Human rights organization in Syria continue to unleash their surprises every now and then. These organizations which proved through the last period that they are no more than organizations specialized only in issuing statements about political prisoners (which is an important matter indeed, but is only one of dozens of issues that should be tackled under the banner of human rights).

One of those surprises was manifested in the fact that most of the Syrian "human rights" organizations didn't take a clear and decisive position concerning "honor crimes" by which about 200 Syrian women are killed every year. The same applies to the issue of equality in rights and duties between both women and men on the basis of citizenship. And among other surprises, is the notorious silence concerning the first "Talibanic" draft of draft law of Syria’s Personal Status Code and the second backward draft.
The last of this series of surprises was a statement issued by these organizations "announcing the establishment of the Syrian forum for Non-Governmental Organizations signed by 8 organizations, one of which no body has heard of until few days ago when these eight organizations issued a statement condemning "the notorious attack of some suspicious newspapers in Tunisia and Morocco… against some legal and civil institutions in both countries". This unknown organization is "The Syrian Commission for Woman and Child Affairs".

If human rights organization use the pretext of hiding the names of their members for security reasons, it is odd enough for an organization that is supposed to work on women's and children issues to keep a secret profile. It is completely an unknown organization. We tried to reach any piece of information about its address, its members, or even its activities, but in vain. We can't but express our astonishment of how the civil work lacks transparency. We can't but ask how these organizations claim that by this, they are protecting themselves from the security authorities, while at the same time always reiterating in their statements that Syrian security police is able to get access to any piece of information. We have the right to suspect the actual presence of the Syrian Commission for Woman and Child Affairs. It is likely that it is only a name used for purposes that are served by its mere presence, even if it is a fake name.
The statement, in which the establishment of this forum was announced, reads "the first preparatory meeting for the forum took place in which representative of the Syrian NGOs participated. The discussion focused on the assessment of Barcelona declaration and the support of its implications unless they become merely governmental." This is equally strange.
We have seen in the past the notion of human rights being dwarfed to only statements about people who get imprisoned. And now it seems its time for these organization to expand their area of work. No Syrian organization working in the field of women's right was invited to this surprising meeting, including Syrian Women Observatory, nor the date and the place of it were mentioned.
It is really strange that this forum claims that it is a platform for Syrian NGOs, while it represents only 8 organizations which constitute no more than 1 percent of the Syrian NGOs. This is not because others refused to attend this "preparatory meeting", rather because they have not been informed of it nor invited to it.

It seems that the core of the statement is the following sentence "assessment of Barcelona declaration and the support of its implications". It seems that the main concern is not the Syrian civil society with its problems and obstacles, not its silence concerning the most important issues of civil society, and not its recent tendency towards issuing funny statements; from Goldeston report to the Lebanese elections, while keep turning a blind eye to reports that tackles the real problems of the Syrians, both men and women. The main concern is supporting the implications of Barcelona declaration!
Would anyone tell us how supporting the implications of Barcelona declaration could be achieved by organizations which say that their potentials don't allow them to issue a statement condemning all forms of violence against the Syrian women!
Their statement said that the debate in the meeting focused, among other things, on "the necessity of working toward the independence of the civil society organizations away from governments. It is really a kind of weird how "human rights organizations" would achieve that aim while keep silent towards the server violations of the human rights of more than two thirds of the Syrian population (women and children) by the government. How would they achieve such aim while refusing to implement any kind of transparency? How comes that they continue to rightly and harshly criticize the government concerning transparency and the failure to do what ought to be done, while themselves refuse to be criticized in such regards?
How would such organization promote the independency of other NGOs? Have they forged any kind of a relationship with an organization that works on the issues of people with special needs, children's issues, or the sons and daughters of prisoners? Have they established any kind of actual presence on the ground? Have they networked, away from personal relations, with other NGOs?
Everything comes crystal clear when the statement says "it has been agreed that this forum will be a non-governmental civil platform in the framework of the EuroMed partnership". So, it is not about the Syrian civil society with its problems and aspirations, it is all about the EuroMed partnership!!!!
We, in Syrian Women observatory, stress again that the Syrian Civil Society is a society that includes all forms of collective work that is independent of the government (this independency doesn't necessarily mean being hostile to the government, nor severing the relationship with it), including the 1750 associations and organizations that are officially registered in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and all the other unlicensed organizations.
We stress as well that the announcement of establishing such platform is not accepted once and for all. It is not accepted because it was not prepared by a considerable number of NGOs. The aim of such a platform should be the problems and aspirations of the Syrian society and not any other foreign perspective. The deliberations of such a platform should be made in public in away that every citizen is able to make his voice heard. Otherwise, such a platform would only serve other agendas.
Any announcement in the name of Syria "civil society" without clear articles, commitments, and positions towards violence against women and children, is but a kind of exploitation of the society.
We would like to say that the annoyance of some civil society organizations, including some of those working on women's issues, in not justified at all. We say it again and again, that the situation of the Syrian civil society is not that healthy at all as it suffers from its own corruption, interior problems and lack of activity. It is really a kind of shame to speak about transparency, publicity, democracy and human rights, and criticize the government for abusing these notions, while at the same time we are suffering ourselves from the lack of these principles.
Since all these organizations have their own media outlets "mainly web-sites", they can be part of this open debate about Syrian civil society in the way that suits them. Anything that is/was said under the table and behind closed doors, is not of any interest to us whatsoever.
Concerning the comments we got "under the table" about the editorial in which we criticized the Syrian civil society, these comments which reached an unprecedented level by accusing us of paying lip-service to the "security police" by stating our views publicly, we call for any person/organization that has something to say about what we stated to be part of this open debate instead of playing under the table in such a way that we refuse altogether. We call for an open meeting to be attended by anyone who wants to from the concerned organizations to speak openly about the status quo and tackle the problems we face without fear of anything.

Bassam AlKadi, 9/12/2009, ( Surprise, Surprise… A Syrian forum for NGOs)

Translated by Basel Jbaily

source in Arabic