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?
This paper draws on primary data collected from 15 semi-structured interviews with Syrian organisations and practitioners working on transitional justice. The interviews were conducted by the author via online communication (calls over Skype or WhatsApp) between March and June 2017. The interviewees were selected based on the relevance, access and availability of Syrian activists working on this topic. It is not clear how representative the views expressed here are, but the high level of agreement among interviewees on the subjects discussed suggests that the issues highlighted here merit additional attention from local and international actors working on this topic in Syria.
Over the past years, tens of thousands of men, women and children in Syria havee become subject to forced disappearances in Syria. All armed factions in Syria engage in arrests, abductions and human rights violations but none does so as systematcially as the Syrian regime. Despite its accession to the international convention against torture in 2004, conditions in regime prisons are excruciating. On July 12, the European Council for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Heinrich Boell Stiftung Berlin screened the film "Syria's Disappeared" in which survivors of Syrian prisons and relatives of some tortured to death speak out.
Many a time, they will reminisce about a pre-revolutionary Syria, albeit a romanticised version, from which they – due to a lack of knowledge, ignorance or quite consciously – omit that the country already was a rogue state at that time, characterised by arbitrary arrests, torture, oppression and discrimination.