ECMI hosted 29 young scholars and practitioners from 21 different countries for the Summer School 2013 between 19-29 August. The participants were awarded diplomas at the Flensburg City Hall by the City President; and I was honored to be one of them as the only participant from Syria.
As a Syrian asylee in Washington, I traveled to the city of Flensburg in Germany to learn about the German-Danish border region and their experience dealing with minority issues/disputes. I participated in the Summer School of the European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI) and the University of Flensburg for ten days in August. The theme was: “National Minorities and Border Regions”. As a Syrian democracy youth activist, I was very much interested in participating in the program because I believed that I can learn tremendously from the European experience regarding national minorities, their rights, border regions’ issues and territorial changes.
In Syria we have been struggling the hard way with this particular matter when it comes to the rights of the Syrian Kurds for example. I am also concerned about the future of the rest of Syria’s minorities as the county is going through a civil war at this stage. As a Syrian activist who comes from a Sunni background, the oppressed majority in Syria, I believe that protecting minorities and assuring them their rights is the foundation for a successful transition to democracy in our country.
Syria is a diverse country, and multiculturalism policies do not exist there unlike the rest of the world due to being under Assad family dictatorship rule for more than 40 years. Yes, the Assad family comes from the Alawite minority in Syria that is about 8% of Syria’s population, but that does not mean that the Assad family represents the Alawite community. In fact, the Alawite minority is also to a great extent a victim like every other Syrian living under oppression and fear no matter what his/her background is (Sunni, Alawite, Christian, Kurd, Druze and so forth).
The make-up of the Syrian population today is sophisticated and rich. One cannot ignore the diversity and the colorful culture in that land, whether I mean by that the multi-religion or the multi-ethnicity backgrounds starting from Muslims, Christians, Jews, to Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians and others. However, the important question here is whether these different groups enjoy their basic human rights and/or minority rights or not. To learn how to protect my country, to raise awareness, and to ensure its successful transition to democracy where every Syrian is protected and equal under the law no matter what his/her religion or ethnicity is, was the goal of my participation in ECMI program.
My group project; Ethnic Rhetoric in Political Elections:
As part of the Summer School 2013, participants were divided into four groups prior to their arrival. The students submitted summaries within their topics which were discussed during the Summer School among the groups. The group members presented jointly on the last day of the summer school. My group summaries and my group’s presentation were about ethnic rhetoric in political elections in Syria, Japan, USA, Russia, Spain and Slovakia.
About ECMI program:
The annual European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI) Summer School introduces conceptual and normative approaches to the study of national minorities living in border regions and explores their different applications in relation to current arrangements across Europe. Alongside the theoretical knowledge, participants gain practical experience of the region of conflict resolution mechanisms within the area of Schleswig-Holstein and the effective collaboration between Germany and Denmark in the fields of minority issues and cross-border cooperation. By the end of the Summer School students are able to critically evaluate positive and negative institutional practices regarding minority issues in border regions.
As a part of the Summer School programme, “Raising awareness on border regions conflict dynamics” project addressed the issue of tensions and ethnic diversity management in border regions. Highlighting the positive examples of successful cooperation and conflict resolution, and discussing the conflict dynamics in various border regions in Europe, the project enabled participants to exchange academic views and practical experience. The project aimed at inspiring, encouraging and empowering the young and outstanding professionals from ethnically diverse and conflict-sensitive regions (14 participants from Eastern and South Eastern Europe and Caucasus). Within the project, a platform for networking, knowledge and experience sharing was established. The project was funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
For more info visit The European Center for Minority Issues