The Center for Democracy in the Middle East (formerly the Kurdish American Committee for Democracy in Syria) has had early success in its efforts to create alliances between political parties in order to advocate for democratic governance in Syria. In March 2006, CDME (then KACDS), with the sponsorship of Senator Carl Levin, organized the first-ever conference on Democracy in Syria and Kurdish Rights in Washington, DC : “Kurdish Human and National Rights for Syrian Kurds and Democracy for All Syrians” which was held on March 13, at the U.S. Capitol.
Representatives of over twelve Kurdish political parties in Syria , independent activists, Arab Syrian oppositions, and scholars attended and began the process of coalition-building necessary to further the cause of promoting participation of Kurdish minorities in the Syrian political process.
Although threatened with harassment, and even detention, at the hands of Syrian authorities for their participation, a number of key Kurdish groups participated in this groundbreaking event. Syrian Kurds represented at the conference included:
Â· Kurdish Democratic Party
Â· Kurdish Front â€“ Four political parties (represented by the Kurdish Democratic Party)
Â· Kurdish Alliance â€“ Four Political parties (represented by the Kurdish Untied Democratic Party)
Â· Kurdish United Party – Yekiti
Â· Kurdish Untied Democratic Party -Yekiti
Â· Kurdish Freedom Party â€“ Azadi
Â· Kurdish PYD
Â· Kurdish NGO
Â· Civic Leaders and Tribal Leaders
Â· Democratic Party of Kurdistan
Â· Kurdish American Committee for Democracy
Â· Kurdish Front for Promoting Democracy in Syria
The conference signaled a critical and unprecedented first step in increasing the voice of Syrian Kurds in promoting larger political reforms within the country, particularly emphasizing freedom of association and speech, access to information, access to the judicial system, and free and fair elections that would ensure full participation of Kurds in the Syrian political process.
Recognizing the importance of finding a common platform for action, members of these political parties developed a final communiquÃ© outlining their agenda for promoting democratic reform within Syria for Kurds, other minority groups, and larger Syrian civil society. Key points of agreement between the parties called the ” Washington Agreement” included:
The Kurdish people in Syria live on their historical lands and are an indigenous people of the country.
The new constitution of a future democratic Syria must be a secular one that contains specific articles concerning the status of the Kurds as an essential national group, and it should be a pluralistic one that recognizes the rights of other national groups in Syria, as well.
The Kurds support the process of democratic change, the abolishment of the dictatorial regime in Syria, free and fair democratic elections in the country, and the elimination of and compensation for national oppression practiced against the Kurds.
The Kurds seek cooperation with all the democratic opposition forces in Syria, and advancement of joint efforts for change, based on the principles of mutual respect and recognition of mutual rights.
The Kurds seek cooperation in combating terrorism, regionally and internationally, and developing cooperative relations with forces of democracy and freedom in these efforts.
The Kurds will work towards introducing comprehensive societal changes in Syria, including respect for freedom of religion and beliefs, as well as the right of women.
The Kurds support the people of Lebanon and their current democratic movement that aims at achieving independence and liberating themselves from Syrian hegemony.
The Kurds support the political process in Iraq for achieving democracy and strengthening their people’s will in establishing federation and pluralism.
The Kurds advocate for a Syria that commits itself to respect all international treaties and documents adopted by the international community, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We present our special thanks to the Organization of Syrian Kurds in the United States and Canada for arranging these meetings and emphasize the necessity of future cooperation.
The Conference proposed and recommended, to the political parties, movements, intellectuals, civil society groups and women organizations in Syrian Kurdistan, the necessity of achieving a common platform for the national rights of the Kurdish People and the general democratic rights of the country. It further emphasized the necessity of formation of a common representative structure, by the Syrian Kurds inside and outside the country that can express and represent the national rights and demands of the Kurdish people.
Having established a foundation and elicited the support of all participating Kurdish parties for building a solid and respected coalition of democratic Kurdish political parties, a second conference was convened in Brussels in May 29, 2006, to strategize regarding follow-up conferences, bilateral meetings between political party leaders, and further development in formalizing the coalition. At this conference, entitled “Kurdish human and national rights and democracy for all Syrians,” the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria â€“ KNA.S was established.
Between and since the conferences, CDME has been lobbing the U.S. administration and Congress for promoting human rights, democracy, and Kurdish rights in Syria and Iran . Organizations or committees approached are the US Congress, US Senate, US State Department, Pentagon, and White House.
In short, the Center for Democracy in the Middle East is focused on working with the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and the United Nations to promote human rights, democracy, and Kurdish rights in Syria . In addition, the organization has played an advisory role for Non-Government organizations, Governments, Think Tanks and Institutions.
Most recently, the President of Kurdistan National Assembly (Board Director for CDME) along with representatives of the State Department, UNHCR, and NGOs were invited to testify at a member briefing called ” Stateless Children: A Forgotten Population” held jointly by the Congressional Children’s Caucus chaired by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, co-chaired by Representative Tom Lantos and Representative Frank Wolf.