Interview: “AANES must build a true partnership between Arabs, Syriac-Assyrians and Kurds” – Daoud Daoud, Assyrian Democratic Organization


Can you introduce yourself and the Assyrian Democratic Organization?

My name is Daoud Lahoud Daoud, and I am a civil engineer and general secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Organization. The Assyrian Democratic Organization is an Assyrian political organization founded in 1957. Since its foundation, it has linked its struggle to guarantee the national rights of the Assyrian Syriacs as a component of the Syrian people with its national and democratic struggle.  It called and still calls for establishing a secular democratic system based on the foundations of equal citizenship and the charter of human rights, and the constitutional recognition of equal national rights for all components of the Syrian people in light of a comprehensive Syrian national identity that reflects the national, religious and cultural diversity and plurality within the framework of the unity of the land and the people of the Syrian state.

From its founding until the beginning of the 1980s, the Assyrian Democratic Organisation proselytized for a single national identity of the Syriac Assyrians with all their sects and names, and was concerned with reviving the Syriac language, folklore and music, and achieved widespread support among students and intellectuals.

The organization experienced an abundant share of the tyranny of the regime, including prosecutions and arrests, as its leaders were subjected to numerous arrests in the years 1986, 1987 and 1997, and during the years of the revolution, many members of the organization from all organizational levels were subjected to a campaign of arrests as of May 2011, and many of its cadres are still wanted by the [Syrian regime] security services.

The organization participated in the movement that took place in the country at the beginning of the last decade known as the Damascus Spring, through forums in various regions, in addition to participating in the committees for the revival of civil society and bodies for the defense of freedoms and human rights. It then joined the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change in 2006, and its cadres also participated in many of the sit-ins that were being carried out in the capital, Damascus, against the emergency law at the time.

Since the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, the organization has participated, through its cadres and activists, in media, in the field, and in the distribution of aid, especially in the areas of al-Jazeera, in addition to its political activities at home and abroad. It supported the establishment of Syriac-Assyrian coordinators in Syria and the diaspora and contributed to the formation of parliamentary committees to support the Syrian revolution, especially in Sweden, and contributed to many media campaigns to make the voice of the Syrian people heard and explain their just cause in international forums. The Assyrian Democratic Organization is a founding member of the Syrian National Council (2011), the National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces, and a member of the negotiating committee, and has representatives in the constitutional committee.

The Assyrian Democratic Organization is led by an executive office elected at a periodic conference every four years. The Assyrian organization has branches in Europe, the United States and Australia. Its members are from various churches (Syriac, Chaldean and Assyrian) with their various names.

The Assyrian Democratic Organization incorporates in its vision of Syria the perspective of the coexistence of democracy and secularism, and dialectical interconnectedness between its nationalist and democratic national struggle. There are no rights for Assyrian Syrians except under a democratic and secular state.

On July 28, 2020, the formation of the Peace and Freedom Front was announced. It included the Kurdish National Council, the Democratic Assyrian Organization, the Syrian Tomorrow Movement, and the Arab Council in al-Jazeera and the Euphrates. What is the purpose of this alliance?

We, the constituent forces of the front, share old political relations. And similar political visions. Our wills converged to negotiate months ago for a political alliance based on a political vision for the future of Syria and the constitution of Syria. After intense and in-depth dialogues, we accomplished this political vision. The Front for Peace and Freedom was announced. This came at a stage in which military actions were no longer at the forefront, and Syria was entering a phase of international interest in a political solution in accordance with UN Resolution 2254 and the Geneva I Conference Resolution.

This front is open to all opposition democratic forces that accept its political vision. The main objective of its formation is to create a true democratic pole in the Syrian opposition, which is clear in its political vision for the future of Syria and its constitution and defender. What adds to the importance of this front is that its components are represented in the internationally recognized official negotiating body, as well as in the constitutional committee formed by the international community.

This means the front is held responsible for defending the right of the Syrian people to freedom, dignity and democracy. It can create pressure towards a political solution and a political transition to the Syrian issue towards a democratic, pluralistic, secular, decentralized Syria. It is based on the foundations of justice, equal citizenship and real participation in the political process, and the constitutional recognition of the equal national rights of the components of the Syrian people, including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Armenians and others.

How do you evaluate the negotiations between the Kurdish National Council (ENKS) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD)?

We in the Assyrian Democratic Organization have always urged the two parties to dialogue and search for points of convergence and commonality. We encouraged and supported the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue. This is in the interest of the Kurdish people and the people of the region as a whole for it creates a state of stability. It follows from dialogues with the rest of the [ethnic] components of the region, Arabs, Syriac-Assyrians, and others in order to reach common understandings that serve everyone. It maintains stability and blocks the way to those who wish to tamper with the social fabric, and wards off sedition. And what increases our optimism about the Kurdish dialogue is that the two parties have reached a mature political vision. We hope it will culminate in a comprehensive agreement.

In the view of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, what is the best solution for the Assyrian-Syriac people in North and East Syria and the people of NES in general? How do we get to this solution?

We believe that the solution must be general. The Syrian issue is one and indivisible. Nevertheless, we believe that the constitutional recognition of the national rights of the Assyrian Syriac people and that their language and culture be considered a national language and culture. Moreover, demographic change must be prevented in the region, especially in al-Khabur region which was swept over by Daesh in 2015, which led to the emigration of its indigenous people and the housing of displaced persons in this region as they fled other areas. When the conditions allow, we must return the displaced to their original areas of residence. Especially in al-Khabur region, [since] its residents are mostly Assyrians, and its character is Assyrian.

The international community adopted the [search for a] political solution in accordance with UN Resolution 2254 and the Geneva I Conference Resolution, and it has a special envoy facilitating the course of the solution with negotiations between the regime and the opposition. This must begin with a transitional governing body with full executive powers, a committee for drafting a new constitution, and free and fair elections under the supervision and patronage of the United Nations. However, the international community lagged in carrying out its legal, moral and political duties and responsibilities. Today, [the international community] must press the negotiating parties to accelerate the political solution and end the Syrian crisis. Then the Syrian constitution can define rights and duties on the basis of equality in a stable and secure environment.

Do you think that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria can play a major role in solving the Syrian crisis? What is the role and why?

Despite the importance of the political blocs that make up the Autonomous Administration politically and militarily, the existing administration as a de facto authority is not recognized by many Syrians affiliated with the opposition. This requires this administration and the active forces in it, especially the Democratic Union Party (PYD), to abandon the ideology associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and to break with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The most important thing is for the existing administration to build on the basis of a true partnership between Arabs, Syriacs, Assyrians and Kurds. And to work to open channels of dialogue and coordination with the official opposition frameworks, by which we mean the Coalition and the Syrian negotiating bodies, and thus to be included in the United Nations-sponsored political negotiation process for the implementation of Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Conference Resolution.

How is the relationship between the Assyrian Democratic Organisation and the Autonomous Administration?

The Assyrian Democratic Organization is not represented by the Autonomous Administration. However, we have relations with some of its parties. We are generally not in conflict with it, and we are also not allied with it. Sometimes we provide feedback on their performance, and we invite the Administration to review [its performance], especially in basic matters including the monopoly of a particular party over power and political decisions, the presence of non-Syrians within the administration, and the representation of the political and social politicians of the various peoples resident east of the Euphrates according to the principle of true and full partnership in Autonomous Administration. We consider it the de facto authority. However, its role ends when a political solution is made in Syria according to a new constitution, which defines the new form and administrative system in Syria, to which all Syrians will comply.

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