Conference Brings Together Syrian Activists

Istanbul event aimed at coordinating anti-regime response

Unable to meet in Syria, 200 young people rallied around the Syrian flag in Istanbul. The consensus during their four days of meetings was that the Syrian regime had betrayed its people when it decided to fire the first bullet at protestors.

Unlike other opposition conferences held earlier in Turkey, Belgium, and Qatar, the Istanbul conference focused on the participation of young Syrian expatriates who arrived from different parts of the world in an attempt to increase and expand the pressure on the Syrian regime. Other participants include young men from Syria who had to leave the country to escape the crackdown against protestors.

Syrian Activists Conference in Istanbul

This first Syrian activists conference, held in late July, focused on several domains, beginning with the media. The participants discussed a number of issues in that field, such as launching a Syrian television channel, setting up e-newsrooms, and producing movies, programmes, and songs with a patriotic theme; in addition to creating Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages and other mechanisms to spread the word about the revolution, communicate with TV channels, and train media cadres.

The participants agreed on launching a 24-hour news room, staffed with 10 news editors, and appointing around 14 spokespeople to speak on behalf of the revolution.

The participants also discussed coordination with people inside Syria and providing logical support on all levels, ranging from technical to informational.

On the strategic and political fronts, the participants agreed to form pressure groups that would work on influencing the foreign policy of countries concerned with the situation in Syria. The participants also underlined the necessity to develop the opposition’s political discourse and communication mechanisms, in addition to forming a unified political entity that would represent the revolution, which in turn requires the employment of new strategies.

The group concerned with the relief issue addressed communicating with international relief agencies and countries hosting Syrian refugees, in addition to reaching out to young rebels inside Syria to provide the necessary aid to people in need. The group agreed that locally-based activists can be more efficient than foreign-based organisations in providing such aid. Syrian opposition activist Hamdi Abu al-Shamat said that action on that level was the hardest as it involves great risk, and the people who are involved in it should maintain a low profile and act discreetly.

The conference also addressed the legal aspects of the crisis, and the participants agreed to establish coordination mechanisms among all rights groups, and discussed filing lawsuits against Syrian regime figures accused of committing crimes. The conference also discussed documenting all human rights violations and coordinating with Arab and international rights groups and UN human rights commissions.

The gathering also agreed on employing advanced techniques to enhance communication, such as establishing a restricted web forum that would serve as a place where all activists could communicate and exchange ideas. The attendeed also highlighted the importance of successful youth movements in supporting the revolution and discussed enhancing such trends in the future.

The participants used as their motto a saying by late Libyan rebel Omar al-Mokhtar that dates back to the period of Italian colonialism of Libya, “I believe in my right to freedom, and my country’s right to life, and this belief is stronger than any weapon. When man fights to steal other people’s rights, he will stop the minute he weakens or is satisfied, but when man fights for his country, he will continue his fight to the very end.”