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4/9/13 12:14 PM
The SJAC Weekly Update- April 9, 2013
Sectarianism, transition, and unity
The Syrian uprising is increasingly portrayed as a conflict with significant ethnic dimensions. The LA Times recently featured a story about Sunni rebels targeting their Shiite neighbors. Other divides exist along political, regional, and class lines. Avoiding future sectarian conflict and fostering inclusive national unity are goals best achieved through transitional justice mechanisms that have evolved into recognized tools for good. Ethnic determinism is a dangerous and counterproductive way to view the Syrian conflict. To assume that all fault lines mirror ethnic divisions misses opportunities for cooperation and exacerbates existing tensions. As Bashar Al Assad is all too familiar, invoking ethnic narratives can even create ethnic divides on issues where none exist and generate self-fulfilling prophecies. But however ethnic tensions have been constructed and manipulated, they do exist in Syria today. Some Shiites fear their Sunni neighbors just as some Alawites fear retribution for perceived loyalty to Al Assad.
Given the prominence of ethnic divisions, some see transitional justice efforts as naively irrelevant right now. How can anyone imagine accountability processes at a time when rebel groups compete for influence and factionionalism plagues opposition unity? Admittedly, the particulars of any processes hinge on the post-conflict power structure and the desires of the Syrian people. Nonetheless, there is work to be done now. Syrian groups can outline their commitments to accountability, articulate support for potential transitional justice mechanisms, and emphasize their adherence to wartime codes of conduct. When words are
Transitional Justice Strategy Meeting for Syria
On April 13 and 14, the SJAC will host the Transitional Justice Strategy Meeting for Syria in Istanbul, Turkey, with support from PILPG and USIP. The meeting will bring together international experts and key Syrian activists to discuss preparations for accountability and peace and develop a coordinated strategy for transitional justice for Syria.
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
The SJAC is establishing an MOU with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a worldwide network of historic sites, museums, and initiatives dedicated to remembering past struggles and addressing their contemporary legacies. ICSC seeks to ensure that multiple narratives from the Syrian conflict are represented; make certain history is accurately remembered in the memorialization process; provide community-based opportunities for reconciliation, conflict resolution, victim empowerment and healing; and engage and train the media to better report on civil
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The SJAC Weekly Update- April 9
4/9/13 12:14 PM
backed up with actions, it helps groups to signal early on to the Syrian people what kind of leaders they might be. But how can such efforts help dampen sectarian divides? First, it’s critical to recognize that past transitional justice efforts have been uniquely positioned to promote harmony across ethnic and religious lines. While not always successful, evidence-based inquiries such as truth commissions can dispel exclusivist ethnic narratives by offering a formal venue for airing a variety of discourses in a national forum.READ
society and sites of Conscience.
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The SJAC is an independent, non-political, Syrian-led, and multi-laterally supported organization that serves as a coordinating body for all actors promoting transitional justice and accountability for Syria. The SJAC provides vetted, accurate data on human rights violations occurring on all sides of the conflict in Syria. The SJAC expertise and data is used in the transitional justice process for Syria.
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