include us”.17 If the international
framework were established, we have to look for those who were not involved in order to involve them.
Inclusion, in this case, comprises drawing a map of society and thinking about everyone that should be
involved. The reference here is to the full spectrum of Syrians regardless of their background, with a
greater focus on including all sectarian and ethnic components, as well as groups of special importance
such as youth and women, which are (non-homogenous) groups that are usually excluded from political
processes.18

Following the creation of a meeting space, according to the interviewees, the Syrians will face another
challenge, which is to accept others “genuinely” – that is, at the level of content and ideas. For this
purpose, at this stage, it is not possible to imagine Syrians agreeing on controversial and theoretical
issues such as ‘equal citizenship’ or ‘the secularisation of the state’. Rather, in a complex reality,
simpler and clearer headlines can build acceptance of the ‘other’, such as “rejection of division and
determination to end the suffering of Syrians”.19 According to the participants, Syrians today agree on
their hatred of partition and their deep desire to end the state of humiliation in any manner possible in
order to live in a safe and peaceful Syria. These basic concerns, on which all Syrians agree, can be used
as the first building block in developing the national identity. “If the idea of patriotism is not based on
philosophy and ideology, it can be invented and built on pain and the determination to end this pain.”20
Basic human needs and the aversion to the idea of partition constitute a broad headline that unites
9 | Effective participation and inclusion in the Syrian peace process
Syrians. Behind it lies a wide range of intersections and human commonalities, some of which are
material, others are emotional and intellectual.

Simple headlines like these help to “awaken the consciences of the Syrians and make them think”.21
Therefore, acceptance of the ‘other’ will also require “a moral and political discourse of the first
degree, because politics cannot be separated from morals in times of crises and disasters”.22 Here
lies the need for a “suitable discourse” from a “suitable platform”,23 but it is not necessary to ensure
complete consensus because there is no society that is entirely homogeneous in its political culture,
especially one that is exhausted, disintegrated and saturated with sectarian toxins. The need here is for
a comprehensible and simplified common ground that enables Syrians to engage in dialogue and come
to know each other, as a step on the path to forming an inclusive identity. This would pave the way for
building dialogue using different and innovative approaches (for example, between the regime’s regions
and the northeastern and northwestern regions, between the southern governorates of As-Suwayda
and Daraa, between the opposition and the Kurds, between Syrians at home and those abroad)24 and
attracting young Syrian political activists who have been in the diaspora for more than 10 years and who
have the aptitude, capability and potential to communicate with political figures inside Syria and within the Syrian regime, to create an alternative that can save what remains of Syria.25

The participants also dismantled the implications and parameters of the hoped-for ‘peace’. From this
angle, the question of identity and social contract garners the greatest interest among the issues that
require agreement to determine the nature, depth and sustainability of this peace. The participants
emphasised the importance of having peace that prevents the recurrence of what has happened,
and for this purpose all factional identities that deny the existence of difference and do not recognise
national and ethnic diversity in Syria are rejected because such perceptions are based on discrimination.

“The Syrian government today is unyielding regarding the issue of the Arabism of Syria, while
denying the remaining components – and unfortunately, this stance had not been contested by some opponents for several reasons, such as the claim that it is not the priority battle – and this will lead,
sooner or later, to a catastrophically bloody consequence, inevitably due to the perpetuation of hatred
and fear.”26

Therefore, Syrians need to employ this diversity – without the falsity of empty slogans – in order to
stop the ongoing state of conflict and agree on a comprehensive Syrian identity that values humanity,
respects human rights, and considers the ‘other’ to be human beings, not opponents. This is followed
by the legitimisation of this proposition with a new constitution that recognises cultural identities and
ensures that the laws of the state do not conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
provided that the state stands at the same distance from all religions, beliefs and nationalities, which
helps to end the state’s guardianship of religions, and prevents the politicisation of religion or the religiosity of politics.27

The previous perspectives constitute a complex set of conditions required to reach an appropriate
environment that fosters a meaningful and inclusive peace process. Some of them contribute to the
reformation of real societal powers, some of them seek to create a space of convergence, and some
of them strive to draw the map of society and include all its spectrums, to prepare the ground for
recognition and acceptance of the other, and to delve into the remaining fragile commonalities among
Syrians. This is what the participants viewed as a meaningful and inclusive peace process, because
it acquires a radical dimension as a real long-term recovery process. This requires persistent effort
and learning from past mistakes for many years, and includes, for example, examining educational
programmes and consolidating the values of peace through school curricula.

On the other hand, realistically and practically, some participants believed that this long and arduous
path could not be embarked upon without stripping the influential forces of their continued influence by
stopping all hostilities and halting media mobilisation and hate speech by all parties. If not, the external
sponsors of the conflicting parties will have the upper hand in any potential change, and Syrians will
remain outside the peace process, in which they will not have an actual role. This explains why some
continue to rely on international accords that can accelerate the process and pave the way for the
required Syrian-Syrian effort – for instance, if “the Astana trio (Russia, Iran and Turkey) were to find
common ground with the United States, noting that such international deals should not obviate the
necessity of Syrian-Syrian dialogue within the appropriate environment”.28

This section reviewed features and visions of an inclusive peace process in the Syrian context. The next
section presents the participants’ perceptions of effective participation and inclusion.

Effective participation and inclusion in an inclusive peace process

Most of the participants related the question of effective participation and inclusion to three axes that are
not completely dissimilar, but that combine to reflect the different aspects of the topic at hand. The first
axis addresses the opportunities to bridge the gap between the Syrians involved in the political conflict and
those who form part of the geographical diaspora; the second axis deals with some indicators or technical
conditions from which we can infer the possibility of achieving effective participation and inclusion; and the
third axis relates to the description of the mechanism through which this can be achieved.

First, with regard to the rifts that established and fueled the conflict, deepening it and triggering division
and fragmentation, according to the participants’ knowledge of the Syrian reality, the possibility of
integrating all Syrians into an inclusive peace process is theoretically conceivable, as “there is no one in
Syria who is not willing to be integrated into an inclusive peace process”.29 The participants inferred this
possibility by noting that the severity of the division is declining, the harsh living conditions have been
similar for everyone to some extent, and manifestations of retaliation and emotional estrangement have
no longer been recurring in recent times. Rather, there are simple commonalities such as facing a harsh
winter or any factors of exhaustion or weakness that are now bringing people closer to each other. These
“real and simple”30 commonalities have a great impact on the hearts of Syrians. The accumulation of these
commonalities among all Syrians becomes a factor that reduces the division between them, even if Syrians
from across the Syrian geography only agree on an “anthropological article on the Makdous”.31

The participants presented a set of technical and cognitive conditions as indispensable pillars or tools to
achieve effective participation and inclusion, most notably:

  • Equal opportunities: Real participation cannot be a feeling, but rather standards that must be
    observed and met, so that all persons have an equal opportunity to participate despite their
    various political, demographic, sexual, economic, or physical differences.32
  • Suitable circumstances and discourse: For a certain idea or a value to emanate from the correct
    platform and with the correct form of speech, it is accessible, informative and can achieve
    communication, because “Syrians are not only ready for change, but are looking forward to it”.33
  • Sharing information: Even with the presence of channels, platforms and workspaces, activating
    participation requires access to information, and for Syrians to have the information that enables
    them to engage and contribute to decision-making in an effective manner is the “keystone for
    participation”.34
  • Message bearers: These are individuals with a pluralistic and non-polarised philosophy and
    approach, who believe in the right of all citizens to participate equally, in order to help make
    the peace process more inclusive. Such people are needed to communicate these ideas to
    different segments. The elite that Syrians need today is a group of “translators” who can translate
    the political discourse into a dialogue easily comprehensible by the ordinary Syrian (the nonideologised
    citizen) and translate the needs of the ordinary Syrian into a political discourse.35
  • Legitimacy of representation: Syrians should be represented at the grassroots level, so that
    society is represented and not the forces dominating it. The only legitimacy that Syrians can
    use and apply pressure with is the legitimacy of their voices on the ground, and this requires a moral initiative that restores politics to Syrians, strengthens them, rebuilds trust among them and
    relaunches the political debate. Following this, legitimacy will be based on Syrians taking to the
    streets to support the initiative. This path will then restore individuals’ sense of independence
    and worth, and their ability to think and to resolve their own issues without tutelage. It should
    be noted that this proposed legitimacy does not aim at sharing power as much as it is aimed at
    reconciling with the concept of power itself.36
  • The representation of some groups should not simply be figurative: In particular, this refers to the representation of women and youth groups on the ethnic and religious diversity spectrum.
    Benefitting from the capabilities of young people and involving them in many aspects, such as
    the presence of young representatives who are able to act as substitutes for conducting internal
    and external dialogues at the military, political and administrative levels, will prepare them for an active role in the future of Syria.37

As for the mechanism for achieving actual participation, some of the participants believe that effective
participation can be achieved through four pillars (supported by the civil society as they nurture the
process):

  1.  Representation: that is, that the representative is granted the authority and capacity to carry out
    several actions based on an agreement with the voter
  2.  The ability to create spaces for dialogue: meaning that civil society activists and institutions do
    not simply appear on the scene, they instigate and lead the dialogue within the scene
  3.  Service that can be provided to the community: the extent to which the community benefits
    from civic efficacy and associates with it, and what service it actually expects from the civic
    society
  4. The outcome of the first three pillars: the formation of a collective consciousness that can
    protect individuals from the state and at the same time build bridges between the people and the
    state, “the space that Gramsci discussed”.38

This part of the research presented the participants’ perceptions regarding the opportunities to
bridge the gap between the Syrians involved in the political conflict and those who form part of the
geographical diaspora, and the indicators or technical conditions that denote the possibility of achieving
effective participation and inclusion, as well as the mechanism through which this can be achieved. The
fourth part of this paper will deal with the indicators that increase the participants’ confidence in any
peace process within the Syrian context.

Motives for confidence in the peace process

The participants would be more confident in any peace process within the Syrian context if specific
indicators were available, constituting a wide range of factors and features. Some of these would be
related to the availability of certain conditions for a political solution, its mechanisms, and the roles
assigned to the conflicting parties; others would assume specific implications for the peace process, its
focus areas and outcomes.

Among the most prominent factors related to the roles of the conflicting parties, international sponsors,
and peacebuilding mechanisms, five main factors stand out:

  • The first step must be taken by the stronger party: the participants believed that there are many
    steps or factors that would build confidence in the peace process, but the first step is supposed
    to be initiated by the stronger party, i.e. the Syrian government, which has regained control over
    most of the Syrian territory. There are many possible examples to include under these steps
    such as the issue of public and private freedoms, protection of the civil society space and civil
    and private institutions, holding off military operations, discontinuing media incitement against
    the ‘other’ and adopting a rational discourse, and other issues that touch upon society’s need for
    recovery. These are all plausible steps because they are not linked to a regional or international
    context; they only require a Syrian-Syrian effort. Such steps could establish an enduring level of
    understanding and sympathy that would bring down the wall between Syrians.39
  • The second step requires the agreement of all opposition parties on a set of realistic demands,
    with clear priorities made public, and the adoption of a step-by-step mechanism, because the
    participants saw a real need to rationalise the opposition’s discourse. They believed that the
    opposition parties must mobilise the strengths that could constitute effective pressure on the
    negotiation table (such as the detainees’ file, eradicating torture in prisons, putting forward the
    reform of the security sector in stages instead of demanding a complete restructuring of the
    sector, including holding the heads of security branches accountable etc.). As a result of these
    meetings, the opposition parties would agree on a set of possible demands in the short term, and
    the likelihood of offering in exchange a concession on one of the conditions they had adhered to
    over the past decade. According to the participants, the opposition parties are still adopting the
    bidding discourse, in which all demands are a priority and all must be achieved straightaway. The
    participants considered this functioning as an approach followed by the opposition, this approach
    clarifies the gap in the political perception of the solution, and this was echoed by the Doha
    statement40, which included “visions without a project, the same old discourse, and previously
    made recommendations, continuing to search for problems instead of common visions and
    reconciliation, and instead of developing a plan to find alternatives”.41
  • The next step is to allow the opposition parties to communicate with Syrians through public
    and open channels of communication, and create links with them, in the interior, to enhance
    legitimacy and break up the regime’s monopoly over the Syrian general population. This would
    allow for the restoration of the balance of power, politically, in terms of legitimacy and also, in
    terms of re-establishing the social influence of the opposition parties and their visions on the
    Syrian public. It is certain – according to the participants – that the regime alone does not have
    the ability to build a peace process, even if it retains control over all of the Syrian territories.
  • The process should be sponsored by guarantor parties such as Russia and the US, as an
    expression of the seriousness of the international community to push for a political solution
    and not to impose their own agendas, especially since these international parties today consider
    their own interests in Syria first, while capitalising at the same time on their ability to influence
    negotiations and pressure the parties to abide by agreements.42
  • Confidence in the peace process may increase if the Syrians are able to form a substantial
    fraction of citizens who reject all parties involved in the process, in favour of upholding the idea
    of patriotism and demanding an end to Syrians’ suffering.43

On the other hand, participants linked some trust factors to certain implications, focus areas and
outcomes of the peace process, most notably:

  • Raising the question of identity and acknowledgment of diversity: It is no longer acceptable,
    according to some participants, to deny cultural diversity and continue the false state that Syrians
    have been living in, just as it is no longer acceptable to reduce ethnic and religious diversity to a
    forcibly homogenate, dominant identity. Rather, the Syrian identity must be invested in to create
    a social state of interdependence, in order to build trust and peaceful coexistence. This diversity
    can be expressed naturally, and in the same manner it occurs in democratic countries, at the civil
    level, but not at the political level, because “there is no room for fragmentation on the political
    front, at this level consensus and a rallying around the building of the state are generated”.44
  • Making the voices that call for peace public: Some participants believed that the feeling of real
    inclusion in any peace process will come when we can talk about peace openly and without fear,
    meaning that the voices of those calling for peace should be loud and public, so that we can
    accumulate networking and coordination and carry out systematic and strategic work to advance
    the peace process.45
  • The participants emphasised the importance of civil society having a legal role and a space
    for action, through which it can reorganise itself and work to create balance within society by
    removing obstacles, initiating political dialogues, and advancing the culture of human rights as a
    concept stemming from the accumulation of human civilisations (and not as a Western concept
    projected onto society). One of the most important factors that enhance confidence in the peace
    process is participation and interaction in open pathways and discussions that are available
    on platforms, within clear criteria; this also builds trust among those working in the field. This
    reinforces the legitimacy of the political course derived from citizens’ voices on the ground; such
    dialogues take citizens out of the cycle of daily concerns and bring them back towards thinking
    about their issues, motivating them to participate and get to know the ‘other’, which helps to
    eliminate preconceived ideas, and remind them of their worth, the importance of their public
    voices and their impact on this process. This legitimacy also helps to reconcile with the concept
    of power and distinguish it from authoritarianism, which enhances social capital and accelerates
    the wheel of democracy by bridging relations among all segments of society and pushing the
    individual to think about the interests of the ‘other’.46
  • What would increase confidence in the peace process would be to see a break in the intensity
    of the alignments between the parties and a recirculation of ideas. The participants agreed on the importance of dismantling the blocs participating in the political process, and moving from
    polarised and antagonistic blocs to those aligned around certain topics, so that the focus is
    around the idea and not around people – for example, secularists from every party assembling
    their voices around an idea.47
  • A comprehensive, ethical, pluralistic and non-uniform political discourse: The majority of
    participants emphasised the importance and quality of the discourse in creating a political
    space that can contain bold propositions that are different from the preconceived discourses of
    the parties. Proposing alternatives restores hope for Syrians, whether in the camps, detention
    centers, diaspora, or within Syrian homes.48

This section presented a wide range of indicators and factors that would help increase confidence in
the peace process. The next part will discuss the roles of civil society in detail, some of which have been
touched on briefly in previous sections.

Roles of the civil society

Syrian civil society today and the political process


The interviewees all expressed the idea that at this time there is effectively no civil society in Syria in
the broad sense. There are, however, some successful initiatives that have generated currents of opinion
and debate, have empowered women and youth groups, have come up with ideas and perceptions, have
empowered their capacities on their internal level, and developed a public space in which young people
would engage in discussions.49 Syrian civil society is young, inexperienced and subject to its funding
authority and pressure from the countries in which it operates. In addition, it does not have a popular
base because it is formed mostly of institutions that have arisen due to circumstances and rely mainly on
external funding. Syrian civil society is thus unable to create alliances that bear fruit because it is in the
early stage of learning in a complex and constantly changing milieu.50

The chances of this society developing as a civil movement are very small because no civil movement
can develop inside Syria, not only because of the extremism of the authority and counter-violence in
the north and the south of the country, but also because of the moral and humanitarian differences
between civil society currently and the other conflicting parties engaged in the political process. This is
where the Syrian civil society is criticised. According to some participants, the civil society tried to push
the culture of human rights away from personal interests like other parties participating in the political
process, thus it was viewed as rejecting the latter and hardening its stance, and eventually did not
integrate into the political process. Instead, it remained an idealistic, utopian voice that believes in peace
and justice, without offering tangible solutions.51


“We do not know how to talk to society, but use elitist and condescending discourses, and that is why
we have no social power.”52

According to the research, Syrian civil society lacks elites capable of forming an undivided political
society. This makes it difficult to establish a collective bloc that represents civil society with a louder
voice and greater influence, and that can create pressure to transform the course of the political
process. With the obstacles it faces in Syria, civil society has turned into a vocal phenomenon that has
neither a presence on the ground nor a productive economic impact on the local product, and of course
it has no organisational authority in the regime’s regions or other regions. Thus, Syrians are not able to
form a civil society in the sense of a pressure bloc. Rather, “civil society organisations do not provide
any added value to donor funds, nor political weight at the negotiation table, and are unable to create
internal social forces due to the employment of empty and elitist discourses”.53

Perceptions of the roles of civil society

Regarding the participants’ perception of the role of civil society in the political process, civil society is
the only entity capable in the medium and long term of contributing to strengthening the social fabric
17 | Effective participation and inclusion in the Syrian peace process
in Syria.54 As such, the importance of this space is not only related to the quality and content of these
discussions, but rather to the idea of discussion itself between individuals, and the process of creating
bridging links that steer clear of fanaticism. What Syria needs are relationships that pave the way for the
creation of a homeland and a national identity “in the modern sense”.55 This effort also supports the idea
of stakes that are individually set on the ground, and that connect spontaneously to form a community
protection network to which people can cling (as an idea, not as an affiliation or organisation).56

Therefore, participants today rely on civil society organisations to reduce tension and turmoil between
Syrians at home and abroad; help eliminate the rhetoric of infidelity and build a public space for the
dissemination of ideas that rebuild trust among Syrians, and between Syrians and politics in general;
defuse the conflict that leads to ongoing tensions; involve individuals in social responsibility; and
reorganise society. Civil society must be given a legal role in terms of creating balance within society
and working to create, empower and link possible youth representatives who are able to become
substitutes at the military, political, and administrative levels, so that the process would be beneficial
and useful through internal and external dialogues. In the event that civil society desires to contribute to
a political role, it will be counted on to produce an elite group of ‘translators’ to translate ordinary Syrian
discourse into a political one and vice versa, contribute to building, activating and organising the public
space, and come up with a societal capital capable of moving the wheel of democracy.57

The sixth section presents the opinion of a sample of participants on the role of Syrians abroad in the
inclusive peace process.

The role of Syrians at home and abroad

The participants stressed the need to open a dialogue between Syrians in Syria and in the diaspora,
and between Syrians and the representatives of the warring parties in order to reduce polarisation, put
pressure on those parties to agree to serve the interests of Syrians, and stop the media from inciting
conflict between Syrians. The participants also noted that the differences between Syrians inside and
outside the country had begun to diminish, and today, “we are witnessing a language of understanding
and sympathy, while the language of retaliation and schadenfreude among Syrians has become less
common than it was in years past”.58

“The healing process must take place at home without excluding those outside.”59 Some participants
believed that, at the level of political discourse, it is not possible to formulate a discourse for Syrians
at home and another for Syrians abroad. Rather, there are roles for each individual in their place, so
everyone can work according to their ability, without it turning into a discourse and a rift. “Syrians in
Europe and America bear a greater responsibility in building peace, because they are the carriers of
change. As for the Syrians at home, they are the main factor for change. Therefore, the Syrians in the
diaspora should be more aware that they are no longer the main factor in change, but rather its bearers,
and they should appreciate the steadfastness of their people and support them.”60

As for the possible role of Syrians outside Syria, the majority of participants expressed their belief that
these people have an important role to play, especially as they enjoy a wider space for movement and
easier access to resources. They are also “those who have lost the country and their dreams that would
have flourished in that country, and are still searching for a homeland, identity and life, especially since
most of these are young people at the peak of their capacity and contribution”.61 Two participants
elaborated:


“Dozens of Syrians abroad have become academic cadres in European universities and have the
ability and the skills required to help intervene in negotiations and come up with innovative solutions,
but they do not have the opportunity to present these ideas or access appropriate platforms. They
have the capacity to replace the faces of the opposition and create young political cadres.”62


“Syrians abroad can create a nucleus or a group of forces in the countries they live in to provide
something for Syria at the right moment. This should occur without the help of an organisation
because the most dangerous thing that can happen is to organise into institutions or entities; the only
required organisation is to agree on the idea.”63

On the other hand, some participants looked at the issue with a different lens, believing that it is very
difficult to rely on the Syrians in the diaspora, and if they have a role, it is not essential in the overall
landscape. A set of obstacles will prevent this:


“The first of which [obstacles] is a natural phenomenon that everyone who travels faces when they
keep an image of the country and the reality they left behind in their mind, without recognising that
the reality is changing. Second, the different experiences of Syrians abroad will have a major impact.
Those who settled in Sweden have a different experience than those who settled in the Netherlands or Germany.

So, they also changed according to their experiences. Ultimately, the gap is bigger now
between the outside and the inside. Also, the generational rift needs to be taken into consideration,
as the proportion of young people who left Syria is greater than that of older adults, and this in itself
causes a generational, civilisational and cultural rift between the outside and the inside. This gap may
make Syrians abroad the most extremist and least willing to compromise for peace, especially since
no one is pressuring them, not even their daily circumstances.”64

This section reviewed the roles of Syrians inside and outside Syria; the final part of the paper will
present a summary of the key findings of the research.

Summary of research findings

The following points summarise the most prominent results of the research:

  •  The political process is “a bad recipe with no viable alternatives”: The participants evaluated
    the political process, with a broad consensus on its flaws and shortcomings, which make it –
    according to the participants – a “waste of time and a hindrance for progress”. The meetings
    of the Constitutional Committee cannot be considered a political process in the actual sense,
    but at the same time, for the same participants, the process retains some leverage points and
    advantages. Most agreed that it is a necessity that cannot be compromised, noting what the
    current political process needs to be able to capitalise on it in a more serious and effective
    manner.
  • Syrians do not have actual political and societal powers: When discussing an inclusive peace
    process, the participants tackled the question of who has the capacity to represent Syrians
    because some participants believed that the mechanisms for forming elites in Syria have not
    taken their course. Indeed, the authoritarian intervention in the mechanisms of elite formation
    adopts ideological and security criteria that boil down to the degree of citizen loyalty to authority,
    which has deprived Syrians of possessing real political and societal powers.
  • The importance of individual action and its spontaneity: Whatever the desired change is, and
    in order to adopt the change, society will need the maturation of a set of circumstances that
    will enable it to propose change and chart its path. The best way to secure these conditions is
    the individual action from the outset, “that is, for each individual to drive their stake in their
    social environment, field, community, or profession” and to allow these stakes to connect with
    each other later on to form a network that allows people to cling to it. This network will provide
    tangible community services and cater to specific needs, motivating citizens to adhere to it and
    protect its interests.
  • Among the challenges facing an inclusive peace process: Creating a space and accepting the
    ‘other’. The process cannot be inclusive if Syrians do not first seek to include themselves. In
    addition, the challenge here is for Syrians to create a meeting space. Following the creation of a
    meeting space, according to the participants, Syrians will face another challenge, which is to fully
    accept the ‘other’ – that is, to accept the ‘other’ at the level of content and ideas.
  • Syrians share the common ground of rejecting division and wanting to end pain: It is not possible
    to imagine Syrians agreeing on controversial and theoretical issues such as “equal citizenship”
    or “the secularisation of the state”. Rather, in a complex reality, simpler and clearer headlines
    can build acceptance of the ‘other’, such as “rejection of division and determination to end the suffering of Syrians”.
  • The question of identity and social contract garnered the greatest interest when discussing
    the nature, depth and sustainability of peace. The participants emphasised the importance
    of having peace that prevents the recurrence of what has happened, and for this purpose all
    factional identities that deny the existence of difference and do not recognise national and ethnic
    diversity in Syria should be rejected. This is followed by the legitimisation of this proposition
    with a new constitution that recognises cultural identities and ensures that the laws of the state
    do not conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provided that the state stands
    at the same distance from all religions, beliefs and nationalities, which helps to stop the state’s
    guardianship of religions, and prevents the politicisation of religion or the religiosity of politics.
    21 | Effective participation and inclusion in the Syrian peace process
  • The path of inclusive peace is long and arduous and could not be embarked upon without
    stripping the influential forces of their continued influence by stopping all hostilities and halting
    media mobilisation and hate speech. If not, the external sponsors of the conflicting parties
    will have the upper hand in any possible change, and the Syrians will remain outside the peace
    process. This explains why some continue to rely on international accords that can accelerate the
    process and pave the way for the required Syrian-Syrian effort.
  • According to the participants’ knowledge of the Syrian reality, the possibility of integrating all
    Syrians into an inclusive peace process is theoretically conceivable because “there is no one in
    Syria who is not willing to be integrated into an inclusive peace process”. The participants inferred
    this possibility by noting that the severity of the division is declining, the harsh living conditions
    have been similar to some extent, and manifestations of retaliation and emotional estrangement
    have no longer been recurring in recent times. Rather, there are simple commonalities such as facing a harsh winter or any factors of exhaustion or weakness that are now bringing people
    closer to each other.
  • Among the technical and cognitive conditions that the participants considered indispensable
    factors to achieving effective participation and inclusion were equal opportunities, sharing
    the necessary information to activate participation, and relying on individuals who possess a
    pluralistic and non-polarising culture. Moreover, the representation of Syrians should be at the
    grassroots level, so that society is represented and not the forces dominating it, and that the
    representation of some groups is not simply figurative, in particular that of women and the youth.
  • The participants would have more confidence in any peace process in the Syrian context if it has
    specific indicators, the most prominent of which are that the initial steps need to be taken by
    the stronger party, i.e. the Syrian government and that the opposition parties need to agree on a
    set of realistic demands, with clear priorities made public, and adopt a step-by-step mechanism.
    Also, opposition parties must be allowed to communicate with Syrians through public and open
    channels of communication. The process should be sponsored by guarantor parties such as Russia
    and the US, as an expression of the international community’s seriousness to push for a political
    solution and not to impose any agendas. It would also be very beneficial if Syrians were able to
    form a significant fraction of citizens rejecting all parties involved in the process, in favour of
    upholding the idea of patriotism and demanding an end to the suffering of the Syrians.
  • Syrian civil society, according to the results of the research, lacks elites capable of forming an
    undivided political society. This makes it difficult to form a collective bloc that represents civil
    society with a louder voice and greater influence, and that can create pressure to transform the
    course of the political process.
  • Participants today rely on civil society organisations to reduce tension and turmoil between
    Syrians at home and abroad, contribute to eliminate the rhetoric of infidelity and build a public
    space to disseminate ideas that re-establish confidence among Syrians, defuse the conflict that
    leads to continuing tensions, involve individuals in social responsibility and reorganise society.
  • The majority of participants expressed their belief that the main role lies with Syrians abroad.
    Dozens of them have become academic cadres in European universities and have the ability and
    skills required to help intervene in negotiations and present innovative solutions, but they do not
    have the opportunity or the appropriate platforms to present these ideas. They can replace the
    faces of the opposition and create young political cadres.

Endnotes

  1. The Building and Bonding project is an initiative that works on developing key ideas, aspirations, and messages to support the
    peacebuilding processes for Syria. The initiative supports the integration of concepts of peace, justice, and the role of civil society in
    these processes.
  2. K. Al-Nabwani, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 18 Feb 2022.
  3. The term is used by Mudar Al-Debs in reference to an ideology that does not produce pluralism and is not based on social capital, but
    rather on organic/sectarian foundations in relationships, and adopts violent, aggressive and exclusionary behaviours towards the Other;
    M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  4. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022. (name encoded at the participant’s request)
  5. Z. Al-Zoubi, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 14 Feb 2022.
  6. S. Mobaied, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 11 Feb 2022.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  9. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022. (Name encoded at the participant’s request)
  10. Y. Aleesa, interview H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  11. M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb 2022.
  12. ‘Real forces’ refer to forces that belong to the society, that did not produce and/or are not sustained by the regime.
  13. Y. Aleesa, interview H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022; M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  14. M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  15. S. Mobaied, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 11 Feb 2022.
  16. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  17. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022.(Name encoded at the participant’s request)
  18. See the section on effective participation and inclusion on page 11 for more on inclusion.
  19. Z. Al-Zoubi, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 14 Feb 2022.
  20. M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  21. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022, in reference to the saying of Hannah Arendt: “the unscrupulous
    are those who do not think”
  22. M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  23. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  24. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022 (Name encoded at the participant’s request)
  25. J. Bakr, interview by A. Totonji, personal interview, 26 Jan 2022.
  26. M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb 2022.
  27. S. Mobaied, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 11 Feb 2022; M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb
    2022.
  28. Z. Al-Zoubi, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 14 Feb 2022.
  29. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Makdous is a dish of oil-cured aubergines. Part of Levantine cuisine, they are tiny, tangy eggplants stuffed with walnuts, red pepper,
    garlic, olive oil and salt, sometimes chilli powder is added.
  32. M. Hassouna, interview by I. Abdeen, online via Zoom, 27 Jan 2022.
  33. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  34. M. Hassouna, interview by I. Abdeen, online via Zoom, 27 Jan 2022.
  35. S. Mobaied, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 11 Feb 2022; M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb
    2022.
  36. M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  37. M. Hassouna, interview by I. Abdeen, online via Zoom, 27 Jan 2022
  38. Antonio Francesco Gramsci (1891–1937) was an Italian Marxist philosopher, journalist, linguist, writer, and politician. He wrote on
    philosophy, political theory, sociology, history, and linguistics. He established the concept of civil society. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf,
    online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022.(name encoded at the participant’s request)
  39. M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb 2022.
  40. The Doha statement is a 17-point statement issued by the Syrian opposition calling for reforms and issuing recommendations on the
    Syrian file.
  41. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022. (Name encoded at the participant’s request); S. Zakzak, interview by
    H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 13 Feb 2022.
  42. A. Jbawi, interview by A. Totonji, online via Zoom,29 Jan 2022; J. Bakr, interview by A. Totonji, personal interview, 26 Jan 2022.
  43. M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.
  44. Ibid.
  45. S. Anjrini, interview by H. Abbas, online via Google meet, 08 Feb 2022.
  46. M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb 2022.
  47. S. Zakzak, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 13 Feb 2022.
  48. M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022.; S. Anjrini, interview by H. Abbas, online via Google meet, 08 Feb
    2022.
  49. M. al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb 2022; M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb 2022; Z.
    Al-Zoubi, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 14 Feb 2022.
  50. M Hassouna, interview by I. Abdeen, online via Zoom, 27 Jan 2022.
  51. Z. Al-Zoubi, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 14 Feb 2022.
  52. Ibid.
  53. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022. (Name encoded at the participant’s request)
    23 | Effective participation and inclusion in the Syrian peace process
  54. M. Hassouna, interview by I. Abdeen, online via Zoom, 27 Jan 2022.
  55. This means consensus on a national identity without fanaticism.
  56. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022; M. Al-Debs, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Zoom, 06 Feb
    2022.
  57. Ibid; S. Anjrini, interview by H. Abbas, online via Google meet, 08 Feb 2022.
  58. S. Anjrini, interview by H. Abbas, online via Google meet, 08 Feb 2022.
  59. Ibid.
  60. M. Nseir, interview by H. Shuhuf, personal interview, 10 Feb 2022.
  61. S. Zakzak, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 13 Feb 2022.
  62. J. Bakr, interview by A. Totonji, personal interview, 26 Jan 2022.
  63. Y. Aleesa, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 20 Jan 2022.
  64. M.A, interview by H. Shuhuf, online via Google meet, 07 Feb 2022. (Name encoded at the participant’s request)