SUMMER SCHOOL FLENSBURG – Eine bedrohte Demokratin

All rights reserved by European Centre for Minority Issues

All rights reserved by European Centre for Minority Issues

My Interview with the German Newspaper Flensburger Tageblatt (German Language)

Oula Abdulhamid is a Syrian asylee in Washington. In Flensburg, she learns from the German-Danish border region, as she visited the Summmer School of  the European Minority Center (ECMI) and the University of Flensburg for ten days. The theme was :”National Minorities and Border Regions”.

The Complete Interview in German:

Die Syrerin Oula Abdulhamid hat Asyl in Washington. InFlensburg lernt sie vom deutsch-dänischen Grenzland, als sie für zehn Tage die Summmer School des Europäischen Minderheitenzentrums und der Uni Flensburg besucht. Das Thema: „National Minorities and Border Regions“.

Wenn sie über ihre Familie in der Heimat spricht, steigen ihr die Tränen in die Augen. „Meine Großmutter und Cousins sind immer noch dort, aber sie wollen ihr Haus nicht verlassen“, sagt Oula Abdulhamid. „Falls ich sterbe, sterbe ich in meinem Haus“, zitiert die Syrerin aus Damaskus ihre Oma.

Oula Abdulhamid ist eine der 29 Akademiker aus aller Welt, die Flensburg heute wieder verlassen nach der zehntägigen „Summer School“ des Europäischen Minderheitenzentrums und der Uni Flensburg. 14 von der Robert-Bosch-Stiftung geförderte Wissenschaftler vom Balkan und aus dem Kaukasus sowie weitere aus Deutschland, Spanien, Tunesien haben unter dem Titel „National Minorities and Border Regions“ Vorträge gehört und diskutiert. Die 26-jährige Abdulhamid wollte erfahren, wie andere Länder „mit ihrer Diversität und Komplexität umgehen und koexistieren“.

Oula Abdulhamid wird nicht in ihre Heimat Syrien zurückreisen können. Denn ihre Familie werde gesucht. „Das Regime kennt mein Gesicht“, sagt die Studentin, die in den USA den Abschluss in internationalem Recht anstrebt. Sie, ihr Bruder und ihre Eltern haben seit acht Jahren in Washington Asyl. Ihre Eltern haben Ende 2001 die Tharwa-Stiftung gegründet, mit der sich die Familie und ein großes Netzwerk für die Demokratisierung Syriens, für Menschen- und Minderheitenrechte einsetzen. Tharwa sei arabisch und bedeute Reichtum – im Sinne von Vielfalt, erklärt Oula Abdulhamid. Sie wird über Berlin in die Türkei an der Grenze zu Syrien reisen und dort auf andere Tharwa-Aktivisten treffen. „Ich glaube daran, was wir tun“, obwohl es riskant sei, lebensgefährlich.

Wieder werden ihre Augen feucht. Wenn sie von der Lage in ihrem Land spricht, vergisst sie alles andere um sich herum, rührt ihr Mittagessen kaum an. „Sektierer“ ist noch ihre harmloseste Bezeichnung für Assad, der die Bevölkerung einschüchtert und zur Loyalität zwingt; sie nennt ihn auch „Diktator“ und „Teufel“. Seine Reformen seien oberflächlich gewesen, unnütz für das Volk. Assad habe den Mittelstand zerstört. 250 000 Menschen hätten ihr Leben verloren, nicht 100 000, widerspricht Abdulhamid den offiziellen Zahlen. Immerhin sei sie „erleichtert“, dass die Welt endlich erkannt habe, wer die Verantwortung dafür trägt. Eine internationale Intervention sei zwar „kostspielig“, „aber der politische Weg funktioniert leider nicht“. Natürlich habe sie Hoffnung, auf lange Sicht: „Ich glaube an die Jugend in Syrien.“

http://www.tharwa.org

Source : Shz.de

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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

Panelists:
Erez Manela
Professor of History, Harvard University

Michael Kazin
Professor of History, Georgetown University

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

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

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/conversation-woodrow-wilsons-policies

Live Web Discussion, US and European Engagement in the Middle East

In this discussion I asked Ambassador Ryan Crocker about establishing a No-Fly-Zone in Syria in order to provide a safe haven for Syrian civilians. I believe the United States is responsible for protecting civilian lives, stopping Assad from killing his own people and creating the necessary conditions for a peaceful transition to Democracy in Syria.

Yale University, New Haven, CT Continue reading

My Interview on Min Washington Program. Aljazeera TV (Arabic)

Al-Jazeera Washington, D.C.

Al-Jazeera
Washington, D.C.

What Syrian-Americans think of President Obama’s policy towards the Syrian Revolution after two years of the uprising; and what role they want to play regarding future relations between Washington and Damascus.

Guests: Oula Abdulhamid, Mouhanad Abdulhamid, Omar Al-Muqdad, Hayvi Bouzo, Dlshad Othman, Rami Nakhla, Aya Zerikly, Sirwan Kajjo and others.

Full Episode:

Al Jazeera TV 

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 

American Support for the Syrian Uprising

We quickly assembled a production crew to cover this most pressing news story within the Arab Spring by interviewing both Syrian activists, Oula Alrifai (Abdulhamid) and her Stepfather, Ammar Abdulhamid. Both Oula and Ammar work tirelessly to spread awareness about the oppressive Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The support by Syrians in the US and the international community more broadly is a critical part in the movement for change in Syria. Our Producer and Guest Host, Erica Woods stepped in to host and produce this episode.

Oula Abdulhamid

Oula Abdulhamid

Oula Abdulhamid, activist and dissident from Syria.

Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian-born human rights activist, dissident, and founder of the Tharwa Foundation.

The Angle Show 

Lessons of the Arab Spring: Building on Gains Already Made

What are the lessons to be learned from the waves of democratic uprisings in the Middle East? Will they encourage similar movements elsewhere? How can these gains be consolidated?

Oula Alrifai (Abdulhamid)

Syrian Democracy Activist and Political Asylum Refugee

Oula Alrifai and her family are political refugees from Syria. Since the revolution started in Syria , they have been deeply involved in political protest particularly through social media – spreading the word both within and outside Syria, and keeping protesters motivated. Oula is currently a university student majoring in Political Science and International Relations. In 2009, she co-hosted and organized “The First Step”, a breakthrough academic television show that focused on promoting democracy, development, and stability in the Middle East. She has also worked at The United States Institute of Peace and for the Terrorist Propaganda Project.

Tara Bahrampour

Reporter with the Washington Post and author of “To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America”

Tara Bahrampour has been a staff writer for the Washington Post since 2004. Based in Washington, she covers immigration and has also reported for the Post from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Republic of Georgia. She is the author of To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America, a memoir about revolution and growing up between two cultures. She has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times and The American Scholar.

Carl Gershman

President of the National Endowment for Democracy

Carl Gershman is President of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, congressionally supported grant-making institution with the mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts. In addition to presiding over the Endowment’s grants program in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, he has overseen the creation of the quarterly Journal of Democracy, International Forum for Democratic Studies, and the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. He also took the lead in launching in New Delhi in 1999 the World Movement for Democracy, which is a global network of democracy practitioners and scholars.

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