On March 24, 2018, the Network for Peace in Syria and Meiji Gakuin University's International Peace Research Institute jointly held a symposium entitled “Delivering The Voices of Syrians: Seven Years On, What We Should Do” at Meiji Gakuin's University campus.
Originally the Syrian crisis began as movement for democratization. However Syria has transformed into a battle ground as foreign countries struggle over their national interests, which has left behind Syrians who are suffering from the war. We organized this symposium in order to make international society listen to their voices and cries for peace in Syria.
The symposium's first speaker is an expert who provided his analysis of the current situation in Syria. Then two Meiji Gakuin University alumnae introduced the voices of their friends who were their host families in East Gouta in 2008. They are currently in the besieged area, facing bombing and hunger. Finally a Syrian lady expressed her thoughts on her country as Syrian. Her home town is located in the frontline of the war.
Prof. Aoyama of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies highlighted the fact that Syria is now a battlefield of foreign countries who focus on their respective national interests, and are no longer paying attention to important issues on the Syrian agenda such as democracy and sovereignty. Trump`s US government has less interest on Syria, which allows the influence of Russia, Turkey and Iran to pervade Syria. Today “Terrorism” in Syria is defined by these three countries. To put the matter in bluntly, those factions who follow them are "legitimate," those who oppose them are branded "terrorists."
Ms. Nakano, Meiji Gakuin University alumna, spoke about her fond memories with an Arab family who welcomed her in East Gouta in 2008, regardless of the fact that she is Christian. And she also commented on the contents of her communications with them since 2011. They asked for help, and they said that they were bombed even though they weren`t terrorists. They asked her to deliver their messages to many others. (Ms.Nakano had lost contact with them a few days before the symposium. Luckily just after her presentation on the podium, she received a message from them that they were OK now.)
Ms. Altaweel explained how people live under the war with her own experience. Those who have survived until now are thought to be lucky, but in reality the last seven years have had hardships that is beyond the imagination of a normal human being: Security threats. Deprivation. Unable to see loved ones. The sense that compassion should be a universal human value.
She mentioned the following as what we can do;
- Continuous advocacy for peace and inclusion.
- Support for education, especially as a tool to combat radicalization.
- Support for the daily life survival of families and children affected by war
- Support for health services as the cost is very high compared of other life-sustaining needs
The symposium adjourned after a very active Q&A session. The participants expressed their appreciation commenting, “I heard the real Syrian voice”, “Now I can fathom what Syrians want to communicate”, “This symposium motivated me to think about what we should do for Syria” etc. We, members of Network for Peace in Syria will keep trying to contribute to Syrian peace by listening to Syrians and delivering their messages to others.