This week marks exactly 10 years since the start of the Syrian revolution. Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrians went out into the streets to demand a life of freedom and dignity after 40 years of dictatorship . This peaceful popular uprising was met with brutal violence and soon developed into an armed conflict with different regional and international powers taking part. Ten years later, Syria is a country that is broken and torn apart.
Those who stood up for freedom were either killed, imprisoned or driven away. More than half of the population was forced to flee. Tens of thousands of people were detained, tortured and forcibly disappeared. And after half a million deaths, the UN stopped counting.
Commemorating 10 years of revolution
However, those Syrians who took part in the revolution don’t only look back with bitterness. Their lives changed on the 15th of March 2011 and there is no way back. We got three of these Syrians to tell us more about this in a podcast that we made for this occasion in collaboration with the Greater Middle East Platform. The podcast. in Dutch, is available on Apple, Spotify and Google. Furthermore, programme lead Marjolein Wijninckx looks back in a blog at her last visit to Damascus ten years ago. She could never have imagined that, ten years later, some of her Syrian friends would become Dutch citizens and would be able to vote in a free and democratic election for the first time – but then in the Netherlands.
Brussels donor conference
The Syrian war led to one of the largest humanitarian disasters of these past few years. A man-made disaster. A majority of Syrians have been dependent on international humanitarian aid for years. For the 5th time, the EU is hosting a big conference this month to mobiliser political and financial support for Syria. The world is starting to get ‘tired’ of Syria and donors are pulling out. Vice-president of the EU, Josep Borrell, spoke the following words about this last week in the European Parliament: “We are prepared to provide considerable support. But ‘business as usual’ is not an option.”
As in previous years, PAX is organizing different events in to the margin of this conference to provide a platform to our Syrian partners to call for attention to matters which they think should be prioritized. On Wednesday the 17th of March we will start with a webinar about the current situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the risks to security that are still prevalent in Syria. On Thursday the 18th of March we are organizing a webinar where Palestinian and Kurdish Syrians call for attention to the human rights violations that led to the confiscation of their houses and possessions. And on the 24th of March we are hosting a webinar for five Syrian groups of survivors and families of Syrians who were detained or disappeared (keep an eye on the website and PAX social media for more information).
PAX in Syria the past 10 years
PAX has been active in Syria since 2003, when we started a program to support peace and human rights activists in Syria. When the revolution broke out in 2011, PAX spoke out immediately in support of call for freedom and dignity of the Syrian people. We started a campaign called ‘Adopt a Revolution’ through which people in the Netherlands could support civil initiatives for change in Syria. The more violence increased, the more PAX shifted its focus towards the protection of civilians, for example through the Siege Watch project which, for three years, called for attention to the violations against civilians in besieged areas. Through the project ‘Story of my Refuge’, Syrian refugees in the Netherlands visited hundreds of schools to create a better understanding of what they have been through. And in the coming years, PAX will continue to support peaceful Syrian activists in their struggle for freedom, dignity, justice and peace.