In commemoration of the beginning of the peaceful Syrian protest five years ago, which has since then turned into a hopeless war, Pax Christi Flanders answers the most urgent questions about the conflict.
Does the ceasefire provide hope for improvement?
The United Nations was able to broker a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as the rebel groups, and they restart negotiations on 14 March. Considering that the ceasefire does not pertain to the Islamic State nor the Al-Nusra Front, the fighting will continue; however, the calm represents a cautious sign of optimism for an improvement in the conflict.
Are protests and citizen opposition still possible?
The cease in the bombings by the Syrian government and Russia allowed for the gathering of 100 peaceful protests on 4 March throughout Syria, under the slogan, “With less than the fall of the regime, we are not satisfied.” In addition, civil societies continue to maintain their presence in Syria standing up for basic rights and providing humanitarian assistance. Read more about the non-violent protests here.
Why does it seem so difficult to achieve solutions in the negotiations?
A negotiated solution seems very difficult to achieve because each actor involved in the conflict maintains its own goals, which in turn prevents any room for compromise. For example, the Assad regime which is backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, are against political change and are willing to do what is necessary to keep Assad in power. As stated previously, there were over 100 demonstrations by the opposition, demanding the removal of Assad. Furthermore, Al-Nusra Front and IS have their own goals and demands.
What are the biggest obstacles in the peace talks?
There are many obstacles that are making a successful outcome difficult to achieve. In the previous peace talks in Vienna, the opposition did not participate. In addition, the opposition demands confidence building measures be put into place, including the end of the siege and the release of political prisoners. Many opposition leaders are not even able to attend the talks. Furthermore, there are many international actors (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey etc.) that stand by their own interests in the conflict.
What is the position of Broederlijk Delen and Pax Christi Flanders?
Broederlijk Delen and Pax Christi Flanders support the civil society activists currently working in Syria and see them as the best option for a democratic Syria. Moreover, they believe that instead of participating militarily against IS, Belgian forces are better off helping the civil activists who are currently being oppressed.
Read the answers in full length in Dutch here.