At Assad’s Mercy Article While Berlin is contemplating secure borders, the Syrian regime has embarked on its next campaign to exacerbate the suffering of refugees. Bashar al-Assad considers them little more than a weapon. By Bente Scheller The Strong Point of the Syrian Army: No one else can carry as many washing machines Blog 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. By Bente Scheller Death in Instalments Article On paper, the slaughtering in Syria has long drawn to a close. Yet neither the regime nor Russia is keen on setting an end to the incessant killing. And the world stands by idle. first published in German on 27/02/2018 by Zeit Online By Bente Scheller Bente Scheller to Al-Jumhuriya: Europe should not expect concessions from Assad Interview 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. By Bente Scheller At the core of the war in Syria Article 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? By Bente Scheller Haid Haid on Transitional Justice in Syria Transitional justice is an essential element of sustainable peace. How successfully have Syrian NGOs been working on this matter? What can be done to support them? And where to go from here? We are delighted Haid N Haid will be discussing these matters in Beirut this Monday! Join us at Antwork at 7pm. By Haid Haid Invisible Borders - Beirut, Berlin -Documentation Video Documentation Watch the documentary by photographer and documentary filmmaker Alfonso Moral and visual artist Andrea Monrás Zöller in collaboration with Heinrich Boell Stiftung-Middle East Office. Syria’s Disappeared 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. By Bente Scheller INVISIBLE BORDERS BEIRUT-BERLIN A project-installation by Andrea Monras that revisits Beirut and Berlin today in relation to their similar tumultuous paths July 04, 2017 starting 7pm and running until July 10. Mansion- Zoukak el-Blatt Beirut, Lebanon Conference: How to do Justice? Accountability for Mass Atrocities in Syria Where can we begin to seek for justice in a war that sees violations of basic human rights committed by almost all conflicting parties? In our conference “How to do Justice? Accountability for Mass Atrocities in Syria” we invited panelists from different fields of expertise to find answers to this very urgent question. 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 Between Trauma and Resistance: Feminist Engagement with the Arab Spring These days, to ask what effect the Arab Spring had on women is to pose a question which seems ridiculous, irrelevant almost, given the bloody and brutal outcomes of revolutions in countries such as Syria, Libya and Yemen, and the ongoing repercussions of the uprising in Egypt, which leave no room for doubt that the dreams of the millions who demonstrated in Egypt's Tahrir Square in 2011 chanting ‘Bread, Liberty and Social Justice’ and calling for ‘Dignity and Freedom’ widespread in Syria, Libya and Yemen, have become terrifying nightmares which have touched on the lives of all members of society. But the progressive feminist movement across the Middle East is recovering from a particularly traumatic ride, and are finding they are being forced to fight again on issues which were on the table at the very birth of the movement and were felt by many to have been reconciled. By Honaida Ghanim Grass Roots and Grass Soup-Flavors of the Siege Film screenings and panel discussion on film and media productions in Syria since the beginning of the revolution. Tuesday, November 29 at 7 PM - 11 PM Metropolis-Empire Sofil Launch of the 10th issue of Perspectives: Borders: Lines in the Sand or in the Mind? Heinrich Böll Stiftung Middle East cordially invites you to celebrate the launch of the 10th issue of our regional magazine Perspectives! Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 19.00Venue: The Crypt, Monot, Beirut Borders, Drugs and Migrants in Northern Morocco Although the concept of borders has a long history, a definition remains quite ambiguous. It relies on a multitude of complex socio-political and economic elements that are at times contradictory. This is primarily due to the difficulty in establishing the shape and function of borders, since they are constantly changing and evolving. Thus, the concept of borders changes as you move between academic disciplines. There are a number of diverse approaches to the concept and each field employs ideas and philosophies specific to it; whether that is historical, geographical, political, sociological, anthropological, psychological or other, it is evident that there is no single definition. Nevertheless, the notion of the border relies heavily on John Locke’s notion of natural law and the demarcation of private property rights. It is a concept at the heart of knowledge production in the social sciences and has currency in the field of international relations. By Khalid Mouna If Europe is a Fortress, then its Walls are Full of Cracks: the Case of Sub-Saharan Migrants in Morocco We see them daily in the news. Masses of black bodies, cramped together on unseaworthy boats, bodies in rags lying, helpless, exhausted, on the white sand. No face. No name. Such images reproduce, time and again, an imaginary of the invasion of Europe by its radical ‘Other’; an imaginary that, in turn, justifies exceptional measures – the militarized and arbitrary government of migration. Here too, images are, identical, interchangeable: military ships, circling radars, men in uniforms and gloves intercepting desperate bodies. We see these images so often. There is nothing left to see or think; or do: both this ‘flow’ of people and the violent reaction of the state to the crossing of its borders seem unstoppable. Flip the page, zap. And yet it is precisely this ‘flow’ of people that I have sought to present differently: I’ll try to show that far from being a uni-directional, violent, and massive ‘invasion,’ the transnational migration of Sub-Saharan Africans in the Maghreb has evolved according to complex patterns, often over several years, and is shaped by multiple forms of agency and collaboration enacted by migrants. By Mehdi Alioua Nominated: Syrian Candidates for the Golden Raspberry Awards 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. By Bente Scheller 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 and Alisha Molter Syrian refugees in Lebanon – from war to legal void Lebanon has accepted more people in need per capita than all other states neighbouring Syria but never having acceded to the UN convention does not recognise them as refugees. By Bente Scheller Internally displaced Syrians facing new challenges Many internally displaced people within Syria are being prevented from fleeing conflict zones due to fears over sleeper cells By Haid Haid The feeling of guilt engulfing Syria's revolutionaries Syria's five year war has cost up to 470,000 lives. Many survivors are plagued with guilt that their revolution has led to so much pain, says Haid Haid. By Haid Haid Shelter "Shelter" is a Beirut-based project that integrates a documentary on Bomb Shelters with space (a former bomb shelter). An audience-powered performance in the two-room shelter blurs lines between memory and the present, between image and physical surroundings in order to unearth a people's history of Lebanon's wars. 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 The continuance of the war by other means Since February 26, a truce has largely prevailed in Syria. However, hardly any improvements to the humanitarian situation in the country can be observed to date. People continue to suffer starvation. That is part of the war strategy. By Bente Scheller “Even dying is a problem here” - a glance into Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon Lebanese bureaucracy, traumatized people, and little international support: There are numerous day-to-day problems in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. Majd Chourbaji helps to solve them. By Alisha Molter 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 Russia’s systematic efforts to sabotage the Vienna talks The killing of Zahran Aloush, leader of one of the strongest rebel group in Syria — Jaysh al-Islam — on 26 December, by a Russian airstrike shows again that Russia is willing to do whatever it takes to tip the balance of the conflict in favor of the Assad regime. By Haid Haid Putin and Assad: the players of Damascus Moscow is now preoccupied with bringing the strategy initiated by Bashar al-Assad to perfection: After the attempt to convince western states that the only alternatives to Assad are chaos and the “Islamic State” fell through, the powers in the centre are to be weakened and to be virtually driven into the arms of the “IS”. By Bente Scheller 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. The Southern Front: allies without a strategy Though the anger towards the Southern Front is still not alarming yet- as people are criticizing their strategy not the SF itself- this could be the beginning of a significant shift in its community support, which could be used by its rivals. By Haid Haid Back to basics: protection of civilians in Syria begins where the air sovereignty of the regime ends Some of the most devastaing attacks of the airforce killed scores of civilians last week: incendiary weapons were used in Daraya, and bombing Douma's market place killed over 80 and inured more than 100 people. What about the "safe zone" Turkey and the US have been announcing? By Bente Scheller Exilium Image credits 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 When minorities become pawns in a power game The stronger the competing Islamist terrorist militias of IS and the Nusra Front become, and the more brutal Syria's civil war gets, the easier it is for the Syrian regime to portray itself as the sole force capable of protecting the country's civilians. By Haid Haid and Bente Scheller What choices do the Syrian Druze have left? Though it might seem as if Druze are in a position in which they have no good options, some of their options could prove, in the long-term, to be better than others. By Haid Haid Assad’s strategy: don’t fight Daesh; direct it The conflict dynamics and development in Syria are strongly determined by the different groups' access to certain areas. Some have been able to turn problems into opportunities. By Haid Haid The Nusra Front, from soft power to terror There are many obstacles on the way to peace in Syria. What about Jabhat al-Nusra, a pragmatic group with an extreme ideology? By Haid Haid Incredibly loud and extremely ignored A no-fly zone is no solution for the conflict in Syria, but it would help save the lives of hundreds of people every month - and less people would be forced to seek refuge somewhere else. Read here one of the contributions to re-open the debate. By Bente Scheller Cease fires, a peace tool or a pain killer? Two versions of the Stone Soup story Cease fires, in the current situation, can neither achieve their objectives nor lead to a political solution to the conflict in Syria. By Haid Haid 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.