News / Middle East

    Syrians Plan Next Government without Assads

    (From L) Members of the opposition Syrian National Council Murhaf Jouejati, Afra Jalabi, and member of the opposition National Change Currents Amr Al-Azm following a press conference in Berlin, August 28, 2012.
    (From L) Members of the opposition Syrian National Council Murhaf Jouejati, Afra Jalabi, and member of the opposition National Change Currents Amr Al-Azm following a press conference in Berlin, August 28, 2012.
    David Arnold
    While many around the world wait for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to fall, a few dozen Syrians have been meeting privately for six months trying to figure out what comes next.
     
    The 45 Syrians – mostly exiled politicians and some activists fresh off the streets of their nation’s 18-month uprising - have been meeting quietly in Berlin to recommend how a transitional government could rebuild government institutions and establish democratic practices unseen in the country for more than four decades.

    The results of their work are contained in The Day After: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria, a 120-page document that was released to the public today in Berlin.

    However, the larger questions remains who can implement their recommendations.

    “The fact is, we don’t know,” said Andrew Tabler, a senior research fellow from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who spoke from Antakya, a Turkish city on the Syrian border. “That’s why there is such an effort now to reach out to the opposition, especially inside the country to see if we can work better with it.”

    Looking for new leadership inside Syria

    The Syrians meeting in Berlin are not the only ones trying to map out a future transitional government in Damascus. So are the Arab League, the so-called Friends of Syria alliance and other regional and western powers, including the U.S. State Department and Pentagon.

    But despite the effort of the Berlin group, coming up with an acceptable transition team for Damascus still remains a huge obstacle for the Syrian opposition because the various factions have yet to agree on its makeup.

    For now, their first priority is to win the civil war and oust Bashar al-Assad.

    Tabler says one difficulty is that Syria’s opposition forces are still “very fragmented and very suspicious of one another.”  Even so, he says the activists and militants who are inside Syria fighting the regime on a daily basis may be better placed to provide leaders who can command support for an eventual transition.

    “Whether they would provide the political base or the backbone, nobody knows yet,” Tabler said.

    Syrians meeting in Berlin

    Taking questions at the press conference in Berlin today, Day After participant Amr al-Azm said the project could speed up the demise of the Assad regime and added that further international support was needed to assure his departure and the nation's recovery.

    Amr al-Azm at conference
    Amr al-Azm at conferencei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    Another Syrian who participated in the six months of deliberations, Murhaf Jouejati, stipulated that his fellow Syrians "want no boots on the ground" but have an immediate need for international assistance with the large numbers of Syrians now homeless due to the conflict.

    Murhaf Jouejati at conference
    Murhaf Jouejati at conferencei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    Al-Azm added that the Day After working group never intended that their work was to create a transition government. but to offer suggested measures to be taken once a government is identified.

    Day After participant Amr al-Azm
    Day After participant Amr al-Azmi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    Members of the Berlin working group also could be a source of expertise for the reconstruction of Syria.
    I would like to state very clearly that this is a Syrian document

    “That’s highly possible,” said Steven Heydemann of the U.S. Institute of Peace [USIP], which facilitated the six-month exercise in partnership with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs [SWP]. Swiss, Dutch and Norwegian funders also helped finance the project.

    The group in Berlin includes Sunnis, Christians, Druze, Alawites, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and a number of independent political organizations inside and outside Syria.

    Political independence

    Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for the Berlin group, is emphatic that its recommendations are not the product of the United States or of any other foreign power.

    “I would like to state very clearly that this is a Syrian document,” Jouejati said. “It was written by Syrians, and it is owned by Syrians.”

    The “Day After” group’s document addresses what members believe are six areas of needed political and governmental reform: the constitution, the judicial system, popular elections, internal security, rule of law and economic and social policy. 

    They don't want another Iraq

    Heydemann of USIP said Syrians meeting in Berlin looked to events in Iraq over the past decade as a guideline on how to develop suggestions for Syria.

    “They viewed Iraq as holding a number of lessons about how not to proceed with the transition,” he said. “And the idea that a transition would bring about the dismembering of institutions was something they were anxious to avoid. They felt the Iraq experience was a disaster in that regard.”

    They viewed Iraq as holding a number of lessons about how not to proceed with the transition
    The Syrians also reviewed U.N. guidelines for choosing reliable government bureaucrats, Heydemann said. They learned to avoid assumptions that an Alawite in the courts system, for example, was automatically complicit in the crimes of the regime, or that a Sunni in the security apparatus had been a victim.

    Jouejati said the vetting process clarified how to select currently serving military and government officials “who do not have blood on their hands to keep the government functioning.”

    Syrians must decide

    Jouejati again emphasized that the Berlin Day After group, which was made up mainly of Syrian exiles, wants those inside Syria to make the final decisions on how to proceed.

     “They are the ones who have been suffering the terrible brutality of the regime,” Jouejati said. “They must have a vote on determining their future.”

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: umayyad grandson from: damascus syria
    August 29, 2012 9:48 AM
    this photo of 3 of them who are they, why jalabi? is she Iraqis who si al azem, and why jouijati, why not me this is a big mistake to train people out side of syria and claim that they are working for us, what measure you take when selecting those people, and how we can be sure that those people going to be better and will not be another copy of the dictators we dont want to release from iran and follow america we want to follow our interest .do you think 45 person can lead the transition goverment that means 2 person for one million this is not fair and they are not accepted from me that means from us inside the country

    by: Bud Peart from: Australia
    August 29, 2012 6:25 AM
    So how much credibility do these people have in Syria? About as much as Chalabi had in Iraq? What a joke, a hotch potch of US chosen puppeteers. These idiots will be swinging from lamp posts in no time if they try an oppose the FSA's Islamic agenda.

    by: Anonymous
    August 29, 2012 3:37 AM
    That's all we need-another U.S. puppet administration.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 28, 2012 11:09 AM
    Let Assad go first, that's the first step. As it is at the moment, he's not ready to go unless somebody suggests he commits suicide - which he is gradually committing but not about to accept because life's precious, though he thinks of his own life only. To Assad, the motto is to retain power until it is taken away by force. Nothing is going to make him relinquish it as long as Russia, China and Iran are solidly behind him. He plays out the scenario that Tehran has been wanting to experiment, and Ahmadinejad wants to see how far it can go, thus confirming his theory of democracy by force, even as the euphoria of its short term success gave him the impetus to pursue another victory in being able, under the present circumstances, to convene a meeting of120-member non-aligned movement. Solicited or unsolicited, Syrians have played into the hands of Iran to be used for laboratory test of this theory. This raises the question: Inside or outside, can these arabs ever midwife a democracy that is truly people oriented?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.