Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Analysis | Syrian Constitutional Committee: Is it a waste of time?

UN Special Envoy Geir Pederson (Center) between the Constitutional Committee’s two co-chairmen: Hadi al-Bahra (Opposition; Right) and Ahmad Kuzbari (Regime; Left); Credit: AFP

The seventh round of the UN-proctored discussions regarding the “future constitution” of Syria began in Geneva last Monday (March 21). Some look at this event as a necessary step in the right way to reach a solution for the Syrian crisis, while others believe that this is just a waste of time intended to divert attention from the core issues that need to be addressed by those sponsoring such meetings, mainly the UN.

Chaotic committee

Yahya Alaridi, who resigned lately from his post as a member of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, told SYRIAWISE that “the current situation is leading us to nowhere after 11 years of brutal regime’s atrocities supported by the Russian and Iranian dictatorships. It is there just to pretend that they are participating in a process for finding a political solution for the Syrian crisis.”

Alaridi goes on to say that the constitutional committee has been meeting for 30 months and has achieved nothing, asserting that it proved to be a “waste of time” and a cover for the Assad regime and its supporters to continue with their aggression and their brutal violations of Syrians’ rights as stated in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique.

In line with this conviction, Alaridi has decided lately to freeze his participation in this “chaotic committee” as he describes it and that he calls for an “active international effort to implement these resolutions” in light of the fact that the world has recognized and condemned Putin’s brutality in Ukraine, especially after realizing that he did more in Syria.

Alaridi concludes by stressing that the message in his resignation statement is not just to the Syrian opposition or to the Syrian Revolution; rather it is a “scream to the world to stop turning deaf ears to Syrians as they deserve to come back to life.”

Betrayal

Farhad Shekh Baker, a Syrian opposition figure of Kurdish origin currently living in Odyessa, Ukraine, told SYRIAWISE that proceeding with the Constitutional Committee talks is a “betrayal of the demands of free Syrian people and the many martyrs whose lives were lost in their struggle for freedom and democracy.”

Shekh Baker believes that any new follow-up with this committee is nothing more than a “futile journey” down an endless dark road, adding that the Russians are known for following a “step-by-step” policy which in practice means “endless procrastination” and skirting around the UN Resolution 2254.

“Quitting this committee is a sound and positive step towards achieving the goals of Resolution 2254,” Shekh Baker concludes.

No alternative

When asked about her opinion regarding the usefulness of the track of the Constitutional Committee she is a member of, Marah AlBukai told SYRIAWISE that she opposed the “step-by-step” approach from the very beginning when presented by the UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen. “We members of the Constitutional Committee are not concerned with implementing his [Pederson’s] personal ‘resolutions’; our concern is adhering to UN Resolutions 2254 and 2218 and the Constitutional Committee is one of the gates of 2254.”

AlBukai strongly believes that the Constitutional Committee is the “only process being actively pursued” by the UN right now. “Whoever wants to quit from it right now needs to tell us what the alternatives are,” AlBukai said.

Constitution not the main problem

With all these conflicting approaches to the issue of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, it is worth consulting an objective observer who is at the same time a renowned specialist on Syrian affairs. Bente Scheller, writer with an interest in foreign and security policy for Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan, states that although this is the 7th session in two and a half years of meetings, still there is no progress. “They are talking about the basics of governance, about state symbols, that they should agree on a way forward and the way they work, and that’s pretty shallow. It’s not any achievement at all in terms of what Syrians would need,” Scheller told SYRIAWISE.

“The constitution can’t live without the rest of the situation being changed. The Syrian Constitution so far is not the worst. It offers many principles that are there for a democratic state and for the rule of law. It’s just that this is not being adhered to by the Syrian regime. So, I would say the constitution is not Syria’s main problem,” Scheller goes on to say.

Scheller points out that the Constitutional Committee is just an element of a much larger framework that was agreed upon amongst members of the Security Council of the UN in 2015 in Resolution 2254, and the Constitutional Committee is just a tiny element.

Before that, Scheller asserts, human rights violations should stop and the military fighting should stop. “We haven’t seen all this, but in the current situation one of the things to look at is that it is mainly Russia that has been pushing the regime to accept being part, at least, of this sub-element of the Constitutional Committee and currently, obviously Russia is not interested in offering anything that allows for progress in areas that are interesting for the West.”

Due to the war in Ukraine, Scheller concludes, they have “less motivation to push the Syrian regime to be there and to make any concessions which of course is not very helpful for a difficult committee anyway.”

Waste of time?

It seems that there is an agreement that the formation of a constitution is just one tiny element of what was laid out in the UN Resolution 2254 by the Security Council in 2015.

In reality, Syria already has a constitution that the Assad regime fails to adhere to. By prolonging the focus on a minor issue, the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia, have managed so far to avoid addressing the major issues of ending the violence against the Syrian people and taking any of the steps necessary to bring about a political solution to the crisis.

With the current focus on what is happening in Ukraine, there is even less motivation for the concerned powers to pressure the regime into engaging in truly significant negotiations. Until that happens, it seems there is nothing to be gained by the Syrian opposition’s continued participation in this never-ending diversionary process.

Yasser Ashkar
Yasser Ashkar
Former instructor at Istanbul University. Ashkar is a Founding Member of the Association of Syrian Refugees, Human Rights Activist and Journalist. He currently lives in Michigan, USA.

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