When The Day after Project was launched in the summer of 2012, Syrians were struggling to overthrow Assad’s authoritarian regime and secure the opportunity to live in a stable, peaceful democracy. We, the participants of The Day After project, the practitioners, and the authors, knew very well that transitioning to democracy is difficult. The Day After report wrote that “transitions that occur in the wake of armed conflict face daunting challenges. They must contend with the legacies of dictatorship, as well as the immediate consequences of violence—human, social, institutional, and economic—which vastly complicate, and often overwhelm, efforts to build and consolidate democratic institutions and norms in a post-conflict society.”
15 months have elapsed since the report was launched. Until now the Syrian people continue their struggle for the principles that brought them into the street in March 2011: freedom, dignity, and a better living situation. They still want to overthrow the authoritarian regime and secure the opportunity to live in a stable, peaceful democracy. However, their endeavor has been hindered by the regime, the radical Islamist groups, and the lack of a strong response from the international community.
When we first developed the TDA plan, we envisioned a somewhat different transition, one that was more comprehensive and perhaps linear. Instead, we now have a situation in which some parts of Syria are undergoing transition and others are not. Even in the places where transition is occurring, it looks different from city to city. There is now a myriad of institutions, actors, and legal frameworks operating in different areas. This does not mean that transition planning and support is no longer needed. On the contrary. This complex situation of fragmentation and varying kinds of transition requires even more attention and support to help the Syrian people succeed in their efforts.
Today, The Day After Organization carries on the mission of the group that produced the report. The organization actively disseminates the principles of the TDA report and seeks to implement its recommendations. TDA is working on projects in documentation, rule of law, transitional justice, and safeguarding the cultural heritage of Syria. The growing strength of extremist groups have increased the importance of TDA’s objective of preserving space for democratic forces across Syria. Supporting these forces is crucial to counter the destructive narrative that the only choice for the Syrian people is between the regime and the takfiris.
The Day After will remain committed to the principles and visions provided in the report. It will continue to promote the notions of transitional justice and the rule of law; and it will keep working toward the realization of a democratic constitution that guarantees the rights of all Syrians to equality and freedom.
But in addition, TDA will continue to highlight the hazards of the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist groups that are controlling a number of areas inside Syria. TDA will not make compromises with any political or military group that undermines the status of human rights, gender equality, and freedom of expression, diversity, or minority rights. Efforts to preserve space for democratic forces are crucial to ensure that the original aims of the revolution are achieved.
TDA’s vision remains the same. The mission of supporting a democratic transition in Syria is becoming more difficult, and the strategies applied will always need to be adjusted as the situation in Syria changes. But this increasingly complex situation only means we need to redouble our efforts and work even harder to accomplish the aspirations of the Syrian people.