Panama Papers energize Syria’s democratic opposition


Syria’s democratic opposition is combing through this week’s release of the Panama Papers to revitalize efforts to identify and freeze billions of dollars amassed by the family and friends of Bashar al-Assad, their country’s dictator, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin report for Bloomberg View:

The Coalition for a Democratic Syria, a U.S.-based group that supports members of the opposition who are not jihadis, told us this week the new information could be a map to uncovering Assad’s ill-gotten wealth.

“For decades, the Assad family has stolen billions from the Syrian people and used it to fuel their indiscriminate slaughter, but we can now point to an exact path for these funds,” said Yahya Basha, the coalition’s chairman.  “We call on all bodies of the U.S. government to work to stop this despicable practice.”

Civilian self-protection strategies in Syria are documented in a new report from the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC):

Waiting for No One: Civilian Survival Strategies in Syria describes how civilians, humanitarians, medical professionals, and others have tried to protect themselves in Syria from explosive weapons and artillery so that the international community can learn from and better support these efforts. Other strategies regarding besieged areas and some of the sensitive tactics will be discussed in closed door sessions. Survival methods discussed in the report include early warning systems, individual self-protection strategies, the protection of medical infrastructure, local rescue and aid teams such as the White Helmets, and protection from the explosive remnants of war (ERW). The report identifies the ways that the international community can support and enhance practical and locally informed survival strategies and save civilian lives now and in the future.

“While diplomatic talks for a lasting peace are underway, the international community can do more to save lives now,” said Natasha Hall, author of the report and program officer for the Middle East and North Africa. “Syrians have developed tactics against air attacks and unexploded ordnance, but the work requires far more assistance to be effective.”

In February, the United Nations made history when the U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura convened the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board — the first time such a board has been created to advise a special envoy during peace negotiations, the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) reports:

Advisory Board members participated in a press conference following a recent meeting with de Mistura to articulate their key demands which included the release of peaceful activists, the distribution of information on the fate of missing persons, and the lifting of Western-imposed sanctions so that humanitarian aid can reach Syrians. Despite the historic nature of the meeting, many Syrian activists criticized the Advisory Board as unrepresentative and a failed attempt at inclusivity. Some went so far as to suspend their own participation in the Advisory Board, such as the Syrian Women Network which has been engaged in women’s rights in Syria since its formation in 2013.

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law.

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