Meaningful Political Dialogue Can Only Take Place with an Accounting of the Deaths and Disappearances – Raja AbdulKarim

Article  •  Publié sur Souria Houria le 28 juillet 2011

Meaningful Political Dialogue Can Only Take Place without an Accounting of the Deaths and Disappearances
Raja AbdulKarim, 25 July 2011
For Syria Comment

The Syrian Government cannot expect to see its political reform steps taken seriously – supposing it genuinely wishes to reform – when it fails to carry any serious and independent inquiry into the hundreds of deaths, arrests and cases of torture reported by political activists in the last four and a half months.

One of these recent cases is that of Shadi Abou Fakhr, a young cinema producer, who “disappeared” last week while walking in the central area of Shaalan in Damascus and whose case is widely reported and circulated on Facebook and other social media websites.

The author of these lines knows well Shadi. He is probably one of the most brilliant Syrians of his generation. In a recent discussion with him, this young man in his early thirties talked extensively of how he and many men and women of his generations saw the future of their country. Shadi talked of citizenship, of a secular state, of the rule of law. He also talked of his hope that when Syria would get over its revolution it would set an example for neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq that remain plagued by sectarianism.

Of course this sounds very idealistic; but can revolutions be carried without such idealism?

Shadi is no Salafist – he is a Druze; he is not pursing the agenda of any foreign country – he never lived abroad and speaks no foreign language; and he is a pacifist.

In spite of all this he has been arrested, as thousands of his countrymen, in a country whose Government prides itself in the security it supposedly provides to its population; a Government that obviously does not consider in any way that it is its responsibility to carry an independent and serious inquiry in all these cases.

For weeks the Syrian Government and many of his supporters have been putting blame on the opposition for refusing a dialogue; “those who put conditions for dialogue refuse dialogue,” the Government says.

Of course no one must be fooled. Even if some segments of the Syrian opposition refuses dialogue, large segments of it do want it but at a certain number of conditions: the withdrawal of the security services from the street and the end of the shootings on demonstrators; the liberation of the thousands of political prisoners; and the enabling of peaceful demonstrations to take place.

As a matter of principle, putting conditions for dialogue is not in itself a refusal of a dialogue per se, and the Syrian Government knows that better than anyone else. Doesn’t it put a condition of its own for negotiating with the Israeli Government, i.e. the recognition of Syria’s sovereignty on the whole of the Golan Heights? The vast majority of the Syrian population does, actually, support its Government in that stand.

It is necessary to understand at this stage that as long as no serious efforts are made to force the Syrian authorities to carry independent and serious inquiries into all the deaths and arrests that have occurred in the last few months, the Government’s reform claims cannot be taken for serious and no meaningful political dialogue can take place.

Syrians on all sides of the political spectrum need to know what happened to the 1,500 people that the opposition claims have died since the beginning of the unrest; they need to know where are and what happened to the 15,000 or so, including Shadi Abou Fakhr, that have disappeared; why no independent media is allowed into the country; and, in case we get no answer for that, why doesn’t Syrian state TV provide live broadcast of the hundreds of demonstrations that take place every week across the country in the same way that it covers the pro-Government demonstrations.

Many continue to believe the Government’s story of armed gangs and Salafists disrupting the efforts for political reforms and killing civilians across the country. These people, as much as the opposition, have an interest in the Government carrying, with the help of the families of the victims, a transparent and serious inquiry on the arrest, disappearances and deaths of every single one of the country’s sons and daughters.