Sunday, December 02, 2012

Draft for a Syrian Social Contract

The more dire the situation in Syria becomes, the more I become obsessed with this idea of checking and controlling the behaviour of those who will claim to rule in the name of "the people". Under the pretext of a greater good, unimaginable injustice has been perpetrated and will continue to be so until the power of governments is checked. It is no longer an excuse to say that one does not wish to be involved in politics or social issues because "it is dirty". The dangers of allowing criminals to dominate and control political life in a country has now become apparent after over forty years of Assadist/Baathist rule. The key problem facing all Syrians today is how to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. To do this, it might be important to draw up key principles for an unbreakable Syrian social contract that will bind all future governments.

What is the Syrian Social Contract?

This social contract will not be enshrined by any parliamentary act or constitutional document. This is because, if the idea of parliamentary sovereignty should ever be invoked to create such a document, then a future parliament that is sovereign can also revoke it under the pretext of democratic and popular appeal. The Syrian social contract is rooted in the zeitgeist of 2011 and is a set of principles and expectations that all Syrians, regardless of their personal beliefs or gender, can agree upon.

By the fact that it is rooted at a social level, and is negative in nature rather than positive, the Syrian social contract can then never truly be tampered with or used to the detriment of the Syrian people. By negative that means it specifies what a government is not allowed to do, rather than what it is supposed to do. The fact that it is not legally enshrined is not a weakness but a strength so long as there are average Syrians willing to invoke it.

What constitutes the Syrian Social Contract?

The Syrian revolution of 2011 has demonstrated a number of flaws in the nature of the relationship between Syrians and those institutions that were referred to as "government" and through which they are supposed to have their affairs conducted. There have also proven to be key "bonds" or foundations that, whilst invisible, have shown themselves to be crucial in the fight against tyranny and dictatorship. By  articulating them the Syrian people can establish a platform from which they can hold the state accountable for its actions.

The Principles

The key principles in this Syrian social contract are based on the five freedoms of speech, congregation, and belief, and from violence or discrimination.

The freedom of speech can encompass all connectivity that Syrians enjoy with each other and the world. Electronic communications must never be monopolized or have a single point of control or failure. Speech which constitutes hate or promotes violence against individuals or groups does not fall under this principle, but rather under the principle of freedom from violence or the fear of violence. Hence the state, in upholding this social contract, will hold those who promote such speech under the contract and not in contravention to it. Where the actions of a foreign government seeks to curtail the flow of information and communication to and from Syrians, a Syrian government has a duty to uphold this principle and ensure that this right is not interfered with.

Freedom of congregation has proven never to be more vital for Syrians than in the Syrian revolution of 2011. By including this principle, we allow Syrians an ability to gather and discuss, and therefore to express their will peacefully and without fear of oppression by anybody.

Freedom of belief for all of Syria's people. No Syrian has the right to impose their beliefs on others, nor should the personal belief of others, whether it causes personal offence or not, be considered the grounds for curtailing the actions or beliefs of others. As long as one's personal beliefs do not involve harming others, there is no power on earth which has the right to prevent Syrians from holding them.

Whilst it is acceptable for reasonable restraints to prevent a Syrian from harming others, no Syrian should fear for their person or belongings because of their personally held beliefs and opinions. Syrians have the right to freedom from violence or the fear of violence whether emanating domestically or from abroad. Where this is threatened then the Syrian state should be expected to uphold this principle.

Finally, no Syrian should ever be discriminated against because of their personal or political beliefs, or because of their gender or sexuality.

These five principles can form the foundation for a Syrian social contract and a rallying point for all Syrians. As the days of the Assad regime look numbered, and with uncertainty about the nature of Syria's future government, it is important now for Syrian civil society to unequivocally state their expectations and present them in a suitable platform. I'm hoping this post could be that platform, or at least start a discussion amongst Syrians about what they expect from government in future. If anybody thinks the list is missing something or needs more elaboration then by all means let me know.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very thoughtful post. Just wondering why the freedom from discrimination didn't include ethnicity/religion/sect/language?

Maysaloon said...

I meant it in the most inclusive sense, sorry if I didn't spell out all these individual aspects as I think they fell under personal or religious beliefs. Maybe we should.

Maysaloon said...

I meant it in the most inclusive sense, sorry if I didn't spell out all these individual aspects as I think they fell under personal or religious beliefs. Maybe we should.

Anonymous said...

USIP is asking for feedback along these very lines.

William Scott Scherk said...

You have cut to the bone, to principles that underly a rule of law -- better these basics rather than a 200 page constitution to squabble over.

The tragedy (among others) in Syrian Law is its caprice. The penal code is shot through with artful dodges of the constitutional rights that could and should protect Syrians from arbitrary offences against them.

In my country, Canada, the 'artful dodge' in our charter of rights and freedoms is that any curb on the basic freedoms must be *Demonstrated* to serve democracy. In the Syrian Constitution the artful dodge is dire: any and all rights are to be codified in law, the codification of which removes the freedom. As with the Media Law, the Parties Law, the devil is in the details of the curbs on freedom.

Thus we have the present state where anyone jailed can be stripped of their (extended) civil rights (to run for office, for example) for good.

Thus you have Michel Kilo who not only is barred from politics or formal party leadership or founding -- he is also due in the special Terrorist Cournt set up by decree.

I admire your ability to cut to the bone of the things that must be socially-enforced and socially agreed upon. It is a great base for discussion. Let us know what we can do to extend its reach. I shall repost it with your permission to the Syria Comment site. Even though the mad have taken over 60% of its territory in comments, it is still a site that is widely read. I hope Joshua will feature it as he has featured your work before ...

Best from NATO slave pen (Vancouver)

Anonymous said...

so there isn't any social contract in the current constitution?