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Sunday, April 19, 2015

#Syrian2Syrian #National #Dialog #Venue

                               The Syrian-to-Syrian 

National Dialog Venue


by David Takaki

April 2015


 Activists in Bashiriya attempt a live stream satellite uplink



Ground Truth 

By law, Syrians already possess the freedom to express themselves and engage each other in public discourse, as embodied in Syria’s most recent Constitution, which was issued on 15 February 2012.  This right has been cynically abused by the government that issued it and by many, if not most opposing combatants.  Outside powers such as Russia have played upon precepts of national sovereignty while ignoring what in fact legitimizes that sovereignty in a democracy, its citizenry. And that populace silenced by fear, half of which have been displaced, and most of who now live from day to day in poverty has been rendered voiceless as combatants wage a pernicious war with objectives that do not factor in public safety or rule of law as priorities. As long as the populace is silenced, it will allow those holding weapons to speak loudest.


If this situation is allowed to continue, any denouement of this conflict will reflect primarily the considerations of the combatants.  Ordinary Syrians will be left out of the loop and others will ‘speak for them’, unhindered by silenced exigencies. 


Syrian society has fractured, creating semi-permanent fissures that threaten to become lasting, suggesting a Lebanese Solution, e.g., no solution at all. This includes the Kurdish issue, which is being ignored by all but the Syrian Kurds, ISIS, a rival Masoud Barzani, the SNC, and the Turks.  Another large minority, the Druze, are doing their best to not be noticed by the rest of Syria. The Syrian Conflict is in need of a Game Changer that leads towards a functional cessation of hostilities.  The beginning of a shift away from the current morass is to initiate a safe and secure National Dialog amongst Syrians in country and in the multiplying refugee camps on the country’s periphery.  All of Syrian society has grown increasingly fearful and rivened apart with fear and increasing mistrust and hate.  The Syrian National Coalition is functionally paralyzed and has done nothing that changes the downward spiraling dynamics.  Many Syrians have begun turning inward, expressing the belief that only Syrians inside Syria should decide their collective fate, but they lack the means. It would be safe to venture at this point in time that this national deconstruction will continue, considering that direct outside intervention remains unlikely.  Without the input of civilians, any cessation of violence and the form it takes will be something imposed upon the citizenry.  

A far more stable denouement and a more lasting peace will be had with ordinary Syrians having a formative voice in whatever follows this pernicious, metastasizing conflict. 


The danger to Syrians desiring self-expression comes from both the Syrian regime and their opponents in the Islamist groups in the so-called “liberated” areas.  The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) presents this danger to any speaking out.  Despite the recent Duhok Agreement, in the north and northeast, in what are known as the Rojava Cantons, the Democratic and Union Party (PYD) still presents a coercive pressure to other Kurds who espouse differing political views or organizations.[2]


Freedom House’s 2012 Internet Freedom Status Report’s observations on Syria make for a particularly sobering read and illustrates the coercive actions of the regime.[3]  Freedom House’s 2014 assessment of Syrian media freedom was not much better as it ranked next to last in the Middle East, just above Iran.[4] Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2014 also made for grim reading as it listed Syria as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists. 


Why a Syrian2Syrian Dialog Venue

After four years of war and the disintegration of Syrian civil society a constructive dynamic that is also disruptive to the morass created by all the combatants is needed to break this violent malaise that grips the nation.  What outside powers such as the United States have naively held out for, a political solution cannot occur without some movement that shifts the standing of combatants, if not on the ground, then in the war for ‘hearts and minds’, and yes, makes all warring parties uncomfortable.  The Center of Gravity has always been the public safety of ALL Syrians, and has been ignored for over four long years.  One does not have to give a litany of what has happened, for by tomorrow whatever fact or figure cited will have gotten bleaker.  


A constructive, yet disruptive force is needed to shift the stultified, deadly dynamics of the Syrian Conflict.  Our intent is to facilitate this social imperative via the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog. This would be a safe, secure virtual dialog venue to initiate an inclusive national conversation to begin the empowerment of unarmed civilians, who in this conflict are targeted if they speak out.  The vehicle will be a combination Simulcast TV Satellite Channel, Radio and Web Portal that creates a secure forum for Syrians in-country and in the wider diaspora to email, text, twitter and call in to express their fears, hate, and dreams for a new Syria that is inclusive. The Syrian-to-Syrian National Dialog can be a shaping tool that can be employed to begin to address the above concerns and observations.  This approach has an implicit path to shaping the conflict’s end in a constructive manner, something that no contending party inside or outside Syria has yet to bother with.  Having an active dialog will enhance the potential of standing up Universal Safe Zones, an untried approach to addressing Public Safety and growing mutual ethnic-sectarian fears of murder and massacre.  For many connected to the regime there is also the fear of social and economic diminishment in a post-conflict Syria. This untried safe and secure national dialog has a potential path to shaping the denouement of this conflict in a constructive manner, something that no vocal party inside or outside Syria has yet to address.  A Syrian2Syrian National Dialog may also enhance the expectations and conditions for the establishment of Universal Safe Zones.


The Syrian2Syrian National Dialog is directed at the most fundamental level of power, an individual’s beliefs and the freedom to express those thoughts.  By initiating dialog that is open to all, including supporters of the Damascus regime, a subtle, implicit shift in power perception will occur.  The Syrian government itself will try to simultaneously suppress and compete; it will fail.  ISIS’s media arm, the I'tisaam Media Foundation would fare even worse.  A safe and secure Syrian to Syrian Dialog Venue spanning the widening fissures could assist in leading to a national conversation on setting up Universal Safe Zones. 


Looking into the future, some form of national dialog will be essential in any post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction.  Rather than waiting for some as yet unknown path to peace, it is best to enable a dialog that may itself lead to paths that restore public safety and civil society.  At first, the enmity of many from every conceivable position will be like a flood; too much has happened for grief, expiation and anger not to suffuse the initiation of any true dialog. See this torrent as part of a healing process.  The Syrian interlocutors who begin this national dialog must be both patient and wise.  Al Jezeera’s The Streamis an existing TV program that bears analyzing to see how it can be done.  At some point, even moderate fighters, jihadists and Assad defenders should be allowed to participate, if for no other reason than to have justified anger directed at them as well as a neutral avenue for response. To date, none have had to defend their actions to a truly national Syrian scrutiny.  This level of critical exposure is well overdue. 


The reality is that while the Syrian Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, the government restricts press freedom with laws such as the Emergency Law, which was put in place in December 1962 and broadly mandates the censorship of various forms of communication; the 2001 Press Law which sets out sweeping controls over publications printed in Syria; articles 286 and 287 of the penal code, which criminalize spreading news abroad; and Decree No. 6 of 1965, which criminalizes ‘‘publishing news aimed at shaking the people’s confidence in the revolution.”[5] In addition, jihadists & Islamists freely kill journalists and Syrians who speak out.



The current Syrian Constitution is of the most pernicious and cynical disinformation, and the most effective counter to this lie will be to make freedom of expression and the right of free association real. This is the primary mission of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog.

Under fire, mobile telephone video screen grab of dying protestor, Syria 2011


While enabling this pernicious climate, most players in the Levant Conflict, including outside governments beyond Russian and Iran have NOT considered isolated Syrian citizens as important enough to make attempts to include them in discussions about their future. A Syrian-to-Syrian Dialog Venue will directly address this ‘Imbalance of Power’.  This will create the opportunity for Syrians inside Syria and in the camps to impact the dynamics shaping their future without depending on a paralyzed UNSC or being pawns of outside powers and players.  A safe means of expressing will also inevitably lead to criticism of the Syrian Arab Army, its surrogates, and their opponents, as all have committed war crime transgressions upon civilians and each other. Putting all combatants on the back foot is a necessary step in devolving from war.


Note: An earlier iteration of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog was a project that was called Project al-Kaukab al-Shamaliyy[7] in early 2012 when it had caught the attention of the US State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).  For reasons unknown to the author, support for al-Kaukab al-Shamaliyy waned and the project died.  Despite this failure, the need for all Syrians to have a safe and secure voice with the ability to engage other Syrians regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political allegiances remains pressing.

Syrian refugee camp dotted with satellite dishes. National Geographic Society Photo by John Stanmeyer


What is the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog Venue?

The Syrian2Syrian National Dialog Venue will be a safe, secure means of enabling ordinary Syrians to begin the process of opening a national dialog with each other across the fissured human terrain of Syria, now into its fifth year of war.  It will rely on off-the-shelf technology linking mobile phones to a moderated television-webcast TV- radio program via small mobile telecom satellite uplinks called BGANs[8], or Broadband Global Area Network. Ordinary Syrians will be able to engage each other and guests on the Syrian2Syrian National Dialogvirtual venue.  A network of BGANs will also pave the way for satcom-enabled services for this war weary population.


The Syrian2Syrian National Dialogprogram will be similar in approach to Al Jezeera’s The Stream, and will rely on interlocutors to moderate and in many cases, referee the exchange between Syrians from within Syria and in the population that is the Syrian Diaspora in the surrounding region. These live programming exchanges will also be rebroadcast via telcom satellites as television, webcast TV, and radio broadcasts in order to reach out to encourage the widest participation possible participation.  


Interlocutors will initially seek to coax participants away from simply hurling accusations at each other to getting audiences and participants to realize they have the power of voice, and with this comes an expectation of maturity and dignity such that they, ordinary Syrians will begin a process that will lead this war-torn country to a future that is inclusive and sustainable.  No one can predict what will be unleashed, but this writer has the belief that Syrians in their variety, will rise to the opportunity and occasion. It is probable that a new cadre of leadership will arise from the intense arguments and discussions the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog will unleash before a national audience.


The very fact that this will be a national discussion by and for ordinary Syrians, not controlled by any combatant group or the regime, will shift the political landscape of Syria.  Political power that emanates from the barrel of a gun will be mute, and for the first time, all of the combatants will be on the outside looking in.  This simple dynamic will allow the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog exclusive presence on both a unique national and international stage and be a disruptive force to be reckoned with.  


By simply existing, the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog will be a force that rises above the morass.  It is an imperative that the organizing standup effort becomes a supportive element as soon as is practicable, allowing for Syrian ‘ownership’ to become evident to all Syrians.  There is every reason to believe opposing parties will seek to chip away at the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog’s legitimacy, and unless the supportive structure recedes into the background, the effort will be characterized as propaganda.


Once the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog programming goes through an initial shake down period and stabilizes, a new, possibly refreshing dynamic can be introduced, having guest speakers who will be engaged by Syrians.  These guests could be constructive experts in a given field or diplomats and world leaders who will be give a unique opportunity to engage Syrians they may have spoken about but never to.  No doubt this will be an opportunity for officials like Valerie Amos or foreign ministers to take advantage of.  The likelihood is also high that a number of politicians will avoid at all costs invitations to speak, much less seek the certainty of being excoriated. 


In short, this interactive programming will have a high probability of becoming part of the international news cycle.  By presenting access to a unique, interactive, albeit demanding audience, parties ranging from diplomats, and news organizations to IGOs and NGOs will in all likelihood be very interested in participation.


The above points to a very high threshold need for absolute security from ordinary Syrian citizens with a phone to the enabling satellite network and production facilities, including the technical staff and on stage personalities who will inevitably become targets.  This imperative will be discussed further, but needs to be made clear early on to any person or organization that participates in the stand up and ensuing operations of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog. Parties exist, including the Syrian regime and ISIS, who will do all they can to stop this initiative.


The intention is that the Syrian2Syrian National Dialogprogramming ramps up until it can be sustained on a daily basis.  While most non-entertainment television programming is seldom longer than an hour, this dialog venue will likely draw a viewing audience and participant base that will necessitate programming that may extend to two hours.  The audience and participants will no doubt indicate what is an appropriate length and time of programming.  The live programming will likely be rebroadcast for those who miss the live broadcast.  


The perceived legitimacy of this effort will depend to a large extent on if all Syrians see the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog as ‘theirs’.  Anyone connected with the standing up and subsequent operations of Syrian2Syrian National Dialog must keep this powerful yet delicate dynamic as inviolate. There will be numerous attempts from different parties to degrade this franchise.   


As the weeks progress, as yet undetermined programming approaches, possibly even separate programs dedicated to future planning or rule of law, framework for a new government, medical advice, or a program dedicated to the establishment and sustaining of Universal Safe Zones may evolve out of the initial programming of providing for a broader national dialog.  This is a unique opportunity, and if funding for expanding the programming can be found, the possibilities horizons should be pushed out.  What begins as a Syrian2Syrian National Dialog could expand and provide support for Syrians in a critical post-conflict timeline where uncertainty will be high and stability will be much needed in a period of transition.  


Chart provides a quick visualization of how the Syrian2syrian National Dialog will be assembled using current off-the-shelf equipment to link Syrians to each other via a moderated television, webcast and radio program similar to al Jezeera’s The Stream broadcast.  Ground station kits that include a BGAN uplink unit, mobile phones, and a photovoltaic charger will be supplied to Syrians in refugee camps as well as in-country.  The systems administrator for Syrian2Syrian National Dialog network will be able to disable remotely any BGAN unit that has been compromised.


One area to explore without waiting the conflict subsides is the establishment of accredited online universities for Syria’s young adults and the support via the web for the restart of primary to secondary education that can support teachers in the field working under difficult conditions.  Cooperation with International Governmental Organizations and NGOs will undoubtedly be necessary to secure the extensive funding and ground support that will be needed to begin rebuilding Syria’s destroyed education system.


News programming is a potentially delicate subject that can and should be addressed at the appropriate time.  Working with existing Syrian news efforts, fresh startups or a melding of new and existing must be handled with alacrity, insight, and a sense of the overall mission while being indefatigable in presenting the truth to all Syrians. This will not be easy.























Banner art currently being used for the @Syrian2Syrian Twitter account.


Syrian2Syrian National Dialog Timeline


1. Recruitment


The first stage in recruitment is to establish a Stand Up Committee that will dertermine and organize follow on actions.


Identified Stand Up Committee Functions

  1. Identifying the different pathways to operational status
  2. Guiding and managing the different functions needed to stand up the project by serving and supporting as communicators and coordinators to the various functional efforts 
  3. Scheduling the above and tracking project performance
  4. Developing (with the assistance of people involved in pushing forward the different functions) Budgets and Project Timelines 


Identifying the different pathways to operational status: The first task will be to establish a standup path from a number of permutations. Although a number of pathways have been identified and explored, a stand up path must be confirmed at the onset.  Even if the means are modified as we go down a timeline, initial clarity is needed.  For example: 


  • Looking at technical considerations, is it best to start from scratch and eschew the direct assistance of government and government connected agencies that could possibly provide the necessary technical means and production facilities to accelerate the stand up process, thus avoiding the appearance of being a propaganda arm of an outside power or entity?  


  • Is this tradeoff a binary choice or would some agreeable governments’ agencies come with less downside entanglements?  If so, who should be approached first?
  • Could different government media agencies be induced to assist with different parts of the needed technical functions to quickly weave together the necessary parts to stand up the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog on a quicker track while beginning a parallel freestanding production and broadcasting scheme that can take over once it is funded and physically assembled, with personnel shifting over.


This is not an idle consideration, as some entities such as the United States’ Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) have considerable resources. It should be mentioned that the titular Chair of the BBG is the US Secretary of State, albeit the Secretary is a distant presence at the BBG. The BBG is the Congress funded entity that controls MEBN, among others that are dependent on its $700 million annual budget.  It has extensive media production assets.  BBG bureaus & production centers control an extensive infrastructure that includes production facilities: 53 total bureaus, production centers and overseas offices supported by 1,500 stringers.  


The US effort has 84 total transmitting sites with 8TV, 80 SW, 19AM and 75 FM transmitters. BBG leases transponders on the following satellites:  Arabsat, AsiaSt-3, Atlantic Bird 4, Direct-TV, EuroBird 2, Eutelsat Hot Bird, Hispasat, Intelsat 332.5 AF SAT, Intelsat 7, New Skies 319.5, Nilesat, Telstar 12, Telstar 18, and Yamal.


The above points to the importance of some of the basic decisions that must be made before more extensive recruitment can commence.  


Guiding and managing the different functions needed to stand up the project: In order to hasten the stand up of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog, many of the processes will be done concurrently, necessitating coordination and information sharing amongst the various functional efforts.  Serving and supporting as communicators and coordinators to the various functional efforts can accomplish this important dynamic. 

Along with increasing the overall effort’s effectiveness, good coordination will undoubtedly uncover synergies as the project moves forward.


Scheduling the above and tracking project performance: The ideal would be to engage someone with project management experience but until such a time where this is affordable and can become a budget line item, this management function will be consolidated with the Stand Up Committee.


Developing Budgets and Project Timelines: (with the assistance of people involved in pushing forward the different functions) People involved with the different functions are perhaps in the best position to begin the budget proposal process.  The overall budget of monetary and material needs can then be consolidated into an integrated whole and the tranche needed at a certain point can then be assigned a priority on a project timeline.  By using a critical path method (CPM)[9]for budgeting as well as standing up of functions, we will help to reduce downtime or wait states with the project. 



2. Organizing of Volunteers into the Identified Functions Needed to Stand Up the Project


Once certain key issues have been decided upon, the committee can begin the organizing of volunteers towards definable functions that are needed to stand up the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog.  These functions include but are not limited to: 


  • Online Activities
  • Fundraising – Publicity
  • Diplomatic Outreach
  • National Media Agencies Outreach
  • IGO & NGO Outreach
  • Technical and Security Engineering Outreach
  • Recruiting Core Ground Personnel 
  • Recruiting Syrian Technical Staff and Program Talent


Online Activities

Online activities will be the project’s most cost effective means of publicizing the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog project as well as drawing help from what could be characterized as a World Citizen community.  This function will be the public face of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog project and will, directly and indirectly, support our other efforts. Since the domain name been acquired by a team member, we can use this for our first website.  A mentioned earlier, a Twitter account, @Syrian2Syrian has been prepared and is ready to begin activity, once the website is designed and built. Contacts will be needed to find qualified individuals willing to push these functions forward. Ideally, the website and Twitter outreach will be productive in assisting this search. Online Activities will need to coordinate not just through the Stand Up Committee, but also directly with the other functions. Translators for languages other than English will be sought, as will individuals who can assist or lead in site design and development.  


Fundraising – Publicity

  • Establishing and Coordinating Online Presence: WordPress based website and related Twitter Account to publicise, expand awareness of Syrian2Syrian National Dialog, educate, and direct soliciting of funds.  Both will likely be a source of possible contacts to further directly or indirectly the standing up of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog.
  • Identifying Fundraising Channels, including online solicitations, government agencies, IGOs and NGOs, and corporations.  An example would be the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, which has funded the Syrian Rozana radio effort.  
  • Establishing Non-Profits in United States and the EU or UK to receive contributions. In the UK: Charities Act 2011 Ch 25, PART 3 Descriptions of Purposes (re: Community Interest Company) (1) A purpose falls within this subsection if it falls within any of the following descriptions of purposes: (h) the advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity.  The United States will require a designation as a 501(c)(3), or working with an organization that has already acquired that tax status and can function as the funding receiver.
  • Identifying and Recruiting Fiduciary/Financial Oversight Function
  • Researching and producing a preliminary budget for necessary expenditures


Diplomatic Outreach

  • Locating and recruiting individuals who have contacts and are willing to engage them in furthering the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog stand up and support.
  • Aside from direct contacts, people working in IGOs, NGOs, volunteer groups, humanitarian assistance agencies, and media are potential sourcing areas of endeavor.
  • Coordinating the diplomatic contacts effort will be an essential function and task to ensure consistency of message and effort as well sharing information regarding positive and negative responses.
  • This diplomatic effort will have synergies with the fundraising, material support function.


National Media Agencies Outreach

Various friendly governments have external media agencies that also fund third party media efforts. They need to be identified and a means of contacting established.  A number of European governments have captive or allied external media efforts.  Most are not as extensive as the United Kingdom’s BBC or the United States’ Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Middle East Broadcasting Network, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage for the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog. These entities could be a source of direct funding or support or a doorway to other government agencies that are capable of support.  A ready example would be the Swedish International Development Agency, which supports the radio station Rozana with funding radio and journalism efforts directed at Syria from facilities in Turkey. These media entities can also be a source of favorable coverage as the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog begins it operations.

IGO & NGO Outreach

Establishing contacts at IGOs and NGOs with operations in and around Syria will be important for both operational needs and the potential for both monetary assistance and non-monetary in kind help.  It should not be forgotten that the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog will also be a means for IGOs and NGOs to communicate directly with their client base in and around Syria, and can also fit into their respective fundraising efforts. 


Technical and Security Engineering Outreach

  • Individuals with the above skill sets will need to be found and brought onboard to draft a rough build out plan as well as negotiate with vendors or other parties capable of standing up the a) Syrian2Syrian communications between Syrians and the communications satellite, b) designing the production studio and the communications links it will need, including to web servers, radio signal to transmitters, and to the satellite ground station, and c) security for ‘a’ and ‘b’.
  • Psiphone and other communications security firms should be contacted as part of this effort. 
  • The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto may be another source of advice.
  • Begin developing an operational budget to accomplish the above.  People pushing forward this function will need to communicate directly with the team that is planning the actual groundwork in and around Syria.
  • Begin developing an operational budget to accomplish the above. 


Recruiting Core Ground Personnel 

  • Identifying initial locations for distribution and support
  • Organize ground effort
  • Publicize Syrian2Syrian National Dialog
  • Planning the recruitment of local organizers and the distribution of BGAN Kits along with preparing the tutorials. Plan an approach for Syrians who do not fit into the three major categories.
  • Plan the sequence for distribution on a timeline for the following

                        Refugee Camps

                        Non-Camp Diaspora

                        In-Country Syria

  • A systems administrator may be required to run this end of operations linking Syrians with the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog Venue program.
  • Begin developing an operational budget to accomplish the above. 


Recruiting Syrian Technical Staff and Program Talent

  • Ibraheem Al-Jabeen, Abdullah al-Omar, Ghatan Sleiba, Hany Al Malzi, Ola Abbas, and Abdullah Alamr, are among Syrian journalists who have defected and may be available to staff the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog Venue.  Locating these defectors and television broadcast technicians could be done via social networks and Twitter as well as asking conventional sources.  Nabd (Pulse) Gathering for Syrian Civil Youth may also be a source for advice. 
  • If done discreetly, the US State Department’s Office for Syrian Opposition Support could also be a source of personnel contacts.
  • A consideration that must not be lost is that whoever the talent is, they must not be abhorrent to Alawites, Druze or other potential regime supporters. 
  • Gaziantep, Turkey used to be a place where displaced journalists and television personalities used to congregate in 2013, but if this is still the case remains to be seen.
  • Begin developing an operational budget to accomplish the above. 



3. Buildout of the Syrian2Syrian Production Studio and defining the links to web servers, Inmarsat, ground stations and radio feeds. Hiring technical staff. 


As mentioned earlier, one approach could be to obtain the cooperation of the operators of existing production facilities to enable a faster startup while funding for a free-standing secure production studio and buildout moves ahead. The physical studios and their personnel, unless kept covert & dispersed will need security. That said, the actual production facilities can be geographically distributed and existing operations from other entities could be blended into an operational whole.


Regardless of approach, obtaining funding for a project manager would be the most sensible means of building out the production infrastructure.


Advice for physical security as well as digital security from hostile parties should be sought during the planning process.  Psiphone, amongst others, may be such a source. Psiphone’s Karl Kathuria was, prior to moving to Psiphon, the head of Digital Delivery for BBC World Service Future Media.  The Syrian2Syrian National Dialog’s internal production network and funding/access to radio transmitters, satellite ground station uplinks and sub-leased transponders may benefit from Kathuria’s previous operational insight.  BGANs, WANs, and LANs are likely to be the operational topology, along with cloud-based elements.  EutelSat, ArabSat, NileSat and AsiaSat are communications satellites having footprint coverage over the Levant.


The Al Jezeera program The Stream uses an app for viewers communicating with the program. Inquiries should be made to see if a version of this downloadable could be licensed for Syrian2Syrian National Dialog’s needs.  Software for streaming video also has to be explored in the design process.



4. Buildout of the Syrian2Syrian Communications Network, ordering and testing BGAN kits, preparing for distribution

For Syrians in insecure areas or in refugee camps in surrounding countries the most quickly distributed, effective and secure means of communications to allow for participation are Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Networks, or BGANs. This writer started looking at this issue in 2012 and had the good fortune of working with HumanEdgeTech[10], a small communications company focused on supporting expeditions that has the speed and flexibility to design packages for specific needs.  It would be wise to engage their skills and resources to provide the means for Syrians to securely communicate from within Syria or in the surrounding archipelago of refugee camps as they have already looked at the problem and developed solutions.  With the additional help of other parties to update the security package, provide funding and diplomatically expedite their logistics, a National Syrian to Syrian Dialog network can be up and running far faster than appealing to any government or new vendor.

The best possible approach in standing up the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog would be to locate an experienced project manager to weave equipment and personnel together and bring it up to operational status, even if geographically dispersed.  The next step would be to ask if the candidate would help with a preliminary budget and buildout plan.  Funding to expedite this process should as soon as we can organize this action.  For now, competence should be valued over Syrian citizenship; a candidate having both would be invaluable.  


A number of media organizations have and are being jammed by Iranian technical assistance to Syria.  So expect this to happen once downlink feeds is beamed.  This is why multiple freqs and azimuths from more than one satcom bird or set of transponders will be an operational necessity.



5. Hiring Producers for the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog Venue. Hiring Interlocutors/Mediators for the program.


Ibraheem Al-Jabeen, Abdullah al-Omar, Ghatan Sleiba, Hany Al Malzi, Ola Abbas, and Abdullah Alamr, are among Syrian journalists who have defected and may be available to begin the staffing of the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog. In January of 2014 Laura Morris of RFI reported that Gaziantep, Turkey has become a hub for expatriate Syrian journalists.[11] Locating these defectors and television broadcast technicians could also be done via social networks and Twitter as well as asking conventional sources.  UK’s FCO could be a source of leads for personnel in the United Kingdom.  The US State Department’s Office for Syrian Opposition Support may be a source of contacts.

Regardless of how this search is conducted, any on air talent must have the ability to gain the trust of all Syrians, or this effort will fail.  A fundamental projection of the project is that in terms of content and programming the product has to be produced by Syrians for Syrians.  Any perception that this is a propaganda effort by outsiders will be the thrust the Damascus regime engages in.  In the event of the US, UK, or France being supporters of this initiative, caution must be exercised.  This is the reason for this writer, in an earlier proposal, expressing caution regarding DoS’ Washington, D.C. contractor Rendon Group. 


Make no mistake, there will be a response from the regime and the Islamists; it will not be passive.[12]  UNDERSTAND that Damascus will see this as another aspect of the war and participants must be aware that the Syrian2Syrian National Dialogwill be treated as a war operation by Damascus.[13]  Note that what is developed for the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog may evolve into a beta model for future conflicts’ need for an independent open and free media platform


Potential Syrian Board Members for the Syrian2Syrian National Dialog

  • Representative from Syria International Media Alliance[14]
  • Representative from Association de Soutien aux Médias Libres[15]
  • Rami Jarrah, Deiaa Dughmoch, ANA New-Media Association
  • Representative from Nabd (Pulse of Syrian Civil Youth)[16]
  • Representative from Ugarit News[17]
  • Ali Safar and Zoya Bostan of Hawa SMART - FM 103.2 Damascus[18]


6. Begin Publicity Campaign directed at Syrians and coordinate with initial BGAN Kit distribution.  Begin Advertising Campaign directed at potential donors and supporters







7. Begin Publicity Campaign directed at IGOs, NGOs, Syrian Organizations, Diplomatic Corps, and potential guests.








8. Go Live









9. Continue to solicit funding and support






Appendix: The Legal Environment


The Syrian Constitution, conflicted and compromised as it is by legislative law and blatant disregard in many cases, should be reviewed in its germane sections as pertains to the proposed National Syrian to Syrian Dialog Venue.  Chapter Two, Part One and four subsequent articles stipulate the unenforced provisions that legitimize this National Dialog initiative. Executive decrees and legislative laws that contradict the Syrian Constitution have subverted much of the constitutional protection of freedom to express.


Syrian Arab Republic: Constitution, 26 February 2012

Chapter 2: Rights, Freedoms and the Rule of Law, Part 1: Rights and Freedoms


Article 37

Confidentiality of postal correspondence, telecommunications and radio and other communication shall be guaranteed in accordance with the law.


Article 42

1. Freedom of belief shall be protected in accordance with the law;


2. Every citizen shall have the right to freely and openly express his views whether in  

    writing or orally or by all other means of expression.


Article 43

The state shall guarantee freedom of the press, printing and publishing, the media and its independence in accordance with the law.


Article 54

Any assault on individual freedom, on the inviolability of private life or any other rights and public freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution shall be considered a punishable crime by the law.[19]


From an international perspective the right for the Syrian regime to conduct reprisals has been severely restricted in treaty law, much of which expresses customary law, and the Martens Clause is applicable:occurrences during armed conflict are subject to application of humanitarian law principles; there is no lawless void: “the inhabitants and the belligerents remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations as they result from the usages established amoung civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity, and the dictates of the public conscience”[20]



Some Perspective from the Laws of War


Legal Limitations: The use of technology designed to destroy or incapacitate an enemy's communications or information infrastructure will fall, during hostilities, under the auspices of the Law of Armed Conflict. The two principles by which any act of aggression must be measured under these laws are necessity and proportionality. An attack must be necessary for a military purpose, and the damage it causes must be worth the advantage that is gained.


The Principle of Necessity: One basic tenet of international law is that attacks against civilians are prohibited. In the passage referred to previously, the author considers attacks on a country's airline reservation system. The operational commander would have a difficult time justifying this action under the test of military necessity. Attacks against a country's financial, transportation, or communications systems must be shown to have clear military necessity to be legal.


The Principle of Proportionality: It is in the attacks on information systems that most of the more imaginative forms of information warfare will run into problems. As stated in the U.S. Navy's legal handbook, "Weapons that are incapable of being controlled (that is, directed at a military target) are forbidden as being indiscriminate in their effect.[21]


Potentially Applicable International Law References


Serious legal issues in ITU Regulations, Laws of War, and International Humanitarian Law are being reflected in the Syrian Conflict today.


  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Article 19.  Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Article 20.  (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.   (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association. 


  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and reflected in international humanitarian law:


  • Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, adopted August 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 31 


  • Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, adopted August 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 85


  • Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, adopted August 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S.135


  • Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, adopted August 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 287


  • Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the Annexed Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land of 18 October 1907 (Hague Regulations), 3 Martens Nouveau Recueil (ser. 3) 461, 187 Consol. T.S. 227 


  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16 at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171


  • Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 1125 U.N.T.S. 609


  • Proposed changes to the ITRs that potentially will affect human rights can be categorized as: Human right of access to communications, Security in the use of ICTs, International frameworks, Taxation, Interconnection and interoperability and Convergence.


  • The UN Human Rights Committee referred to the ITU Covenant in 2011, saying signatories, “should take account of the extent to which developments in information and communication technologies, such as Internet and mobile based electronic information dissemination systems, have substantially changed communication practices around the world. There is now a global network for exchanging ideas and opinions that does not necessarily rely on the traditional mass media intermediaries. States parties should take all necessary steps to foster the independence of these new media and to ensure access of individuals thereto.”



  • Articles 33 and 34 of the ITU Constitution delineate the right of the public to access international telecommunication services with conditions defined wherein telecommunication services could be denied.


  • ITR Article 3.4 “subject to national law, any user, by having access to the international network established by an administration (or recognized private operating agency), has the right to send traffic. A satisfactory quality of service should be maintained to the greatest extent practicable.” 







[1] Russia says Syrians should decide Assad's fate - Reuters Jun 28 2012

[2] Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2014

[4] Freedom of the Press 2014, pg 24 

[5] Freedom House, ‘‘Map of Press Freedom 2008,’’

[6] Syrian Arab Republic: Constitution, issued 15 February 2012

[7] الكوكب الشمالي , also al-kawkab al-šamāliyy, ‘Star of the North’ is familiar to navigators and others who seek their bearings.  For Arabs traveling in the reduced features of desert this star was also known as al Qiblah, or The Direction,telling the faithful the direction in which Mecca lay. Another Arabic name for Polaris translates into the ‘spindle’ around which the other stars rotate.  

[8] BGAN is accessible via a range of small, lightweight satellite terminals, which provide performance options to suit different operational needs. The smallest terminals are designed to suit single users. The larger terminals offer a WLAN capability and are particularly suitable for small teams that need to establish a temporary office for an extended period. They are also suitable for users requiring higher bandwidth to enable applications such as live broadcasting.

[9] The Critical Path Method (CPM) is one of several related techniques for doing project planning. CPM is for projects that are made up of a number of individual "activities." If some of the activities require other activities to finish before they can start, then the project becomes a complex web of activities.

[10] HumanEdge Tech & SituSyria: A Constellation of Secure, Remote Hotspots for All Syrians

[11] New Syrian Media Emerges Despite Rising Extremism, RFI, January 19, 2014

[12] International Broadcasters Call for End of Satellite Jamming January 24, 2012

ITU Satellite Regulations: Improving the international satellite regulatory framework Julie N. Zoller, Chairman of the Radio Regulations Board in 2011

Applicability of humanitarian law to computer network attacks RICR Juin IRRC June 2002 Vol. 84 No 846

[13] Information Operations: The Hard Reality of Soft Power by Edwin L. Armistead 2004 Potomac Emily Haslam, "Information Warfare: Technological Changes and International Law", Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Vol. 5, 2000, p. 157 Mark Shulman, “Discrimination in the Laws of Information Warfare”, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 37, 1999, p. 939.

Information Warfare as International Coercion: elements of a Legal Framework Christopher C. Joyner and Catherine Lotrionte  EJIL (2001) Vol. 12 No. 5 pp 825-865

[18] A New Syrian Radio: Hawa Smart, a message of peace and of tolerance 26 February 2014

Hawa SMART FM 103.2 Damascus

[19] Syrian Arab Republic: Constitution, 26 February 2012

[20] Preamble to the Hague Convention IV respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, 18 October 1907, 36 Stat. 2295, Bevans 634

[21] Legal and Practical Constraints on Information Warfare – Maj Karl Kuschner, USAF Naval War College 14 June 1996