The Geneva Talks and Opposition

The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.

By Kino Nahiro

This week the Syrian opposition and the regime will hold their next round of UN-led constitutional talks in Geneva. And again, the Administration in northeastern Syria has been left out of this Constitutional Committee. Why is this? Because the Administration in northeastern Syria seeks an alternative and more comprehensive solution than regime and opposition do, i.e. more than only a change at the top. It is this mindset that prevails in the constitutional talks, and this mindset is the reason that there is still no result.

The Administration of North and East Syria is demanding a federal structure that advocates the unity of the peoples in Syria and strengthens genuine grassroots governance. And the Administration insists that the rigid centralized way of ruling the country must be abolished. I’m really struggling to find anything wrong in these demands?

Other groups find it difficult to stand up to the powers they belong to and have a hard time resisting external pressures and policies. Powers directing armed forces from the outside prevent the opposition from making right and appropriate decisions. The Administration of northeastern Syria, with its peoples, however, organized itself internally. It fought an arduous fight in the war against backwardness and on this basis strengthened its Region’s position. And even though the International Coalition has been providing military aid, and even though the Administration has been receiving assistance from foreign powers, it does not depend on their decision. It has maintained an independent stance in the balance of power. To put it other words, the Administration aims to embed and organize its will in a permanent social and political structure in the Region it controls. It strengthens the ideas and the social contract between the peoples, protects and balances the interests of the Region and its peoples with international powers.

We the Syriacs (Assyrians-Arameans-Chaldeans) are part of this working. There is a social contract underlying the Administration and fundamental principles of coexistence between the peoples are set out in this agreement. If there are any Syriacs who oppose it or see wrong in this agreement, it is necessary to correct and make it complete together. If there is criticism on any article in the social contract and deemed not in the interest of our Syriac people (Assyrians-Arameans-Chaldeans), it should be amended in the agreement. But if we do not work together on this, the alternative is internally disrupting and breaking each other’s game.

And are there shortcomings in practice? Most probably… but these shortcomings can only be solved through constructive criticism and for us to develop an attitude, as this is the first time in over 100 years that the Syriac people, within the framework of an alliance, have signed an official agreement with other peoples. There is no precedent for this in Northern Iraq. What then is objected here?

Some groups and individuals need to stop being cheerleaders for status-quo regimes. Practicing politics by hiding under regime’s wings has earned Syriacs zero constitutional rights. On the contrary, Syriacs lost nation and identity. Sovereign states have always played peoples against each other. These times are no different. It is therefore imperative that Syriacs practice politics from their own free will and from that position enter into official talks. Any other way will only lead to fragmentation and disintegration. A political group can defend the rights and will of other peoples but should not ignore its own rights and will. If we defend constitutional assurance for other peoples, the peoples we live with must also make statements demanding the constitutional rights of us Syriacs. Equal rights for the peoples must be secured and defended in signed agreements.

Here, the Iraqi experience is very important to learn from. Weaknesses visible before the fall of the Baath regime, forced us to give in to pressures and impositions after the intervention. Religious groups in Iraqi Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian society silenced political initiatives by putting forward their own initiatives. This led to the inclusion of the Syriac people under different names in the Iraqi constitution and administration as denominational differences were taken as a basis. These denominational differences continue today. Political formations are still struggling to come together in Iraq.

It is imperative in the case of Syria not to allow the same mistakes to be made as our people did in Iraq. Our organizations, intellectuals and prominent religious persons must treat this matter very sensitively as there is a clear and evident gain here in joining forces and bringing ideas and decisions together. Any organization that persists staying on its own side does not mean it is right. And saying afterwards “I told you so, I was right” does not mean history will forgive us. It is vital that Syriacs act carefully, based on the interests of our people, and on an equal footing with other peoples. For the Syriac people it is a matter of life and death.