Toward A Social and National Contract in Syria

Randa Kassis and Jehad Saleh are co-founders of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, which is holding its first member meeting in Paris on September 13-14. Randa Kassis is Syrian anthropologist living in Paris and was formerly a member of the Syrian National Council. Jehad Saleh is a Syrian freelance journalist living in Washington, DC.

Syrian society is distinguished by its diversity and the ethnic, nationalist, and religious groups that form the climate for the participation in rights, duties, and citizenship according to democracy and justice, which in turn forms a universal identity for this social diversity. Individual freedom, regardless of gender, color, or personal principles, is the basis of a social national contract in Syria. Through this contract, the source of which is justice, equality, and mutual respect, the life and freedom of the individual is respected and preserved, and the basis for a relationship between members of Syrian society and the state is formed.

The establishment of an integrated society — via this relationship and the nature of the state and its laws, the essence of which is to create a humanitarian society where loyalty is to the nation and not an individual — will allow us to create a democratic civil state under the authority of the law and constitution. The social contract between members of Syrian society will be based foremost on respect for the individual, and then on the sacredness of his or her freedoms and rights according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The current situation in Syria, however, in all respects, reflects the fear and anxiety of the advocates for a civil state and democracy. This is due to the staying power of the regime, despite its weakness, and the Islamic currents’ control of the reins of the revolution, both militarily and politically via the Syrian National Council (the Muslim Brotherhood), and the fighting factions (the Free Syrian Army, MB fighters, Salafis, and foreign fighters). Between the metaphysics of the situation in Syria, the difficulty of reading between the lines, and the lack of moral or logistic support from the civil, political, and legal currents in neighboring nations and in the international democratic community, the future political horizon in Syria is slipping from sight, and the dream of a civil, pluralistic state is becoming a belief in the occult, a venture whose end is unknown, which has increased the fears of Syrian ethnic, religious, intellectual, and cultural minorities.

Due to the fragmentation of Syrian forces, and their lack of agreement over a set of principles to protect the revolution and it’s aims of freedom and a civil society, we find the Syrian situation and the revolution are being driven down the slippery slope of political Islam. Its agenda to establish a state in accordance with the dimensions of political Islamic ideology (which is incompatible with the project of democratization and building of a civil state) will sever ethnic and religious minorities from their rights and freedoms under the guillotine of the Sunni Arab majority as a form of sectarian and political discrimination, and will impose a culture of the stronger, without regard for the value of national participation, or the freedom of opinion, or elections. This is the cultural demagogic condition of the Islamic current and other extremists. Because of their skepticism of those different than they are because of gender, race, thought or vision, in addition to their political weakness, and lack of popularity within Syrian society, the MB and other extremists are convinced they will be met with defeat at the start of the Syrian democratic process. So they are trying every trick in the book to impose their policies according to the logic that they are the majority and the strongest when it comes to regional support and weapons. They are driving the helm of the revolution towards their own political goals, and refuse the principle of the separation of religion and state.

We, the civil forces, believe in freedom of the individual as the basis for freedom of society, and furthermore, the foundation of a democratic state with a rational government which provides justice and equality to citizens on the basis of the universal Syrian identity, and protects Syria from the return to dictatorship or a single party and the worship of an individual via the synthesis of a tyrannical god.

As such, we must participate in the formulation of the foundations of the next phase, the removal the regime and its mechanisms, the foundations of transitional justice, elections, a constitution, and a civil state. This necessitates creating a national document which unites all Syrians in its principles, and guarantees that the revolution will result in the realization of our dreams of democratizing Syria, creating a civil state, and protecting rights and freedoms. This guarantee will come through a national social contract discussed and ratified by important forces and authorities representative of Syrian socio-political diversity. They will draw up a plan to bring down the regime and destroy its foundation, which outlines the next phase and the details of building a modern state. This pluralistic group of authorities will act as a civil bloc united politically and socially against the forces of injustice which hide behind slogans of freedom and democracy, however, in reality, refute civil culture, the rights of minorities, and free civic participation completely, and shun the principles of justice and equality.

This vision and these ideas have been organized through the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, which will work to achieve a mature, civil, Syrian state by creating an institutional culture in political, social, economic, human rights, civil society, and environmental sectors. The movement will also address the issue of victims of violence and its impact when the regime falls, and certify that minorities will act as vital partners in decision-making and the democratization of society via the new participatory culture the social national contract.

The movement will launch its first meeting in Paris from September 13th to 14th, and strive for the support of democratic governments in publishing a treatise on democracy, civil government, and human rights. We will need their expertise in Syria’s transition from a state of oppression and violence to one of culture and vitality, with a civil, democratic spirit that guarantees individual and societal rights together.

The time is nigh for governments to direct their attention toward the civil forces and minority activists, and help them take active roles in ending oppression and transitioning to freedom and a civil state. If they don’t, the Islamists and other enemies of civilization and pluralism in Syria will succeed in furthering their interests and agendas, which represents a danger for freedoms, minority rights, and international interests in the Middle East.  Syria will then enter an unstable political and social situation, between a long civil war, and the chaos of regulating society which will become fertile ground for fundamentalist and terrorist forces, all of which will negatively affect neighboring countries.

Forming a poly-partisan system from groups who call for a civil state will be a great task and require international support. Following this, a strategic plan must be set in place to address general political, social, and economic problems in Syria through the contribution of Syrian forces for the implementation of the treatise and principles of the movement for the establishment of a civil, democratic, pluralistic state. As a result, this movement will support democratic culture and create a basis from which Syria can work, in participation with all groups who share the vision and goals of the revolution from its very beginning until today.

Randa Kassis and Jehad Saleh are co-founders of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, which is holding its first member meeting in Paris on September 13-14. Randa Kassis is Syrian anthropologist living in Paris and was formerly a member of the Syrian National Council. Jehad Saleh is a Syrian freelance journalist living in Washington, DC.