What is civil diplomacy?
By ‘civil diplomacy’, we mean building bridges between North and East Syria (NES) and the outside world.
We consolidate and create new understandings between the peoples of NES and the outside world, on the basis of humanitarian values,
democracy, women’s freedom, and the freedom of religion and belief.
We work from the basis of the diverse cultures of NES, including its Kurdish, Arabic, Christian and Yezidi heritage; its autonomous and diverse
regions and municipalities; and its burgeoning civil-society movements, in particular its women’s movement.
We enable the citizens of the world to engage fully with the ‘Rojava revolution’ and ‘women’s revolution’, through bilateral educational, solidarity
and outreach programs.
In this way we contribute to the global resistance against dictatorial oppression and the war against indigenous cultures, women, and society.
We establish bilateral projects and mutual aid in order to spread peace, democracy and a communal way of life in NES and beyond.
What is North and East Syria?
North and East Syria (NES) is the official name of the autonomous regions of northern and eastern Syria, home to millions of people living outside
the control of the Assad regime. NES is home to a unique political project – the ‘Rojava revolution’ - based on values of direct democracy,
regional autonomy, women’s liberation and religious and ethnic tolerance.
The three majority-Kurdish regions of Jazira, Kobane and Afrin first achieved autonomy back in 2012, with the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War
and the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces who had previously enforced central government control on these long-oppressed regions.
Throughout the course of the Syrian conflict, these regions fought off attacks from the Syrian regime; Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and other jihadist factions; and ISIS.
With the historic defeat of ISIS in Kobane in 2014, the tide turned. The majority-Kurdish YPG and YPJ forces joined together with majority-Arab Free
Syrian Army units to form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and fought a years-long campaign to liberate major Arab cities from ISIS’ reign of terror.
As a result of these campaigns, NES is now home to up to four million people across seven regions, namely the majority-Kurdish Afrin, Jazira and
Euphrates; and the majority-Arabic Manbij, Raqqa, Tabqa and Manbij. It is also home to Yezidi; Syriac-Assyrian Christian; Armenian Christian;
Chechen; Turkmen; and Circassian minorities.
Modern-day NES is united under the political administration of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and militarily
defended by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Kurds, Arabs, Christians and other locals have also formed a representative political body
the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC). These regions are governed on the basis of self-determination and grassroots democracy, with local
communes feeding into local councils. Women and ethnic and religious groups have guaranteed representation, to ensure that no group can
dominate the region’s politics. They are home to a wide raft of civil-society initiatives working across fields including women’s rights, direct
democracy, community justice, education, the cooperative economy, arts and culture, trade unions and humanitarian support.
But the situation in NES is far from secure. Even as ISIS were finally wiped out as a force capable of holding territory in Syria, NES suffered two
devastating Turkish invasions, resulting in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of primarily-Kurdish civilians.
Turkey has occupied thousands of square kilometers of land, and is conducting a policy of ethnic cleansing to turn historically-Kurdish regions into
zones of Turkish control occupied by Arab militias on the Turkish payroll.
The region also suffers from regional and international embargo and isolation due to its lack of recognized political status; a bloody ISIS
insurgency; and mass poverty and an ongoing humanitarian crisis, driven by the war and Turkish occupation. Another Turkish assault.
NES stands alone in Syria and the wider region as a beacon of democracy, tolerance, human rights, multiculturalism, and rule of law. The region
needs international support to ensure its long-term survival. At the same time, the ideas being put into practice in NES can also serve as a roadmap for a better future for Syria, the Middle East, and the world beyond.
What is the CDC-NES?
The Civil Diplomacy Center – North and East Syria (CDC-NES) launched in 2021 with the aim of developing connections between civil society in
North and East Syria (NES) and the outside world.
The revolution in NES has become known all around the world, but opportunities for building relationships between NES and the international
community have been lacking until now. CDC-NES aims to strengthen these relationships, building relationships between NES and other
communities (in the Middle East, Europe, North America and North Africa). We aim to build connections with all local and international civil society
actors in order to build humanitarian and practical solidarity between NES and the outside world.
CDC-NES works in the fields of political solidarity; humanitarian support; education; women’s rights; restorative justice; culture; economy;
healthcare; municipalities; and religious affairs. We take responsibility for developing joint projects between communities in NES and abroad, and
strengthening bilateral relations in order to build long-term relationships between these communities. This includes bilateral knowledge-sharing
and education programs; delegations of foreign guests, experts and activists; and securing international support for civil society endeavours in
NES. You can see ‘how we work’ for some examples of what this means in practice.
CDC-NES was launched in January 2021. CDC-NES is a non-profit body registered in Qamishlo, North and East Syria, and funded by private and
institutional donations. It also operates offices in Brussels, Belgium. Our staff is made up of Syrian civil society activists with diverse experiences
across the fields outlined above, as well as international volunteers.