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A diverse coalition of Syrians in the United States comes together to chart a future for Syria without violence
CHICAGO: A diverse group of Syrian expatriates and Syrian American community leaders and activists are joining forces in hopes of creating a representative coalition that can effectively lobby to end the violence in Syria and find a acceptable solution to the ongoing civil war.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, coalition organizers said former rival groups and their leaders are now working together and coordinating their efforts to focus on how they can help end the conflict as a first step. towards the establishment of a more representative government in the country.
Syrian expatriates held their first “consultative” meeting on October 29 in Washington, where the 70 participants agreed to work together and plan a follow-up meeting to develop and move forward an agenda to help end the crisis. civil war in Syria, which began on March 15. 2011.
Organizers said the diversity of participants, including more than 70 prominent Syrians, and their “determination to work together” can become a driving force in pushing US and European authorities to play a more active role in helping Syria recover. the right path. productive future without violence.
“The point, if we put aside the need to communicate with this (American) administration and the various organs of the American establishment, what is more important is that we must show and practice the evocation of all the differences between the Syrians themselves; it will help,” said Samir Al-Taqi, a former Syrian parliament member who once served as a consultant to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and before that to his father, former President Hafez Assad.
“We all believe that without a reconciliation to rebuild a voluntary participation of all Syrians without any pressure, regardless of democracy because democracy does not solve all the problems between people… what we need in Syria is not opposition to the regime — we in Syria need an alternative to the regime. Its very important.
“So maybe through this we can create not necessarily an opposition but an alternative to the war in Syria, allowing all partners to come together. I don’t believe there will be any justice in this world, so we must be accommodating regardless of justice.
As a close adviser to Assad, Al-Taqi served as director of the Oriental Center for International Studies, a Damascus-based research extension of the Syrian Foreign Ministry. He also represented the Syrian government during the investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Al-Taqi’s relationship with Assad broke down before the start of the civil war, when he informed the president that an impending conflict could jeopardize the country. He was arrested and tortured before being allowed to leave the country on August 9, 2010. He moved to the United States and is currently a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute, the American Center for Levant Studies, and part of Queens University’s Distinguished Scholars Program related to the peace process.
Also present at the meeting in Washington were six of the 10 former Syrian government ministers who fled the country and found refuge in the United States, as well as activists, business leaders and former diplomats.
Ayman Abdel Nour, a member of the organizing committee, said the main objective was to create a strong and unified voice to help push forward the implementation of UN Resolution 2254, which was passed on 18 December 2015, and specifically states the requirement that the “Syrian people will decide the future of Syria”.
“Many efforts have been made to bring together the Syrian American community and Syrian expatriates to define a strategy to end the conflict and put Syria back on the path of recovery and transition, but all have failed due to the ‘inability of all parties to come together,’ Abdel Nour said, agreeing with Al-Taqi. “I believe we can now overcome these divisions.”
He pointed out that the meeting participants came from many parts of the United States, including Florida, New Jersey, Boston, Washington State and California.
A leading reformist, Abdel Nour is a consultant to several multinational organisations, including the UN and the EU, and advises on civil society and economic development in Syria. An engineer and economist by training, he has testified before the European Parliament, provides consulting services on public policies in the Middle East to international organizations and is also president of Syrian Christians for Dialogue.
Stressing the “need for unity” for the coalition to succeed, he said it includes representatives from all sections of Syrian society, including Yazidis, the Syrian-Jewish American community in New York, Druze leaders , Kurds, a Syrian-American student. committee in Los Angeles, and members of several of the 10 tribes of Syrian society who now live in the United States.
According to organizers, the 70 diverse participants at the coalition meeting included:
Hussein Amash, former Minister of State for Combating Unemployment and Director of Al-Furat University. He was imprisoned in Syria but released because he had American citizenship. He was previously Managing Director of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
Former minister Taghreed Al-Hajali, a leader of the Druze sect who served as minister of culture.
Wael Mirza, former political adviser to President Assad.
Edward Hashweh, a prominent Syrian lawyer from Homs who had close relations with all Syrian presidents since 1957.
Huda Aljord, a Syrian professor at the University of California, Riverside.
Washington-based international lawyer Hamid Al-Rifai.
Mahmoud Diaba, chief of the Palmyra tribes, one of the 10 Syrian tribes, who has an office in Michigan.
Ayman Hakki, a surgeon from Washington.
Lina Murad, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University.
Hisham Nashwati, head of the Syrian organization Syria Freedom, based in New Jersey.
Nimrod Suleiman, Syria analyst and commentator for Al-Arabiya TV.
Zaher Baadrani, director of the Future Movement and the Islamic Youth Movement in Florida.
Both Al-Taqi and Abdel Nour said the coalition’s goal was not to continue the existing conflict but to use their influence in the United States to convince the Biden administration to help create a “new alternative “.
“The caliber of leaders present at the meeting puts an end to criticism that the Syrian-American community is fractured and cannot come together,” Abdel Nour said. “They can be the strongest group to give new impetus to reinvigorate the effort to implement UN Resolution 2254.
“We are very optimistic but it is a process. The date of the next meeting is not set but we are working on it. Attendance will increase.