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Paolo Dall'Oglio
Gesuita del monastero di Deir Mar Musa (Siria)
Syria, an open letter to Kofi Annan

Pubblichiamo anche nella versione inglese la lettera aperta che Paolo Dall'Oglio, gesuita e fondatore della Comunità monastica di Deir Mar Musa, ha inviato a Kofi Annan, inviato speciale delle Nazioni unite e della Lega araba per la crisi siriana (versione in italiano)

May 20, 2012

To His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, emeritus UN Secretary-General,

Peace and Good. With this public communication, I wish first of all to express my gratitude to you for having accepted this very delicate mission for the salvation of Syria and peace in the region. We catch hold of your initiative like shipwrecked of a raft!

You succeeded in overcoming the obstacle of the Russian opposition to any proposal implying an authentic democratic change. In perspective, Syria could and should constitute an element of balance in regional problems, rather than a corrosive cancer. It seems to me that a majority of Syrians reason in terms of multi-polar equilibrium and not in those of a new cold war. The Syrian people are traditionally anti-imperialistic; moreover, they favor the creation of an Arab pole representing their diffuse desire of emancipation and self-determination. Such a feeling implies the aspiration to real democracy and the recognition of this society’s various cultural and religious components, as well as that of the human persons’ dignity.

The current regional dynamics are marked with a real difficulty for Shiite and Sunnite populations to live together, and with a competition between them. This provokes also grave inconvenience to the other minorities, above all the Christian ones. The Arab Spring,  initially characterized by the demand, in particular of the youth, for rights and liberties, is at risk of drifting towards sectarian violence,  especially when the lack of international responsibility favors the conflict’s radicalization.

Mr. Annan, you know better than anyone else that the international Islamic terrorism is one of the many streams of the global “illegality-opacity” (market of drugs, weapons, organs, human beings, finance, raw materials…). The interconnected marshland of the diverse “secret services” is contiguous to the galaxy of criminality, often characterized ideologically and/or religiously. It is surprising that few days were enough for high-ranking UN officials to accept the “al-Qaida” thesis regarding the “suicide” attacks in Syria. Once the liberticide interpretation, stating that in Syria there is only a problem of public order, is accepted by the world community, what else to expect if not the withdrawal of the unarmed blue helmets, giving the repression the opportunity to achieve a “minor evil”. The fact that Israel, as a nuclear and confessional power, has an interest in a long-lasting and low-intensity civil war in Syria, is just the former theorem’s corollary. When some add to this that “the Arabs” are not culturally mature for “real” democracy, then the game is over for freedom! In this case, the only alternative left is that of dividing the country on a confessional basis, and probably the only role left to the blue helmets will be to try and avoid massacres such as those of the shameful Bosnian precedent.

Given the non always positive experience of UN observers in past crises, our optimism depends on the emergence of a concrete negotiation will at the Security Council and within the country, as well as on a large assistance by the international civil society to the local one. Three thousand – and not just three hundred – blue helmets are necessary to guarantee the ceasefire’ respect and the protection of civilian population against repression, so that social and economical life may restart. It is urgent to call for the abolition of the sanctions that are not targeted at particular persons, because they punish the most oppressed and weak segments of the population.

Furthermore, thirty thousand non-violent “companions” from the global civil society are needed to help initiate a widespread start of grass-level democratic life. A state organization based on the principle of subsidiarity and consensus should be favored, perhaps encouraging the development of a federal structure that would reflect the main geographic particularities (federation is division’s exact contrary!). It is only by putting confidence in people’s self-determination at the local level that public order will be restored and each form of terrorism combated, without falling again into generalized and sectarian repression.

It is appropriate and urgent to create local reconciliation committees, protected by the blue helmets and coordinated with the specialized UN agencies, caring for the prisoners, kidnapped and missing of the different parties in conflict. It will be necessary as well to raise as soon as possible the question of the social rehabilitation of the youth who have been drawn into terrorism, armed activities or crime. 

Mr. Annan, you have repeatedly stated that pacification needs a political negotiation process. Is this possible without a real change in the power structure, particularly in the given situation where the government is a façade and the regime itself obeys an unclear group of super-hierarchs? Certainly, we should seek to save the state. It is the property of the people. But first, this state has to be freed.

Your initiative, most dear Mr. Annan, marks a revolutionary step in the course of exercising international responsibility in solving local conflicts. The unarmed UN presence in Syria today constitutes a Gandhian prophecy, whose value goes well beyond the punctual crisis we all aim to solve. Priority should be given to the protection of freedom of opinion and speech in the Syrian society, without which the process of national pacification becomes impossible.

With esteem and gratitude,

Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio