During the war in Syria, artists played a big role in keeping the fight for freedom alive via peaceful and creative means such as street art, film-making, and documentation at a time when traditional media continued painting the picture as one of hopelessness. Their work has paved the way for possibly new strategies through which they could seek justice against crimes committed by the regime.
This study focuses on the areas permanently under Kurdish control with regime presence. These areas have experienced a quite different trajectory because they have been least affected by military fighting. While the human losses and damage suffered at the hands of ISIS should not be belittled, this area has hardly experienced aerial bombardments or fighting on the ground. Kurdish actors, for a long time tightly controlled by the Syrian regime, have been able to develop governance structures in parallel to the ones set up by the regime. While none of the Kurdish parties has openly called for independence understood as separation from Syria, Kurdish actors have come up with governance structures that explore the possibilities of autonomy within a federal state. They have come up with a constitution and an institutional design, and as far as it is in the range of their possibilities, they have been working on implementing it.
The deeper we dug with Tim into the stories of joy coupled with the losses, of hopes nipped in the bud yet re-emerging, the more we were convinced that this way, of not only sharing impressions but displaying the sweet and sour broader context of the reality behind these photos, really matters. For that, we paired Tim with Syrian writer and rapper Hani Al Sawah whose words helped create a personal narrative telling the story. The collaborative work speaks volumes about civilians doing what any civilian should be doing - living. Buying and selling. Diving into the unknown. Fishing. Barbecuing. Celebrating weddings and public holidays. Or for children: learning at school or simply spending time at a playground.
Where is "home" for the permanently displaced? Haid N Haid, Syrian Columnists and Chatham House Fellow, presents the findings of his study on how (and where) citizens of Daraya see their future in light of the mounting pressure Syrian refugees are facing to return home with no clear plans to ensure the security or protection of returnees or any guarantees to ensure their right to return to their own properties.
The anticipated military offensive in Idlib was averted by a Russian-Turkish agreement. But that does not mean the issue is solved. Even if Turkey managed to accomplish disarming extremist groups - what to do with them? And to what extent does the deal show the deal satisfy the different stakeholders' interests?
When the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London stated in 2013 that the Syrian army’s strength had been severely compromised and had fallen to about half its original size, the institute may have simply applied an incorrect scale. Perhaps the strength of the Syrian army is not measured in its numbers but rather in the amount of household appliances a soldier can carry.
Alex Rowell from Al-Jumhuriya speaks to Dr. Bente Scheller, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation's Middle East office, on the recent German elections and their likely impact on European Syria policy, the ongoing debate over Western participation in the future reconstruction of Syria, threats faced by Syrian refugees both in Europe and here in the Middle East, recent military developments against ISIS and other actors in Syria’s east and north, and much more.
No matter how complex and religiously driven the conflict in Syria may seem, its basic constellation is this: A regime with powerful allies wages a war of annihilation against wide parts of its own population. How could it get to this point? And what is the very least we can do?