The European Center for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany

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.

Me in the German mediaECMI Summer School participant Oula Abdulhamid interviewed by Antje Walther, Flensburger Tageblatt

Visit Our Photo Gallery during the summer school.

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Can the Two-State Solution Be Saved?

Martti AhtisaariLakhdar BrahimiJimmy Carter,Marwan Muasher

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Washington D.C.

Oula Abdulhamid and Lakhdar Brahimi

Oula Abdulhamid and Lakhdar Brahimi

With U.N. Peace Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. I told him that Syrians are being massacred while leaders of the free world are hiding behind political negotiations. He said “Oula I love Syria very much and I’m optimistic”. I teared up…

I believe that one on one activism is very important. Let politicians hear our voices.. Let’s do the best we can together to save what is left of our country. Free Syria and Down with Dictatorship!


A Conversation on Woodrow Wilson’s Policies

Foreign Policy discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
What would Wilson have done regarding the current situation in Syria?

Woodrow Wilson Center

Oula Abdulhamid

My question to the panelists:

I’m Oula Abdulhamid and I’m a Syrian activist. I live here in D.C., and I left Syria in 2005 because of Assad death threats to my family. My question is  about how to protect Syria.  The U.S. is the superpower country and it can help the Syrian people. The Syrian people never had the chance to practice the right to self-determination. We were under the control of colonial powers, and then the Assad family dictatorship for 40  years, for more than 40  years.  And now we’re asking for freedom and dignity, and we need the U.S. help.  And I believe that the U.S. can do that. We are a nation that has the right to live freely. I believe that the U.S. should have acted two years ago.  If we don’t want to arm the rebels because we don’t know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, how about,  you know, establishing a no-fly zone, a safe haven for the people to protect them from Assad’s daily airstrikes and massacres? We have over 200,000 deaths today and I don’t rely on the official numbers, you can easily triple that number. So thank you very much.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Thank you.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: I agree. I think we should establish a no-fly zone. I actually from — I will say, from my point of view, and actually Mike — Professor Kazin, I can engage you on this because in your — the end of your piece you say that, you know, one of — part of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy was a great liberal legacy. And I agree with you that Franklin Roosevelt continued and then Lyndon Johnson continued and that what destroyed it was the Americanization of the Vietnam War, and that — so — because Lyndon Johnson immersed himself in Vietnam, it destroyed, in the end, his domestic liberal reign — I think that’s a fair characterization — and that this president has at least learned that lesson and is not going to make the same mistake and is going to protect what I also hope will be a great liberal record. And he has started by not getting involved, and I think that is exactly how President Obama sees it. I think he sees that Syria can only be a world of hurt. That there’s no — there’s very little we can do and there’s a great deal that would drag us down.

My own view is it’s sort of the flip side, that as much as you want to focus on domestic issues as a president, the world has a funny way of dragging you down.  And I fear that unless we act, no matter how awful it — and difficult and challenging it is, and I’m not talking about ground troops — as I said, I think this will become the Middle East war, and that will consume him one way or another.  And will ultimately destroy — it will overshadow anything else he’s able to accomplish.  So I will just say I think we should be working with others to use enough force to both protect people and to signal that we are not prepared to let the entire Middle East go up in flames.

Keynote Remarks
Brent Scowcroft
Former National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush

Erez Manela
Professor of History, Harvard University

Michael Kazin
Professor of History, Georgetown University

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University


Fast-forward to 1:05:40 to see me asking the panelists about Syria:

Bearing Witness to Syria’s Tragedies

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio and Oula Abdulhamid

Father Paolo Dall’Oglio and Oula Abdulhamid

One month ago, the Syrian government expelled Italian Jesuit priest  Paolo Dall’Oglio from the country he lived in for the past 30 years. His crime? Supporting the Syrian government’s opposition forces and speaking out against the violence of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Seven months ago, Hadeel Kouki, a student studying law and English literature at Aleppo University, fled Syria after several stints in jail. Her crime? Protesting against Assad’s dictatorship.

My question to the panelists: 

What do you believe the International Community can do in Syria? What do you think about International Intervention? What do the Christian Youth ask the International Community for now in Syria after we have seen major attacks by Assad on Damascus and Aleppo? Fast-forward to (0:43:10) to hear Father Paolo and activist Hadeel opinions on International Intervention.

More about the event at:  New America Foundation