The Dialectic Relationship Between the Political and the Civil in the Syrian Civil Society Movement

With the beginning of Damascus Spring, 2000-2001, a new expression entered the Syrian political and cultural dictionary: the civil society. No sooner had this expression been introduced than a debate started about the nature of this expression, its limits and interactions. A question started to disturb a good number of Syrian politicians and intellectuals: to what extent may the political interact with the civil, influence it, and be influenced with it? Is civil society a social-cultural concept, or it is just wrong to separate it from politics, which will abbreviate it to the limits of charities?

We cannot give a simple answer to such a complicated question. This paper tries to raise the question, and to review the complex relationship between the civil activity and the political activity in the performance of the civil society as well as the political opposition in Syria. It will shed light on both views regarding this question, and regarding the Syrian government’s attitude towards these interactions and the radical, violent solutions which it has used towards both the opposition and the civil society in Syria.

In addition, the paper will shed light on a new generation of civil society activists in Syria, who focus on social, development and advocacy issues. It will also try to illuminate the remarkable role played by this generation in important issues such as the cancellation of the controversial Personal Status draft, cancellation of the article of the Penal Code that concerns "honor crime," the campaign to give the Syrian woman the right to give her children the Syrian citizenship, in addition to a vast number of civil campaigns, which were initiated by groups of the new generation of the civil society, using new tools such as the new media, blogs, the facebook and others.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.