The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees أهم شيء: اللاجئون السوريون

Another beautiful photography project about the Syrian refugees this time by the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Below is the description of the project as it appeared on the agency´s flicker account. The photos are great, but make sure to read the stories connected to each one. That´s the real thing!

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project that asks refugees from different parts of the world, “What is the most important thing you brought from home?” The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets – things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

مشروع تصوير ضوئي جميل آخر عن اللاجئين السوريين، هذه المرة من قبل المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين. أدناه وصف المشروع كما ورد على صفحة المفوضية على فليكر. الصور رائعة، لكن تأكد من قراءة القصص المرتبطة بكل صورة فهي أروع ما في المشروع.

   إذا كان عليك مغادرة منزلك فجأة والهرب إلى دولة أخرى، ما هو الشيء الذي ستأخذه معك؟ أكثر من مليون سوري أجبروا على مواجهة هذا السؤال قبل الشروع بالرحلة الخطيرة إلى الأردن، لبنان، تركيا والعراق أو دول أخرى في المنطقة.

هذا هو الجزء الثاني من مشروع نسأل فيه مهاجرين من مختلف أنحاء العالم، “ما هو أهم شيء جلبته معك من منزلك؟” القسم الآول من المشروع كان عن السودانيين اللاجئين إلى جنوب السودان، الذي حملوا بشكل علني أوعية وصهاريج مياه وأشياء أخرى تساعدهم على تحمل عناء الرحلة.

على نقيضهم، عادة ما على الأناس الهاربين من النزاع في سوريا تورية هدفهم والتظاهر بأنهم ذاهبون في رحلة عائلية صغيرة عند توجههم إلى الحدود. لذلك لا يستطيع هؤلاء حمل أكثر من مفاتيح، حزمة أوراق، هواتف وأساورـ أشياء صغيرة يمكنهم ارتداؤها أو أخفاؤها في جيابهم. بعض السوريون يحمل رمزاً دينياً، آخرون يحضرون ذكريات من منزلهم تعود لفترة أجمل من حياتهم. .

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Aleppo girl طفلة حلبية

 غرفة في حلب Aleppo room - Drawing ©2013 the coconutgirl.com

غرفة في حلب Aleppo room – Drawing ©2013 the coconutgirl.com

I got this video from Whitney Morrill, an American lady who was deeply moved by Syrian photojournalist Muzaffar Salman´s photograph depicting a girl from Aleppo who lost her home to a missile strike. An architect, blogger and a mother herself,  Morrill wrote the Aleppo girl a lullaby in which she draws her a new home. She used Muzaffar’s photograph and her lullaby in a 2-minute video published on her blog hoping to raise both consciousness and money for humanitarian aid for Syria among her readers. In her search for Muzaffar, she found my blog and wrote me asking to get in touch with him and let him know that his work has helped make Americans more aware of the suffering of the Syrian people.

Here is a link to my interview with Muzaffar Salman.

وصلتني رسالة من ويتني موريل، امرأة أمريكية شاهدت على موقع النيويورك تايمز لقطة للمصور السوري مظفر سلمان عن فتاة حلبية عادت من المدرسة لتجد منزلها مدمراً جراء القصف. من شدة تأثرها بالصورة ألّفت موريل تهويدة للطفلة الحلبية ترسم فيها، هي المهندسة المعمارية والأم، منزلاً جديداً  للطفلة وتدعوها لاستعادة أحلامها التي دمرها العنف الجاري في سوريا. أطلقت موريل أغنيتها ضمن فيديو نشرته على مدونتها يدعو للتطوع عن طريق المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين لضحايا العنف الجاري في سوريا. بدأت السيدة بحثها عن مظفر وبعد قراءة الحوار الذي أجريته معه على مدونتي، أتصلت بي طالبة إيصال هذا الفيديو لمظفر وإعلامه بدور صوره في توعية الأمريكين حول معاناة السوريين.

يمكنكم هنا قراءة مقابلتي مع المصور السوري مظفر سلمان بالإنكليزية.

The Syrian Museum: a revolutionary show المتحف السوري: عرض ثوري

Tammam Azzam has never been a man of many words. Whenever I called him back in Damascus for an interview, he told me amiably: “an art work should speak for itself and therefore its place isn’t within the pages of a newspaper but in a museum where it can be appreciated as it is.” He also firmly refused any attempt at imposing hidden messages on his work. “I don’t believe in art as a mission, who said art serves people anyway?”

His latest artworks about the Syrian uprising do speak for themselves and they say just that! In his digitally manipulated series of works entitled ‘Syrian Museum’, Tammam superimposed iconic artworks onto images of the violence and destruction in Syria. His images bluntly demonstrate how the destruction in Syria has become a show, the latest fashion that took the world by storm, yet not much is done on the ground to stop it. An impressive body of work!

 لم يكن تمام عزام يوماً رجلاً كثير الكلام. كلما إتصلت به لإجراء لقاء صحفي في دمشق، أجابني بود: “العمل الفني هو من يتحدث عن نفسه. مكان اللوحة ليس بين أوراق الصحف وإنما في المتحف حيث يمكن تقديرها لماهيتها.” كما رفض تمام بشكل قاطع أي محاولة ل”تلبيس” أعماله رسائل خفية. “لا أؤمن بالفن كرسالة، من قال أن الفن يخدم الناس أساساً؟”

 أعمال تمام الأخيرة عن الثورة السورية تتحدث بالفعل بنفسها عن نفسها وهذا ما تقوله تماماً.  في سلسة أعماله المعالجة ديجيتالياً التي تحمل عنوان “متحف سوري”، ركّب تمام صور أعمال فنية أيقونية على صور عن آثار الدمار والعنف الجاري في سوريا. تخبر أعماله بصراحة جارحة عن تحول الدمار في سوريا للعرض الأكثر شعبية في العالم، لكن ما من خطوات فعلية تتخذ من قبل العالم لإيقافه. مجموعة أعمال أكثر من رائعة.

Tammam Azzam Syrian Museum Paul Gauguins Tahitian Women On the Beach   تمام عزام  "متحف سوري – بول غوغين"

Tammam Azzam Syrian Museum Paul Gauguins Tahitian Women On the Beach تمام عزام “متحف سوري – نساء من تاهيتي على الشاطئ، بول غوغين”

Tammam Azzam 'Syrian Museum - Andy Warhol'   تمام عزام  "متحف سوري – أندي وارهول"

Tammam Azzam ‘Syrian Museum – Andy Warhol’ تمام عزام “متحف سوري – أندي وارهول”

Tammam Azzam 'Syrian Museum - Henri Matisse. La danza I' تمام عزام  "متحف سوري – الرقصة 1، هنري ماتيس""

Tammam Azzam ‘Syrian Museum – Henri Matisse. La danza I’ تمام عزام “متحف سوري – الرقصة 1، هنري ماتيس””

Tammam Azzam 'Syrian Museum - Leonardo Da Vinci. Mona Lisa'  تمام عزام  "متحف سوري – الموناليزا، ليوناردو دافينتشي"

Tammam Azzam ‘Syrian Museum – Leonardo Da Vinci. Mona Lisa’ تمام عزام “متحف سوري – الموناليزا، ليوناردو دافينتشي”

Tammam Azzam 'Syrian Museum - the 3rd of May 1808 Goya   تمام عزام  "متحف سوري – الثالث من مايو 1808، غويا"

Tammam Azzam ‘Syrian Museum – the 3rd of May 1808 Goya تمام عزام “متحف سوري – الثالث من مايو 1808، غويا”

To see more of Tammam Azzam’s works about the Syrian uprising, log on to this facebook page. You can also read two articles I wrote about his previous work here and here.

.لمشاهدة المزيد من أعمال تمام عزام عن الثورة السورية، يمكنك زيارة صفحته على الفيسبوك. كما يمكنك قراءة مقالين كتبتهما بالإنكليزية عن أعماله السابقة هنا وهنا.

“A small group of syrians” a beautiful photography project about the Syrian revolution by Syria’s Jaber al-Azmeh “مجموعة صغيرة من السوريين” مشروع تصوير ضوئي جميل للمصور السوري جابر العظمة

I came across this beautiful photography project by Syrian photographer Jaber al-Azmeh. Below is the description of the project as published on Azmeh’s photography page on facebook and a selection of photos.

صادفت هذا المشروع الجميل للمصور السوري جابر العظمة. أدناه وصف المشروع كما وردعلى صفحة جابر على الفيس بوك ومجموعة منتقاة من الصور.

A small group of Free Syrians offer their words…. This project takes on one of the Syrian Government’s most prominent symbols – The Ba’ath Newspaper – as part and parcel of the Baath Security State – and here turns it upside down to be a surface of new thoughts written by the Syrian people thus overturning the daily chronicle of government lies. We emphasize also that the comments are directed not particularly to the Ba’ath but rather to ‘The Regime’ itself. Each participant was invited to use the news paper or write some words to symbolize his or her thoughts within the general idea of the revolution. Those are Syrians; Here are their words. This project began from the earliest months of the revolution. It was a time when the camera was, and continues to be, one of the revolution’s most important weapons. It was also important to work in simple and easily accessible ways while remaining discreet and not attracting too much attention. Participating in this project gave birth to new friendships, as has the revolution itself, in bringing together diverse Syrian individuals and their talks of revolution and freedom with all the complex emotional mix they entail – ecstasy, sadness and determination – they proudly express their allegiance to the one homeland, Syria.

مجموعة صغيرة من السوريين الأحرار يقول كل منهم كلمته. تم استخدام أحد رموز النظام (جريدة البعث) لكونها جزءاً من المنظومة الأمنية – البعثية، كما استُخدمت الجريدة كسرد تاريخي لأيام الثورة لتكتب عليها كلمات الناس فوق كذب النظام. مع التأكيد أن المعني هو ليس البعث بقدر ما هو النظام نفسه. كان لكل شخص من المشاركين أن يكتب على الجريدة أو أن يستخدمها بطريقةٍ رمزيةٍ ما، موصلا بذلك فكرته كجزء من الفكرة الأشمل: هؤلاء سوريون وهذه هي كلماتهم. بدأ العمل بهذا المشروع منذ الأشهر الأولى للثورة، في مرحلةٍ كانت الكاميرا وما زالت من أهم أسلحة الثورة…كان ينبغي أن نعمل بأبسط طريقة تقنية ممكنة و أقلها لفتاً للنظر. ولّد العمل بالمشروع كما ولدت الثورة صداقات… لقاء هؤلاء، وأحاديث الثورة والحرية التي رافقتها والمزيج المعقد من مشاعر الفرح والحزن والإرادة كانت جزءاً مهماً من العمل بالمشروع مع مجموعة من السوريين المتنوعين الذين يفتخرون جميعاً بالاشتراك بالوطن الواحد.

يوسف عبدلكي - فنان تشكيلي Yousef Abdelké - Artist 18/7/2011 Jaber AlAzmeh ©

يوسف عبدلكي – فنان تشكيلي Yousef Abdelké – Artist
18/7/2011
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

 عامر مطر - صحفي Amer Matar - Journalist "the chain will break" 9/8/2012 Jaber AlAzmeh ©


عامر مطر – صحفي Amer Matar – Journalist
“the chain will break”
9/8/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

<br />غاليا سراقبي - مصممة غرافيكية Ghalia Sarakbi - graphic designer<br />" the people "<br />19/8/2011<br />Jaber AlAzmeh ©<br />


غاليا سراقبي – مصممة غرافيكية Ghalia Sarakbi – graphic designer
” the people “
19/8/2011
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

Rami Hammour &amp; Zeina Salem - Architect &amp; Sculptor رامي حمور و زينة سالم - معماري و نحاتة<br />" we want to stop wanting to leave "<br />12/7/2011<br />© Jaber AlAzmeh

Rami Hammour & Zeina Salem – Architect & Sculptor رامي حمور و زينة سالم – معماري و نحاتة
” we want to stop wanting to leave “
12/7/2011
© Jaber AlAzmeh

فارس الحلو - ممثل Fares Helou - Actor 8/6/2012 Jaber AlAzmeh ©

فارس الحلو – ممثل Fares Helou – Actor
8/6/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

 لويز عبد الكريم - ممثلة Louise Abdelkarim - actress "there is no turning back" 9/6/2012 Jaber AlAzmeh ©


لويز عبد الكريم – ممثلة Louise Abdelkarim – actress
“there is no turning back”
9/6/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

 حلا عمران - ممثلة Hala Omran - Actress 16/7/2012 Jaber AlAzmeh ©


حلا عمران – ممثلة Hala Omran – Actress
16/7/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

Ruham Hawash - Higher Education affairs researcher رهام هواش - باحثة في شؤون التعليم العالي "The laughter of freedom has no borders or nationality" 11/2/2011 © Jaber AlAzmeh

Ruham Hawash – Higher Education affairs researcher رهام هواش – باحثة في شؤون التعليم العالي
“The laughter of freedom has no borders or nationality”
11/2/2011
© Jaber AlAzmeh

شادي أبو فخر وعاصم حمشو - Shadi AbuFakhir &amp; Assem Hamso<br />"hand in hand"<br />14/7/2012<br />Jaber AlAzmeh ©

شادي أبو فخر وعاصم حمشو – Shadi AbuFakhir & Assem Hamso
“hand in hand”
14/7/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

"the anonymous activists" 15/7/2012 Jaber AlAzmeh ©

“the anonymous activists”
15/7/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

 ندين بسيمي - أم Nadine Bassimi - Mother "Happiness is coming to our streets and homes" 9/8/2012 Jaber AlAzmeh ©


ندين بسيمي – أم Nadine Bassimi – Mother
“Happiness is coming to our streets and homes”
9/8/2012
Jaber AlAzmeh ©

You can read a review I wrote about Azmeh’s previous photography exhibition metaphors and watch his works here.

يمكنك قراءة مقال كتبته باللغة الإنكليزية عن معرض سابق لجابر العظمة بعنوان “مجازات” هنا.

الباب يلي بيجيك منو الريح، سدّو واستريح!

 لم يكن يوماً العمل كصحفية في سوريا سهلاً. لا بالله! كثيراً ما كان علي، لمجرد الحصول على موعد لمقابلة صحفية، أن أجري عشرات الاتصالات وارسل العديد من الفاكسات والإيميلات واشطب سلسة من المواعيد المؤجلة ووو… لكنني كنت احصل في آخر المطاف عليها… المقابلة. منذ بداية الثورة السورية، لم يعد الأمر كذلك.

لقد هزّت الثورة صورة الانسان السوري العادي عن الإعلام. قرار السلطات السورية منع الصحفيين، المحليين منهم والأجانب، من دخول مناطق “الاضطراب” جعل التغطية الإعلامية للثورة غير دقيقة. يتابع السوريون باشمئزاز الاحداث التي شهدوها بأعينهم تروى بشكل مختلف على الشاشة، المحلية منها والدولية. لكن، بدلاً من إيصال صوتهم للعالم، فضل الكثير من السوريين إدارة ظهورهم للاعلام واستقاء معلوماتهم من الجيران والاصدقاء والأقارب. “هؤلاء هم مصدر المعلومات الوحيد الموثوق,” صرّح سوري ممن قابلت.

كذلك للتحدث إلى الاعلام ثمن. مشاهير سوريون عدّتهم الجماهير في وقت سابق رموزاً وطنية تحولوا اليوم، في طرفة عين، إلى خونة نتيجة تحدثهم للصحافة عن موقفهم المؤيد أو المعارض للثورة. متابعة الأجهزة الأمنية السورية للمعارضة عن كثب، وموجات الاعتقال الكبيرة ل”المخربين” منذ بداية الثورة جعل السوريين يترددون طويلاً قبل الحديث إلى الصحافة.

منذ بداية الاحداث في سوريا بات الناس أقل حماسة لاجراء مقابلات هاتفية معي مفضلين أن تكون المقابلة شخصية. بدلاً من أن اطرح أنا الأسئلة، كثيراً ما بدأت مقابلاتي الصحفية بالإجابة على أسئلة “ضيوفي”:’ لأي مجلة تكتبين؟ من الجهة التي تملك المجلة؟ ما رأيك بالثورة السورية؟

رفض عدد من مصادري إجراء مقابلة صحفية معي لشكهم أن المجلة قد تكون “موالية للنظام”، في حين امتنع البعض الآخر منهم، والذين تربطني ببعضهم صداقة، عن الإجابة أصلاً على رسائلي واتصالاتي المتكررة. من وافقوا على إجراء المقابلة كثيراً ما طلبوا مني عدم الافصاح عن اسمائهم أو حذروني: هل أنت متأكدة من امكانية نشر هذا الكلام؟

سواء أكان بداعي الخوف من السلطات السورية أو عدم الثقة بمهنية و”توجه” الجهة الإعلامية، الأفضل الابتعاد عن الصحفيين… هذا ما قاله لي شاب سوري مردداً المثل الشعبي “الباب يلي بيجيك منو الريح، سدّو واستريح!”

نشرت هذه المادة باللغة الإنكليزية على مدونة مجلة سوريا اليوم 

Bill of Rights

What does the Syrian constitution say about citizenship and how might this change?

Photo by Fadi al-Hamwi

Photo by Fadi al-Hamwi

With the escalation of the unrest in Syria and the accompanying surge in political dialogue, there has been a resurgence of discussion about the concept of citizenship.

In his book Guide to Citizenship, Hassan Abbas, a Syrian researcher, wrote that it is not enough to define citizenship as acquiring a nationality and enjoying the civil and political rights it offers. The definition includes active participation in public life.

“Freedom is the legal status quo of the citizen meaning that a citizen is free to choose between becoming an active citizen who participates in public life or…being a passive one,” Abbas wrote.

“Citizenship means the right of citizens to participate in all aspects of life,” Adel, a young theater critic who asked to remain anonymous, told Syria Today. He explained that the concept combines rights and duties, but that in Syria, duties trump rights.

“Limiting citizenship to Syrian Arabs is unacceptable,” Maalouf declared. “A citizen must be any person who lives in this land and has specific rights and duties.”

Until recently, broader duties and rights as citizens went ignored, he argued, because people were more concerned with their everyday struggles.

“Through chatting with friends or with the grocer, I have a perception that the majority of people here have a similar direction in life: to secure a living for their families,” he said. “What has been happening [since the unrest started] put this view to the test. Things are bigger than that.”

The outline
Lawyers interviewed by Syria Today argued that deficiencies in ensuring citizens’ rights in Syria come from flaws in the constitution, where the state defines its idea of citizenship and organises the relationship between the government and citizens. Others said that the constitution guarantees adequate rights to citizens; however, the problem lies in many laws which are, in fact, unconstitutional.

In his speech last month, President Bashar al-Assad said that the new media, parties and electoral laws will allow “citizens to participate in making decisions, monitor and denounce” activities of the state. Making this change, Assad said, might require revising the constitution or issuing a new one.

President Assad said that no changes will take place before September and if any do occur they will be based on what the national dialogue meetings, held in July, recommended. It called for the establishment of a committee to “offer suggestions” that would create a “contemporary and new” constitution that “ensures political collectivity, social justice, the sovereignty of the law and basic human rights”.

Contradictory rulings
To implement citizens’ rights, as outlined in the Syrian constitution, articles from the very same constitution must be changed and effectively applied.

People’s political and civil rights can be found in the first chapter of the constitution titled “Basic Principles”. It grants all citizens personal freedom, equality before the law, participation in the political, economic, social and cultural life of society, the freedom of faith, the right (and duty) to work, free obligatory education, the right of free and open expression, freedom of the press and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

However, articles like number 8 – which grants the ruling Ba’ath party a monopoly on political power in the country – contradict and effectively negate the right of citizens to participate in political life.

Nazih Maalouf, a lawyer and former judge and the manager of Syria Court, a legal website that covers human rights and other legal issues in Syria, said the constitution includes many contradictory articles. For example, it states that all Syrians have equal rights and opportunities, but another article says that the country’s president must be Muslim and that legislation must be based on Islamic jurisprudence.

“Syrian women cannot pass down citizenship to their children, and they do not have the right of equal inheritance, or even [the right] to take independent decisions in many cases; like marriage, or travel,” Diala, a 27-year-old working in a private bank who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Syrian constitution states that all Syrians have equal rights and opportunities, but at the same time says that the country’s president must be Muslim and that legislation must be based on Islamic jurisprudence.

Anwar al-Bouni, a lawyer and head of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies, said that problems like these come from laws that contradict the constitution.

“In the Syrian constitution, there is no discrimination between men and women, but discrimination exists in some laws like the nationality one [which prevents Syrian mothers from passing their nationality to their offspring],” Bouni said.

Recently, a committee was set up to study the draft bill about amending Article 3 of the Nationality Law, which includes granting nationality to the children of Syrian women married to non-Syrians.

Another measure that contradicts the notion of universal equality came in with the constitution of 1961, which was drafted following a military coup that ended three years of union between Egypt and Syria, when the Syrian republic was first defined as Arab. This remained unchanged.

“Limiting citizenship to Syrian Arabs is unacceptable,” Maalouf declared. “A citizen must be any person who lives in this land and has specific rights and duties. Equality and people’s general liberties must be established by the constitution regardless of their religion or ethnicity.”

A new constitution, if amended or overhauled, should more clearly delineate citizens’ rights in order to prevent such contradictions in the future, he said.

“Individual liberties must be addressed by the constitution and should not be governed by laws because laws are subject to change, according to who is in power and are easy to play around with,” Maalouf explained. “The constitution is obligatory and is not easily changed.”

Challenges to change
“Changing the constitution alone is not enough. There should be a new constitution,” the veteran lawyer Bouni said.

According to Bouni, the power of the country’s constitutional court is restricted. It is supposed to be able to strike down unconstitutional laws. But the president, according to the constitution, assigns the members of the constitutional court to four-year posts, limiting the court’s independence. Another article in the constitution states that only the Syrian president or a quarter of the parliament can challenge unconstitutional laws.

As a result, the system is crippled, Bouni added.

“Obviously, they [members of parliament] are not going to issue unconstitutional laws and then refer them to court. Consequently, there are hundreds of unconstitutional laws in Syria and no one can challenge them,” he explained. “Since the establishment of the constitutional court not a single Syrian law has been challenged as unconstitutional.”

I published this article together with Syrian journalist Alma Hassoun in Syria Today

We used only first names for interviewees who wished to remain anonymous.

Syrian Constitution Stuck in the Past

The Syrian constitution is out of date with how Syria has changed in the last four decades since it was issued.

The current constitution has many articles in common with the series of constitutions drafted since the French left Syria in 1946. In a report published on the Damascus Center of Theoretical Studies and Human Rights, Syrian researcher Jan Habbash wrote that it was the previous 1958 and 1964 Syrian constitutions, for example, that introduced the one party political system in Syria. The constitution of 1950, on the other hand, first restricted presidency to Muslim Syrians after the French mandate.

Written in 1973, the current Syrian constitution is out of date with how Syria has changed in the last four decades, according to Nazih Maalouf, a lawyer and former judge. Syria’s 10th Five-Year Plan called for an open, social-market economy while the constitution clearly states that the country’s economic policy should be socialist. References to “socialism” and the “socialist Ba’ath party” occur 25 times in the first few pages of the constitution.

“The Baath party’s ideology defines all the articles of the constitution. Therefore, there is no use in amending the constitution by the Baath party. Other expertise in the country must be involved too.”

Maalouf said in reality the concept of citizenship rests on the political system of the state. The general concept of citizenship, he said, is stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but in reality this concept relies on the political systems of socialism or capitalism.

Ahmed Haj Suleiman, from the parliamentary Constitutional and Legislative Committee said in an interview with state television that the constitution should be read and discussed as a whole, because all articles are related to each other.

Legal experts like veteran lawyer Anwar al-Bouni and Maalouf say that country’s political and legal authorities should be involved in writing a new constitution.

“Controversy is not limited to article number 8 [the article which grants the ruling Ba’ath party a monopoly on political power in the country] which was written under exceptional circumstances. The Baath party’s ideology defines all the articles of the constitution,” Maalouf said. “Therefore, there is no use in amending the constitution by the Baath party. Other expertise in the country must be involved too.”

They also call for the separation of power between the legislature, executive and judicial authorities, to protect the rights of Syrians citizens.

“I haven’t read the constitution, thus I do not know what should be changed. However, everyone is talking about it now, and specifically Article 8,” Majd al-Hamwi, a 22-year-old fine arts student in Damascus said. “What I know is that when people call for political pluralism and setting a certain presidential term, it is not because of a certain person or a certain party but because they want to participate,” he said.

This is a longer version of the text I published together with Syrian journalist Alma Hassoun as a box to accompany our story “Bill of Rights” in Syria Today magazine.