Dossier: Syria four years into the revolution

Dossier: Syria four years into the revolution

Four years ago, the revolution against Bashar al-Assad's regime began. In March 2011, peaceful protests in Syria were suppressed violently by the regime. Ever since, the conflict between the regime and the rebels has escalated, becoming increasingly militarized. According to estimates, more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, while millions of Syrians have become refugees.  No credible approach for a peaceful solution is in sight. After two years of revolution, what is the perspective of people on the ground? What impact is the conflict having on Syria’s neighbors (especially Lebanon, but also Israel)? Who, in Europe and elsewhere, shows solidarity with the people involved in the Syrian revolution, and who doesn’t? Our dossier aims to present analytical articles and interviews that shed light, from different perspectives, on what is happening inside Syria. In addition, by including videos produced by our project partners in Lebanon, it provides access to the perspective of Syrian activists who, through art, express their hopes for a better future.


A Discussion About Syria With Bente Scheller


"Everything changes as soon as people have the feeling they can actually do something." Middle East Office Director Bente Scheller explains the current state of Syria, and what people can do about it.

By Bente Scheller, Nicole Johnson, Alexander Nasserjah

Opening Speech: Towards Accountability for International Crimes in Syria


A coalition of Syrian civil society, activists and lawyers have filed criminal complaints in Germany against some high-ranking Syrian officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction. A first step towards justice for the victims and survivors of all crimes committed in Syria.

By Barbara Unmüßig

At the core of the war in Syria

No matter how complex and religiously driven the conflict in Syria may seem, its basic constellation is this: A regime with powerful allies wages a war of annihilation against wide parts of its own population. How could it get to this point? And what is the very least we can do?

By Bente Scheller

Syria’s Disappeared

Over the past years, tens of thousands of men, women and children in Syria havee become subject to forced disappearances in Syria. On July 12, the film "Syria's Disappeared" was screened in which survivors of Syrian prisons and relatives of some tortured to death speak out.

By Bente Scheller

Syria: Systematic Torture and Sexualized Violence


Torture and sexualized violence are part of everyday life in Syrian prisons. However, human rights violations committed by the Assad regime play no role at the Geneva peace talks. With this in mind, Barbara Unmüßig, calls for women to be included as peace negotiators.

By Barbara Unmüßig

Arab Spring: What remains of the revolution?

Five years after the start of the Arab Spring, the optimism of the disillusionment has given way. Given the never-ending violence, the return to authoritarian forms of rule or even failing states the "Arabellion" is considered a failure.

Afghan refugees receive a cold welcome in Europe

With a backlog of more than 350,000 asylum applications, Germany is under pressure to speed up the asylum process. But efforts to quickly process Syrian refugees shortchange Afghanis and others.

By Kavitha Surana, Thalia Beaty

Talking with Assad: an End in Itself? A Response to Phil Gordon

Prominent voices, such as former White House Coordinator for the Middle East Phil Gordon, have advocated for striving for a negotiated interim solution in Syria that defers the question of Assad’s fate. Bente Scheller, director of our office in Lebanon, addresses some of the underlying myths and arguments shaping the current debate.  

By Bente Scheller

Syria: The battle over narratives

Syrians and their supporters who continue to hope and believe in the justice of this revolution tell us that our country has never in its history done anything better than entering into this revolution.

By Mohammad al-Attar

Forget Assad

If you cannot overthrow the tyrant, co-operate with him – after four disastrous years in Syria this seems to be the conclusion the international community has arrived at. A comment.

By Bente Scheller

Assad’s Trap for the West

Assad and ISIS appear to be perfect opposites. In reality, however, they are rather complementary. Whatever aspirations one may have for a cooperation with the regime, neither an end to the war nor safety will be gained through it.

By Bente Scheller

On the Run in Their Own Country

More than six million Syrian refugees are in search of a different, a safer place in their home country and yet only arrive at places that are currently slightly less ghastly.

By Bente Scheller

To Stay or to Leave? No Escaping the Hopelessness in Syria

An international conference on the situation of Syrian refugees has been arranged for 28th October in Berlin. Yet in view of the magnitude of the crisis, this is a mere drop in the ocean. Western states keep concentrating on ways to ease the symptoms of the crisis which they cannot gain control over without political underpinning.

By Bente Scheller

Germany’s New Foreign Policy in the Making

The Middle East is burning and, as usual, all eyes rest on Washington. What, then, is Germany willing and capable to contribute to the crisis management in Iraq? The diffuse reactions by politicians across the political spectrum point toward a significant paradigm shift.

By Charlotte Beck

The Rehabilitation of Assad

Above all, the West wants stability in Syria. Because he has managed to sit out everything that has happened in recent years, the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad seems to offer this very stability. But accepting the kind of stability Assad offers would mean having to forget the atrocities committed by his regime.

By Bente Scheller

Between paralysis and civil war: Lebanon and the Syria conflict

Lebanon is facing a complete paralysis of all state institutions, accompanied by a deteriorating security situation and a fragmentation of Lebanon into zones of sectarian conflict. The conflict in Syria is worsening the division within the country.
By Doreen Khoury

Syria: Rape as a weapon of war

In wars, rape has been used as a tool to go beyond the physical and military defeat of the enemy, to subdue a society politically and morally. The present article, written by psycho-therapist Dr. Jamal Khalil Sobh, sheds light on the repeated war crime of rapes of women, including the recent tragic incidents in Syria. By Jamal Khalil Sobh

Right and Left against the revolution

In Syria the majority of the population is in revolt against the authoritarian regime, that has ruled Syria since 1970. The United Nations called the situation recently "a civil war". But why is it that the far Right and certain far-Left groups in a number of Western nations agree in their hostility to the Syrian revolution? By Dr. Ziad Majed

"Syrian revolutionaries owe nobody an apology"

The Lebanese author and leftist activist Fawwaz Traboulsi has followed the the Arab revolutions as a writer and analyst, writing down his insights 2012 in his book „Democracy is Revolution“. Mohammad al-Attar met him for the interview about Syria in Beirut.

By Mohammad al-Attar

Syria Says No to Bombs

Far from achieving the intended blow against al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents in Iraq, the recent American incursion into Syrian territory undermines voices of moderation in Syria, and facilitates the recruitment efforts of extremist Islamist groups in a country that has every reason to be wary of the terrorist threat. By Sami Moubayed

Transitional Justice العدالة الإنتقالية

Minorities أقليات


Our work in the Middle East and North Africa

In the Middle East and North Africa region, the Heinrich Böll Foundation maintains offices in Beirut, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, and Tunis, and there are co-operation projects in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. Our Iran activities are coordinated from Berlin.