On the fifth anniversary of the crisis in Syria, and with delegates gathering in Geneva for another round of peace talks, International Alert is urging more support for Syrian civil society and young people in reconciling divided communities and bringing lasting peace to the country.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of International Alert, said:
"Everyone hopes that an official peace deal on Syria will be reached soon. At the same, we can already support the many individuals and organisations working tirelessly to de-escalate the conflict in Syria and bring together communities traumatised and divided by five years of war.
"This work on the ground is essential to ensure any peace deal on Syria holds."
Alert’s work on Syria includes supporting local partners in Syria and neighbouring countries to provide peace education classes, where Syrian children, young people and adults from all backgrounds can receive trauma healing and learn to respect and understand each other.
Abdulhamid Qabbani, Project Officer for Alert’s peace education project with Syrian refugees in Turkey, and originally from Syria said:
"Peaceful activities in Syria and neighbouring countries have been sidelined by violence, but there are so many Syrians eager to contribute to bringing peace to their home country. We must re-engage with them so that they can stay invested and be role models for their fellow Syrians, particularly the vulnerable youth amid the growing normalisation of violence."
"Durable peace in protracted conflict must put the emphasis on, and invest in, children and young people. We are working with children, helping them deal with their trauma and build their resilience."
About International Alert in Syria
In Syria, Alert works to strengthen the peacebuilding knowledge and skills of Syrian civil society and young people.
Our peace education classes provide psychological support for Syrian children, young people and adults from all backgrounds, and build their understanding of the conflict. Our Create Syria project helps Syrian artists and cultural figures based in Lebanon to play an active role in building long-term resilience and recovery with Syrian refugee communities. And in Lebanon, we work with local communities to reduce the risk of spillover effects from the conflict in Syria.
Find out more about our work and projects on building peace in Syria: www.international-alert.org/syria
- Abdul’s story: "Without your guidance and what you tell us, I would have joined ISIS."
- Sara's story: "Coming here is really changing my life."
- Mona's story: "Peace has become a need for me; it is a principle and a value."
says 40-year-old activist Mona.
Originally from Raqqa in Syria, Mona now lives in Turkey. She was forced to flee her hometown in late 2014 due to the ongoing violence. In Syria, she had been a school teacher. But in 2011, when the uprising began, she got involved in activism, which cost Mona her job.
Arriving in southern Turkey, Mona felt adrift. Back in Raqqa she had been "useful and respected", known locally as 'the bride of protests'; in Turkey, after five months watching the conflict rage across the border, she felt she had no purpose.
That is when she decided to get in touch with other Syrian activists displaced by the conflict. One of them was a young peacebuilding trainer from Mona’s hometown, who turned out to be the role model she had needed.
Mona was invited to attend the 'Building Bridges' workshop, run by local NGO Deepening Awareness and Restoring Bridging (DARB) and supported by International Alert. The five-day training took place in a remote and tranquil resort in southern Turkey, and was attended by 24 people from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, mostly living in Turkey but a few still living in Syria.
It was a rare chance for the group of aspiring peacebuilders to openly discuss the conflict in Syria and learn important skills in conflict resolution, including trust-building, conflict analysis and measuring violence. It was also the spark the group needed to start pro-peace initiatives in their own communities.
"I have learned to have control over my feelings and accept the opinion of others," says Mona. "I’d like people to realise that there are ways for getting their rights back that are not necessarily violent."
Mona now volunteers for DARB and is getting ready to join the next workshop – this time as one of the trainers. "I hope to spread the importance of non-violence. I would like to be active within my home, area and wider community. It’s nice to have positive footprint."
Help us to give others affected by the conflict in Syria like Mona the chance to build peace in their communities. Support our work today.
Photo: © DARB
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Photo: A peace education class for 16-year-olds focusing on religion and run by our partner in Lebanon. © International Alert