Each beginning has an ending” some say. After eight years at the Center for Civil Society and Democracy (CCSD), I have started a new chapter in my life.

In 2011, the revolution created a great opportunity for achieving far-reaching change which would guarantee the rights of every citizen. We put the past behind us. With all of my passion and energy, I participated in the journey of change for Syria, for democratic transition that would guarantee rights, freedoms and justice for all Syrians, Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Chaldeans, and Turkmen; for those of every ethnicity and religion, regardless of gender.

Although the peaceful revolution that we sought, deviated from its path and turned into a civil war and then, and a proxy war, this did not change our dream of democracy, justice, freedom, and coexistence.

As one of the co-founders of the Center for Civil Society and Democracy, our goal was and continues to be, that of ensuring that Syrian civil society, Syrian women and independent media play an important and indispensable role in the transition to democracy.  At CCSD we created both the space and the means to hold onto our hopes and aspirations for freedom, justice and coexistence.

We have faced immense challenges, such as the constantly changing map of power in Syria. Again, and again we suffered together behind the shadows of the greatest human tragedy inflicted on humanity since World War II. With heavy hearts, we witnessed the impact of gross human rights violations committed on our families, friends, and our people. Yet all of that did not destroy our dream of transition toward democracy and justice, and our belief that we could create the foundation for a democratic Syria. At CCSD we aspired to practice our values and harness the diversity that was seen within our own work environments and staff teams.

I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together at CCSD. We raised awareness of democratic values among Syrian citizens. We built an important platform for civil society, and a safe space for women to collaborate and have their voices heard. We developed rich networks of community leaders who exchanged ideas, explored differences in perspectives and learned from one another other. CCSD is an institutional resource for all Syrians, including Syrian youth. Our award winning independent investigative journalism platform ensures that stories that matter, are documented in-depth and shared with Syrians and the international community.

During the past eight years, I have learned so much from many of my colleagues and partners. I will take these experiences with me and will share them with many over the coming years. The most important things that I learned during these years can be summarized as follows:

  1. Democracy is a practice more than a culture. Democratic habits are not ingrained in us. For it to become real and stay strong, it needs to be practiced over and over, as we engage in the governance of our daily lives. This relies on cultivating the appropriate tools and environment for democracy to thrive in as well.
  2. Women are natural and capable leaders. They need to be given space to exercise their natural abilities in leadership, their efforts should be supported, not hindered.
  3. In conflicts like Syria, there are several sides to the truth, but there is only one side to justice.
  4. Building an institution is like building a state; just like a state needs the availability of the three authorities (judicial, legislative, and executive), an institution relies on separation of powers, checks and balances, and accountability. It needs to build tools as well as culture, however, all this will not work without the changing of the rule of law and the intrinsic behaviours of individuals.
  5. Without the freedom to form parties and organizations, freedom of movement, freedom of the media, and freedom of speech, there will be no chance for active participation to develop governance structures anywhere in the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, dear colleagues, former colleagues, volunteers, partners, friends and allies for your positive communication, for silently supporting our work for change and for helping empower the work of the Center for Civil Society and Democracy.

As CCSD continues to contend with challenges, my hope is that each CCSD team member will persist in the struggle to achieve our dreams of a strong civil society, one that is instrumental in making policies, not just influencing them, and that human rights become a reality not only in Syria, but throughout the Middle East.

CCSD is transitioning from the co-director model to a new structure, one that aims to provide a democratic model of shared leadership and collaboration.  Our offices in different countries will maintain the same CCSD values and vision, and operate in accordance with their local legal requirements.

Although my role as co-director of CCSD ended in 2019, I continue to fight for the rights of every citizen who has been stripped of their citizenship, for every prisoner of conscience, for every political detainee, for those kidnapped by ISIS and for the equal rights of all Syrians, as individuals and ethnic groups. The end of my role in the CCSD does not mean that I will stop the struggle to defend human rights and democracy.

Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to ask all our generous donors for your continued support for civil society, independent media, women’s leadership, gender equality, equal rights for all, not only in Syria, but throughout the Middle East. The work we are doing is at the cornerstone for achieving peace and stability in the region.

Renas Sino : Co-Founder 

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