The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria

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Syrian democracy campaigner takes his message to heart of German government

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Ribal al Assad, Director of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, has hailed a series of meetings held in the German capital as “constructive, vital and positive.” The democracy and human rights campaigner was in Berlin for talks with high profile political figures from across the political spectrum.

Syria is a hot topic in German political debate after the arrest of a German human rights activist and blogger, Ismail Abdi, who was visiting his native Damascus. Ribal al Assad met with German Left Party ( (Die Linke) MP Inge Höger, in the German Parliament. They discussed Syria and the Middle East, and Ms Höger appealed for ODFS to assist in securing Mr Abdi's release. The arrest and detainment of Abdi was high on the agenda for all of Ribal al Assad’s talks with representatives of the human rights and foreign affairs committees in the German parliament.

Mr al Assad outlined the work of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria in meetings with:

- Christoph Strässer, Spokesman on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid for the SPD parliamentary group

- Ute Granold, Chairwoman of the CDU/CSU Group on the German parliament's Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid

- Hans Martin Sieg, Foreign and Security Policy Advisor to MP Manfred Grund, member of the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee

- Dr. Rainer Stinner, spokesman on foreign affairs for the FDP parliamentary party and a Member of the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee

- Franz Müntefering, former chairman of the German SPD and a former Vice-Chancellor of Germany

- Left Party MP Inge Höger

- Left Party MP Dr. Lukrezia Jochimsen, Member of the German Parliament's Culture and Media Committee and the Subcommittee on Foreign Cultural Policy

- CDU/CSU MP Frank Heinrich, Member of the German Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

Commenting on the program of meetings, Mr al Assad said:

“I am delighted to have found such committed advocates of freedom and democracy from across the political spectrum in the German parliament.

“Their knowledge of Syria, and their appreciation of the need for democratic change, was inspirational and I look forward to working with all of them in the future.”

During the visit, Mr al Assad was presented with a copy of a recent report on Syria by the international campaign group Reporters Without Borders. The report, which was published in July, states that the Syrian regime still decides who can be a journalist. Syria is ranked 165th out of 175 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is listed as an "Enemy of the Internet." The regime is regarded as one of the worlds 40 worst "Predators of press freedom."

Commenting on the meeting Ribal Al-Assad said:

“I was delighted and honoured to meet Christian Rickerts and to be presented with the Reporters Without Borders report. We had an excellent discussion about bringing democracy, freedom and human rights to Syria. I call on the Syrian regime to lift the state of emergency immediately and allow the people to exercise their rights of association and expression. I also call on the Syrian regime to end press and internet censorship and unleash social media.”

Ribal Al-Assad has been invited to speak at an international conference being hosted by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) in Berlin. The conference, “A World Without Walls 2010 - "An International Conference on Peacebuilding, Reconciliation and Globalization in an Interdependent World," will be held in November. The conference will explore the potential for cultural diplomacy and soft power in building peace and supporting reconciliation in different regions of the world. The invitation to Ribal Al-Assad was invited personally by the Director of the ICD, Mark C. Donfried, at a meeting last week at the Institute's headquarters in Berlin.

The conference program will consist of lectures and seminars held by leading figures from international politics, academia, international development and civil society. Speakers include Lord Anthony Giddens, Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics, Anatoliy Zlenko, Former Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Senator Alan Ferguson, Deputy President of the Australian Senate, Dr. Alfredo Palacio, Former President of Ecuador, and H.E. Yasar Yakis MP, Former Foreign Minister of Turkey.


Notes for Editors:

The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS) is an independent body, which promotes democracy, freedom and human rights in Syria and the Middle East.

ODFS researches and analyses current events and policy in Syria and the Middle East, and provides information to parliamentarians, civil servants, the media, think tanks, academics, students, the public and all other interested parties in Britain and around the world.

Ribal Al-Assad is the Founder and Director of The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria. He is an international campaigner for democracy, freedom and human rights. Ribal, 35, was born in Syria and has lived in the West since being exiled from his country as a child. He brings new ideas and perspectives to campaigning for democracy and freedom in Syria and the Middle East and is a regular speaker on political and human rights platforms. Ribal regularly interacts with politicians, civil servants, academics, journalists, think tanks, pro-democracy, and human rights groups all around the world.

Ribal is also Chairman of the Arabic News Network (ANN) satellite television channel, which broadcasts throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and promotes democracy, freedom and peace in the Middle East.

Ribal is extensively involved in promoting interfaith dialogue and relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians around the globe. Over the last few years Ribal has successfully been involved in helping to tackle inter-religious and intra-religious conflict and violence in Lebanon. One of his notable achievements was to help facilitate a rapprochement between the Alawite and the Sunni Muslims in North Lebanon.

The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria campaigns for:

- An end to the State of Emergency, in place since 1963

- A commitment to human rights for all groups, religions and minorities

- An end to corruption and the liberalization of the Syrian economy

- An end to press and internet censorship

- Greater rights for Syrian women and their greater representation in the political, economic, and social fields

- Peace in the Middle East through a two state solution with a viable, independent and democratic state of Palestine and the return of all of the Golan Heights to Syria in a land for peace deal

- An end to extremism and violence

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