Syria: What can we do?

Is Geneva II a band aid that aims to stop an immense wound from bleeding? Is it a fruitful initiative that attempts to support the Syrian peace proces? A lot of people all over the world seem very critical and have lost hope. Many because they don’t see how talking with Assad could help. ‘He is the problem, not the solution…’ Others because Iran is not invited to join this conference as an important player in the complex field in and around Syria. ‘This conference will not succeed without Iran being present.’ There are many reasons to be cynical.

Still it is our moral duty as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs stated: ‘In this pitch black scenario in Syria we have the moral obligation to keep looking for spots of light.’ Also in my work as a storyteller I realize the importance of deciding where to shed light to. During one of my visits connecting to the stories of the Syrian refugees in Jordan I was handing out a present to a friend. It was a light, a solar lamp that I brought from the Netherlands. A modern Alladin based upon the idea: Share the Sun. I will never forget the radiating face of Umm Ali. That was the moment I sended out a Tweet saying: They need light here! #SyrianRefugees #Jordan @wakawakalight.

One story leads to the next one and that is when I became the storyteller for the international campaign Solar for Syria. In order to spread the light for this campaign that empowers the refugees inside and outside of Syria further and further I travelled to Geneva and became witness of this historical gathering initiated by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UN Women last week.

Fifty Syrian women from civil society organizations and activists from inside and outside of Syria stated an appeal for peace. Geneva II clearly brings to the light that some of the parties believe that a solution can only be found by fighting. Although the Syrian women are still working on formalizing their presence to Geneva II becoming an official party. Already their recommendations and attitude of wisdom create the base for peace in Syria.

During the pressconference on Monday 13th of January 2013 I asked the Syrian women: What can we as international community and international press do to support you? Their answers were:

‘All countries in the world take your responsibility, don’t look away. You, the international community and press are responsible to put pressure on all disputing parties to sit down and stop this madness. We are here to make peace. We the Syrian women respresent more than half of our country. We want to take part in the negociation process and our wish is very simple, we are here to make peace.’

‘Shed light on the needs and respond to our demands instead of stating facts of victory or loss. Stop focussing on armed struggle, stop putting us in boxes. Terrorism is condemned in all countries and yet terrorists are gathering in our country making the mess even bigger. The case of the 100.000 of detainees is a story in itself. These people are our families, our friends, our neighbors.’

‘Relax your bureaucracies. In your systems please support our secular civilian forces. Please convey messages based upon reality. Messages of secularity. Our civil society has survived, our civil resistance has survived, every day we deliver assistence of relief. When we are trying to deliver food to our neighbors we are arrested or detained. We cannot keep talking about our misery let us focus on how to put an end to this suffering. The hero’s of the Syrian revolution are the ones who have a seculair position. Women are already rebuilding Syria, every day.’

We want to restore order in our country. We stand united in peace. We mothers, daughters and wifes agree on a powerful message: forgiving is the way forward to realize peace, we have come for peace making!’

Esseline van de Sande