Principles of the Syrian Democratic Council
After more than a century of international agreements following World War I, when the map of the Middle East was drawn without thought or consideration of the aspirations of the peoples of the region, and after decades of authoritarian rule, the peoples of Syria protested and civil strife led to internal war and destruction across the country. The authoritarian regime and counter-violence took the lives of hundreds of thousands. More than two million have been wounded or disabled, and millions have been displaced. Outside powers then stepped in, and conflict still haunts the country despite efforts by some in the international community to end the war through diplomacy.
Syria’s popular movement, dating back to spring 2011, lacked the leadership to shepherd the country in a new direction for a number of reasons: (1) the movement’s leadership lacked the vision to appreciate Syria’s political realities and future prospects; (2) the leadership did not possess a strategy to sustain the popular movement, which created a national crisis instead, and (3) the movement was unable to rely on local Syrian powers to bring peace and security, which in turn opened the door to external interventions that violated Syria’s sovereignty and drove violence up. Outside powers ultimately came to control Syria’s crisis and take advantage of it to the detriment of millions of Syrian citizens. This predicament also created fertile ground for extremist, fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the al-Nusra Front to emerge and later dominate the fragile and inadequately-organized Syrian opposition. These terrorist groups fight in the name of religion against all human values.
Syria’s popular movement requires a Syrian model, not external forces, to bring peace and security. One example is instructive. It is a model driven by a spirit of humanity and inclusiveness as well as the development and protection of a democratic system. The model for all of Syria lies in North and East Syria, in Rojava, where self-administration rules and peaceful coexistence is a fact on the ground.
In North and East Syria, under the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), an authority governing about one-third of Syrian territory and more than four million people, Syrians of all backgrounds sacrificed their lives to build a free and dignified life. Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Turkmen were, and still are, fighting side by side against both internal and external forces, and continue to make sacrifices daily in the interest of the region at large.
Only a political solution will save Syria. Only diplomacy and compromise will usher in a framework that can shape the country as a democratic, pluralistic society that is de-centralized and no longer authoritarian.
No one party or sect should be allowed to rule Syria. Syria’s political structure must be reformed so as to provide all parties, ethnicities, religions and regions a stake in the nation and its future. No group or interest should have a monopoly on the state’s institutions, its resources, or its government. Imposing one’s will from Damascus is a non-starter. The capital should be an enabler, not a spoiler, in the country’s development. A federal system in which Damascus empowers regions and local administrations is the only way that all Syrians will possess a stake in their homeland.
In order to stop Syria’s bloodshed and the nation’s continued fragmentation, and in order to confront and defeat all forms of terrorism and violence, Syria must embark on a national dialogue, without outside interference, on the road to peace. The new Syria must be based on justice, diversity, equality, and freedom for all. The new Syria can also serve as a model to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa that continue to suffer from authoritarian regimes.
The people of Syria are an integrated community based on equal citizenship in rights and duties without distinction. They are free and sovereign within the state and are proud of their diversity and rich cultural heritage. The people of Syria shall build their state based on a shared history, peaceful coexistence, and common living and work in the public interest without exclusion. The Syrian people reflect the harmonious interaction among the indigenous peoples in the region, such as the Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Circassians, and Armenians. All ethnicities and social entities shall enjoy national rights as equal citizens in accordance with international covenants and conventions. The Syrian people are one and equal in the state and their social and political diversity shall be recognized.
Based on the above, in December 2015, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) established clear principles for Syria.
- Acknowledge Syria’s communal diversity. Recognize the national and constitutional rights of the Kurds, Syriacs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Circassians, and Armenian peoples, and solve their issues in a democratic and just manner in accordance with international covenants and conventions.
- Preserve the unity of the Syrian homeland, a homeland that does not restrict itself to a single ethnicity, language, or religion, but a multilingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith homeland that has national spirit based on attachment to land, ecology, and progress, and without sexism and racism.
- A transition from a state ruled by political despotism, a chauvinist mindset and centralized governing to a democratic and federal system shall be a priority of Syria’s. The political reality of Syria is based on cultural diversity, and the principles of democracy and inclusion shall rule it.
- To preserve the principles of democracy and secularism in Syria, a consensual democratic constitution shall serve as the law of the land. That constitution must serve as the legal guarantor, which unifies the regions in one homeland.
- Fight and defeat all extremist, fundamentalist organizations in Syria in order to counter the culture of violence and extremism in all its forms. Support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) so that Syria’s liberation from terrorist groups and extremist forces is assured.
- Protect women’s rights and freedoms as a guarantee among all freedoms in Syria. Women’s rights and equality must be enshrined in Syria’s constitution. Women must play a role in drafting Syria’s new constitution.
- Adopt an economic policy that protects both Syrian society and the environment from monopolistic influences, achieves fair distribution of Syria’s natural resources and wealth, and strives to eliminate unemployment.
- Ensure the linguistic and cultural rights of every ethnicity in Syria as a basic human right. Education in one’s mother tongue should be guaranteed for all.
- Protect Syria’s youth and young professionals and provide them the chance to successfully pursue higher education opportunities and a place of employment as well.
- Ensure the rights of people with special needs and victims of war in Syria.
- Safeguard the well-being of the veterans of Syria’s war and ensure that they are supported by the state.
- Protect all of Syria’s children and their rights based on the standards of international law and norms. Develop robust programs that address their plight during Syria’s war and provide them new literacy and education opportunities.
- Ensure social justice in Syria.
- Protect Syria’s unity and sovereignty.
- Provide for the families of Syria’s martyrs. It is a moral duty to do so.