Prior to the start of the conflict, the British Syrian Society (BSS) played an instrumental role in promoting Syrian relations with the international community and specifically the UK while at the same time encouraging a reform process in the country. With the escalation in violence in 2011, the BSS suspended its normal activities but nevertheless remained committed to its goals despite the meltdown in British-Syrian relations. More recently, a decision was taken by the BSS Board of Directors to refocus its efforts towards assessing the causes and effects of the conflict in Syria. Through this workshop, the BSS sought to understand the ramifications of the war in Syria and observe where the world stands in this respect.
In war, each side has its own argument and in the fog of war, truth is always the first casualty. In order to decipher the truth, the conflict must be objectively understood. The workshop hosted by the BSS in Damascus on October 30th and 31st, 2016 brought together Syrian social, political, religious, economic and military figures with academics, policymakers, retired military officials, diplomats and journalists from other countries. The aim was to facilitate a better understanding of a very complicated conflict by listening to differing sides of the argument. The proceedings of the workshop were conducted away from the media spotlight under the Chatham House Rule.
The workshop began in the early morning of Sunday the 30th of October with a background to the war in Syria before moving on to discuss Syrian foreign relations during the crisis. Later in the afternoon, a panel was set up to focus on the media narrative since 2011. It was followed by a presentation on the reconciliation process backed up by facts and figures. The following morning, the effects of sanctions on the lives of ordinary Syrians were discussed at length. Attention was then directed to the role of civil society during the conflict with much of the focus covering rehabilitation, reconstruction, education and cultural heritage.
What follows is an account of all the major issues that were discussed at the workshop. However, as provided for under the Chatham House Rule, the identity of the speakers and participants at the workshop is not revealed.