“At the tables of the negotiations sit only those who have economic and political interests on Syria. The only right that is left to us, real victims of the war and true lovers of Syria, is to choose how to die in silence. But we, in the deafening noise of weapons, we claim the right to raise our voices…”. This is the appeal that Hsyan Abd El Rahim, elementary school teacher originating from the area of Homs, in Syria, addressed to the international community in the name of so many others who, like him, were forced to flee from their homeland by finding asylum in neighbouring Lebanon.
Today El Rahim will be at Italian Chamber of Deputies, to illustrate a “Peace Proposal for Syria” to the representatives of the Parliament and to the Associations. The document has been drawn in collaboration with the volunteers of Operation Dove, Nonviolent Body of Peace of the Community Pope John XXIII, which operates since 2013 in some of the refugee camps in Lebanon. “In Terris” has reached him by telephone to understand more about this proposal and to know his experience.
What is your personal history?
I was a teacher in an elementary school in my area of origin, near Homs. In 2011, as a human rights activist, I took part in the protests against the Syrian regime to ask for more freedom. The armed forces, however, immediately reacted in a violent manner to these requests, forcing many activists, including me, to flee from their own country. This is how I went in Lebanon, in August 2012. Here I started to contribute in the field of health and education for other Syrians refugees.
Do you think that the Syrian war have been triggered by the repression of the government towards peaceful demonstrations?
I can assure you that at the beginning, in 2011, demonstrations were peaceful. The repression by the regime, with mass arrests and charges in the streets against the demonstrators, provoked the clash. Hence the birth of the Syrian Free Army (armed group of opposition to the Syrian Government, editor’s note) and the civil war.
Don’t you think that external actors have voluntarily influenced the destabilization of Syria?
Until the time I still was in Syria, in 2012, we did not have the feeling that external actors were affecting the situation. But we talk of five years ago, too many events occurred in this lapse of time…
How your proposal alternative to violence concretely realize?
Lebanon is welcoming millions of Syrians refugees. Considering that it is a small country, we are facing an injustice because it is overloaded with this weight and with the consequences of the war in Syria, which over the years has worsened with the raising of the Islamic State. Even the associations working on the Lebanese territory, are no longer able to manage the emergency. Today only food assistance is guaranteed, and not even for all, but only for a small portion of refugees. The concrete proposal is to create in Syria a neutral zone not under the protection of armed groups, but of the international community, where transfer the refugees who currently overcrowd the camps in Lebanon.
This is a transitional solution. For the future, do you see a Syria still ruled by Assad?
My hope is that in the Syria of the future there is no space for a repressive regime like the one of Assad, but that there is rather democracy and the involvement of all the expressions of civil society and respect for human rights.
There is a real trafficking of refugees. Do you know this reality?
From my experience, I do not believe there is a trafficking of men nor on the route that the Syrians use to flee in Lebanon nor the one to reach Europe. The point is another. Those are very risky and difficult routes. I have friends who have died along these routes. Escaping a war, often without even having the possibility of bringing the documents along, is a true Calvary. I therefore consider advantageous to create other humanitarian corridors.
Is there a danger that the extremists may infiltrate among the refugees fleeing from the Middle East?
I have never met and saw suspicious persons nor ever heard about infiltration of extremists among the refugees. Those are desperate people, often whole families, who only ask for dignity.
In Italy there is the debate on the ius soli. Did you follow it?
I have not followed it really. That is a matter for the Italian internal affairs. Rather this question should be addressed to my compatriots Syrians who live in your country.