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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Second Syrian National Charter Conference held in Detroit

During the multitude of international meetings that have been held over the past 13 years in the hope of finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, many participants have expressed concern about the preparedness of an interim governing body should the current regime fall. Recently the Syrian National Charter (Mithaq), initially drafted during the first National Syrian Charter Conference held in Washington DC in September 2022, has emerged as a cornerstone document advocating for birthright citizenship, equality, the rule of law, democracy, and human rights within Syria. It serves not only as a symbol of hope for a democratic future for Syria but also provides a practical blueprint for ongoing political developments and community engagements.

On June 22, 2024, the second Syrian National Charter Conference was held at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan. The attendees of this year’s conference gathered together from California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia with Syrians inside Syria, France, and Germany via Zoom, for the purpose of building upon the foundational work established during the original drafting of the Charter in 2022 and exploring avenues for further enhancement and adoption of the Charter among Syrian communities worldwide.

Representatives of key political and civil bodies that have endorsed the charter, including Civil Society Organizations, the Democratic Alliance for Syrians in Europe, the American Coalition for Syria

The conference opened with a comprehensive presentation by the Follow-up Committee detailing the achievements and the challenges faced since the first conference. Representatives of key political and civil bodies that have endorsed the charter, including Civil Society Organizations, the Democratic Alliance for Syrians in Europe, the American Coalition for Syria (ACS), and The Popular Movement in Sweida, elaborated on the charter’s impact on various communities and offered valuable perspectives as to future directions.

Dr. Khaldoon Alaswad speaking at the conference on June 22, 2024, Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan; Photo credit; SYRIAWISE

Dr. Khaldoon Alaswad, medical director of the Henry Ford Hospital Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, assistant professor of medicine at Wayne State University, international lecturer, and longtime advocate for human rights and social justice, was the main organizer of the conference.  

“We must agree among ourselves as Syrians before seeking solutions from others”

Dr. Khaldoon Alaswad

Dr. Alaswad explained that the National Charter is essential for the Syrian people as it unites the diverse ethnic, religious, and political groups by incorporating common values and promoting dialogue. It establishes a legal framework that defines the roles of the government, protects citizens’ rights, enhances democratic governance, and prevents the abuse of power. By enshrining human rights and fundamental freedoms, it is crucial for post-conflict reconstruction, rebuilding trust in institutions, and ensuring equal treatment.

Dr. Alaswad spoke to SYRIAWISE about the importance of unity. “We must agree among ourselves as Syrians before seeking solutions from others,” he said.

the National Charter is fundamental for rebuilding a cohesive, stable, and prosperous Syria, protecting human rights, promoting unity, and ensuring transitional justice

The Charter also addresses past atrocities through mechanisms for truth-telling, accountability, and reconciliation, ensuring justice for victims and preventing future violations. It provides a roadmap for peace and stability, outlining processes for conflict resolution and disarmament, and encourages economic development through stable legal policies and attracting international aid. Additionally, it fosters cultural and social cohesion by recognizing diverse identities and helps re-establish Syria’s international relations by demonstrating a commitment to democratic principles and human rights. Overall, the National Charter is fundamental for rebuilding a cohesive, stable, and prosperous Syria, protecting human rights, promoting unity, and ensuring transitional justice.

“The charter is not a constitutional declaration nor a constitutional alteration; it’s just a set of principles on which a future constitution would be authored by experts and political leaders elected by the Syrian nation.”

Wael Sawah

Wael Sawah, Syrian writer, researcher,, President of the Pro-justice Organization, Editor of the Syrian Observer, and member of the Advisory Council for the Syria Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, told SYRIAWISE: “I am extremely happy and very proud of the event that took place in Detroit, Michigan last Saturday. The convention of the Syrian American conference for Mithaq (Charter) is an advanced step towards accomplishing our vision of the future Syria that we all want to live in. 

“The Charter is not a constitutional declaration nor a constitutional alteration; it’s just a set of principles on which a future constitution would be authored by experts and political leaders elected by the Syrian nation. The Charter is the base that we hope can bring together all the Syrian people in all their differences. We believe that the ten principles agreed on two years ago are still valid and we will continue to work hard to convince the majority of Syrian people to accept this charter as the base for the future Syria. 

“We want Syria to be a country where all men and women, all people from all religions, sects, communities, ethnicities and nationalities are 100% equal. We call for a Syria where dignity comes first. We call for a Syria where the rule of law is the criteria that distinguishes this country and sets it apart from other nations. 

“The importance of the initiative related to the Charter lies in producing a document that all Syrians can agree on, encompassing the minimum common ground for every Syrian citizen.”

Samir Altaqi

“We struggle  in order to push our country into the future, into the coming phase, into what I call the club of the international democracies of the world.”  

Dr. Marwan Khouri, president of Syrian Democratic Alliance spoke from Germany over Zoom, emphasizing the importance of supporting the charter and its principles.

Second Syrian National Charter Conference held in Detroit, Michigan on June 22, 2024, Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan; Photo credit; SYRIAWISE

Dr. Samir Altaqi, Researcher at the Middle East Institute in Washington spoke to SYRIAWISE about the importance of the universal aspect of the Charter’s principles. Altaqi said: “The importance of the initiative related to the Charter lies in producing a document that all Syrians can agree on, encompassing the minimum common ground for every Syrian citizen. It aims to transcend divisions and reach out to all Syrians to rebuild Syrian nationalism based on the principles set forth in the document. Therefore, it holds special significance as it goes beyond the stance of the opposition, and ideological entrenchment, to address all Syrians.”

Raya from Sweida also spoke via Zoom about the importance of supporting the efforts being made to promote and implement the steps of this Charter. She also spoke about the resilience of the free people in Sweida and expressed her desire that all free Syrians would find unity in all aspects of political work in order to achieve their common goals for a free Syria. “We need a national charter that unites all Syrians, regardless of their differences in perspectives and priorities,” Raya said, adding, “There are 35 political currents and entities in Sweida, but unfortunately, there is no alliance between these forces. We hope for more positive steps in the coming period.”

Radwan Atrash, speaking from Idlib via Zoom, also emphasized that “Social and cultural cohesion is a necessity for the success of this Charter.”

Taufik Alhallak emphasized the necessity of media marketing through revolutionary media personalities to ensure the charter reaches the largest number of Syrians and non-Syrians

Speaking from France via Zoom, Basel Mansour, founder of the Youth Empowerment Platform explained the rationale for his organization’s partnering with the Charter conference, “The Youth Empowerment Platform is committed to its role in building Syria, which aligns with the goals of the Charter. The Platform seeks to enhance the social role. This shared vision between the two platforms strengthens joint efforts and is an important step towards a democratic, unified, and independent Syria.”

Longtime Syrian media personality Taufik Alhallak emphasized the necessity of media marketing through revolutionary media personalities to ensure the charter reaches the largest number of Syrians and non-Syrians, as well as the need to work on a mechanism for the Charter to reach everyone with societal consensus. He also expressed his regret that there is a shortage of media coverage on issues regarding Syria by American organizations.

“we are trying to build a democratic state with foundations similar to those in America.”

Mirna Barq

Mirna Barq,  President of Syrian Christians US told SYRIAWISE: “We are living here in America which is a great country with influence over what happens in the Middle East as a whole, and indirectly on Syria. If they know there is a Charter, it will give them a sense of security and alleviate fears about the future shape of the state after the fall of the regime. It will also show them that we are trying to build a democratic state with foundations similar to those in America.”

“The Charter has become a fundamental national necessity at the present time due to the fragmentation of the Syrian people.”

Sohaib Alagha, a Syrian American engineer who traveled from San Diego to Michigan to attend the conference, told SYRIAWISE: “The Charter has become a fundamental national necessity at the present time due to the fragmentation of the Syrian people. There is sectarian alignment. Therefore, the goals of the Charter are to outline the correct path forward.”

During the closing session of the conference a vote was held to elect a new follow-up committee of seven members who will continue to meet on a regular basis throughout the year to discuss matters related to the Charter and the logistics of the next meeting which will be held in Europe the date of which will be decided later.

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