Archive: Conflict & International Politics

Women, Fundamentalism and Terror: Echoes of Ancient Assyria

When so-called ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) fighters were reported to have blasted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian site of Nimrud into the ground last year, the rest of the world lined up to condemn its actions. One ISIS militant, engaged in the destruction of Assyrian antiquities in the Mosul museum, told the camera ‘we were ordered by our prophet to take down idols and destroy them.’

By Robert Bain

Views from the South – The European Neighbourhood Policy in Lebanon

One year ago, Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s Beirut office did a research on the European Neighbourhood Policy and its perception in Lebanon. Views from the region on the performance of the European Union are important and it is particularly beneficial to see how experts and activists on the ground perceive the impact of it and take their recommendations on what could be improved and how. Therefore this year, we conducted interviews with a number of researchers and practitioners in Lebanon on specific issues – discussing with them specific findings of the EU’s own progress report and the latest press release of December 2015.

By Bente Scheller, Noor Baalbaki , Alisha Molter

The war of assassinations in Syria

It has been common to frequently come across assassination incidents in local Syrian news, which turned them into expected news. The daily killing and atrocities committed in Syria contributed to normalizing this phenomenon not only internationally but locally as well. However, the scale of these incidents and their significant impact on the local dynamics of the conflict make the assassination war in Syria stand out as an important issue that can’t be ignored.

By Haid Haid

Airdropping aid to starving Syrians is doable

Of the 52 besieged areas mostly in rural Damascus, 49 of them are encircled by the Syrian regime, two by rebel forces and one by ISIS. Under siege, conditions are very uncertain—since starvation is being used as a weapon of war–therefore the situation in some of these areas could quickly turn into a critical situation if aid is completely cut off for a short amount of time.

By Haid Haid

Ahrar al-Sham in the Western press

“It's clear that Ahrar al-Sham have recruited the PR agency we've dreamed of for so long, ever since the beginning of the uprising.” This is what a Syrian activist wrote on his Facebook page right after Labib al-Nahhas, foreign affairs director at Ahrar al-Sham, published an article in The Telegraph on 21 July. The article followed another by Nahhas in the Washington Post on 10 July.

By Haid Haid

Discussion : Religious extremism within Syrian society – How deep and permanent is the impact?

In 2011, Syrian people demonstrated for dignity and freedom. Nowadays religious extremism spreads all over country. How do these opposites go together? A conference organized by Sharq and Zico house in Beirut tried to figure out how deeply rooted religious extremism is in the Syrian society. In what way was Syrian society susceptible to the religious extremism that it is facing today? Did people in Syria become more conservative over the years? Or do other priorities such as security distort the image on what actually might be the future of Syria?

Fouad M. Fouad, Syrian poet, medical doctor and AUB professor, Dr. Bente Scheller, Director of Heinrich Böll Foundation (Middle East) and Christoph Reuter, journalist at Der Spiegel  and ISIS expert, discuss the issue with Reem Maghribi.



Objects are, depending on the situation you find yourself in, more than mere objects. For those who leave their home in a hast, who leave for good and to an uncertain future, something that they brought from home might be a line to connect them to their old life and habits, to their family and an environment that they are not part of any longer – or that ceased to exist. Photographer Marta Bogdanska met Syrian refugees and asked them to show her an object or a memory that still connects them to their former lives and share their stories around this object. Someone has a favourite sweater. Another one scars reminding him what he went through to reach where he is. Somebody else a trivial plastic lighter. The exhibition was first shown in Beirut in May 2015 and now is on display here.

By Marta Bogdańska

Panel: Refugees and the responsibility of the West

Watch the video of the panel "Refugees and the responsibility of the West", featuring among others George Ghali from the Lebanese organization ALEF - act for human rights, journalist Gabriele del Grande, UNHCR's Hans ten Feld and German official Christian Klos, with German journalist Kristin Helberg as moderator.

Answer loud and clear: Planet Syria calling

The regime is well aware of the impact of fear, of death due to random bombardment, on the life style of Syrians in areas outside its control, where everyone is too preoccupied with minute-to-minute survival to think of the future.

By Haid Haid

On its fourth anniversary: The revolution and the battle over narratives

Syrians and their supporters who continue to cling to hope and believe in the justice of this revolution—that they still insist on calling a revolution— have other narratives which tell us that behind the map of warring fascist ideologies lies the truth that our country has never in its history done anything better than entering into this revolution.

By Mohammed Al Attar

Forget Assad

If you cannot overthrow the tyrant, co-operate with him – after four disastrous years in Syria this seems to be the conclusion the international community has arrived at. While back in 2011 Bashar al-Assad’s days appeared to be drawing to a close, a growing number of people are now suggesting to see him as part of the solution, as illustrated recently by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Vienna.

By Bente Scheller

Can Assad be a partner in the fight against ISIS?

“It must be now clear to western defence chiefs that there is only one credible fighting force on the ground capable of fighting ISIS and that is the Syrian military. The Syrians [i.e. the Syrian regime] have held all the aces up their sleeve…” Such proposals are commonplace in diplomatic circles, but what is new this time is that this view is no longer limited to Assad’s supporters and allies.

By Haid Haid

On the Run in Their Own Country

Less refugees are crossing Syria's borders. Not because the situation is improving - but because less people have the possibility to flee. And some are determined to stay, even if it means risking their life. On internally displaced persons in Syria.

By Bente Scheller

Where the “Good Guys” get their motivation from

There's little hope for an improvement of the Syrian situation. Nonetheless, there are civil society activists who are still working on non-violent resistance and democratic change. Sarah Schwahn conducted interviews with many of them to see what motivates them to continue.

By Sarah Schwahn

Antigone of Syria - Press Coverage

Can the universal appeal of Ancient Greek drama render the current Syrian tragedy intelligible? Antigone of Syria – an eight-week theatrical workshop for Syrian refugee women from the Beirut camps of Sabra, Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh – shows that it can.

On December 10th, 11th and 12th, their interpretation of Sophocles’ tragedy was performed at the Al Madina Theatre in Beirut. It unfolded stories of loss and despair which go beyond what seems bearable for the human soul – but even more so, it was homage to the courage, non conformism and revolt of these women. It was homage to their unabated hope for a better future.

Get an impression of these evenings’ atmosphere by reading our press review.

"Antigone of Syria", staging the hopes and endeavors of Syrian Refugee Women

Antigone of Syria is the latest project of the internationally acclaimed Syrian playwright Mohammad Al Attar. Can the universal appeal of Ancient Greek drama render the current Syrian tragedy intelligible? The Aperta Productions-team – director Omar Abusaada, actors’ trainers Hala Omran and Dina Mousawi – took the challenge: by offering an eight-week theatrical workshop, he gives a voice to Syrian refugee women from the Beirut camps of Sabra, Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh.

By Carolin Dylla

IS, ISIS or Daesh? Turbulences in the Alphabet Soup

ISIS has plenty of funding, but it does not live on material sources only: one of their most powerful weapons is to commit the most monstrous atrocities - and make sure everybody sees them. Unable so far to stop them, Arab activists at least try and mock them, and the French foreign minister tries to ban them rhetorically where they want to be least: in the letter soup. Instead of their self-chosen name "Islamic State" he from now on want to refer to them only by the acronym Daesh which they hate and try to ban by all means.

By Bente Scheller