Beyond Dictatorship and Terror in Syria: Miral Biroreda

Peace Award 2015: Shortlist

Campaigning for peace can be dangerous. Miral Biroreda, the Syrian human rights activist, has experienced this first hand on many occasions. In spite of this – or perhaps rather because of this – he has founded the Centre for Democracy and Civil Society in Syria.

In 2011, Miral Biroreda was detained for 33 days in prison because he had taken part in a demonstration by regime critics. 33 days in captivity suffering psychological torture without trial. Biroreda opposes the Assad regime. He is, however, also against armed resistance of any kind. And he wants to show a possible future for Syria beyond the Assad regime and Islamic terror. A democratic civilian society. In 2011, Biroreda therefore became a co-founding member of the non-violent resistance in Al-Hasakah, in the north-east of Syria. Together with other fellow campaigners, he joined a network of local coordination committees united by a common vision of democratic change in Syria.

Detained by the secret service

At this point in time, Biroreda had already had firsthand experience of the Syrian regime's propensity to violence. In 2004, while participating in a demonstration during the Kurdish uprising, he was shot in the left foot by a sniper. As a result of this experience, Biroreda withdrew at first and wrote numerous articles about the political situation and the position of Kurds living in his native country. His contributions, which were published in a magazine he had established himself, alerted the Palestine Branch - Military Intelligence in 2007. He was accused of unlicensed publication in Arabic and Kurdish, and was subsequently arrested.

After continuous threats, Biroreda initially fled to Turkey, he now meanwhile lives in Germany. But violence and opposition against his political commitment have not caused him to become resigned. He continues to campaign for peace and freedom from his place of exile. At the beginning of 2013, he therefore founded the "Fraternity Center for Democracy and Civil Society" in cooperation with several peace activists from different backgrounds and religious affiliations.

International support

This centre has made it its task to try and win support for a culture of peace and human rights among the Syrian people. The institution is supported primarily by the "International Federation for Human Rights"; further funding comes, amongst others, from Coffey International, as well as the German initiative "adopt a revolution".

The centre also issues a brochure campaigning for tolerance, not only written in Arabic but also in the Syrian and Kurdish languages. The main purpose of the institution, however, is to run workshops teaching peaceful ways of dealing with conflict. A central focus of the symposiums held in different Syrian towns is also non-violent conflict management. Prominent representatives from very different areas of Syrian society also take part. These are all activities which break with the mechanisms of war in a country torn by violence.