- By: Mona Katoub
- updated: November 24, 2020
- reading time: 6 Minutes and 48 seconds
Malek Alhafez was born in Damascus and he currently lives in Amman, Jordan. With an MA in Media, he specializes in political journalism and Middle East studies. He is currently a member of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement.
Malek Alhafez was born in Damascus and he currently lives in Amman, Jordan. With an MA in Media and a Diploma in Political Science, he works as a political analyst and a researcher. He is a journalist in Rozana FM radio station, a member of the Syrian Chamber for the Support of Civil Society, and a researcher at the Scandinavian Human Right Institute. He currently writes for several Syrian and Arab media outlets such as Sasa Post, Realist Experts Centre, Modern Discussion, and Noon Post.
Malek describes his relationship with Damascus as such: “After leaving my city, I discovered that my relationship with it was a spiritual one. It’s so difficult to put into words. Even though all of us, Syrians, felt like strangers in our own homeland, we never ceased to love it. This love was made clear when people withstood the regime’s crackdown in order to demand freedom and a better future for their country.”
Malek left Syria for Jordan late in 2011 due to various reasons such as pressures from security forces because he lived in an area which witnessed demonstrations very early on. His family was also worried that he would be arrested if he stayed. “I took my family’s advice and left even though I do not believe in prioritizing personal interests over national interests” he explains. “However, leaving the country did not mean the end of my troubles. Being a refugee is a situation which is not easy to come to terms with. This was my personal view as well as the view of countless other Syrians living through this painful experience.”
The first sparks of the revolution in Damascus gave Malek the hope that the struggle for freedom, which has swept through several Arab countries, might finally reach Syria. “The start of the revolution was the first step towards changing the mentality of Syrian people and raising awareness about the need for change. It was vital at such an early stage to stress the importance of civil activism and work against the militarization of the revolution,” Malek says. “A large section of the Syrian people already had motives for revolution such as demanding the implementation of the principle of citizenship. As for me, I was just another Syrian citizen who dreamed of freedom, dignity and equal citizenship. Above all, having full citizenship rights was always at the top of my list of demands.”
“My actual political activity started back in 2006,” Malek elaborates. “I had questions and reservations about political life and the regime in Syria, things like how Bashar al-Assad inherited presidency after his father died, the widespread oppression and corruption, as well as the fragile nature of the regime on the internal front. I became convinced of the need to be active and collaborate with others to change the status quo. I started with a few friends, male and female, to work on a small scale by holding regular meetings. This happened in the city of Damascus, while similar activities happened in other cities.”
Malek believes that, in its political activity, the Syrian opposition has made the same mistakes that the regime made in foreign policy, and that the challenge nowadays is that the opposition has to form alliances with regional and international powers who do not have a clear agenda. “I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization and say that opposition forces are mere followers of foreign powers, but there is no doubt that the Syrian people have lost their influence in the political discussions about their own country due to such alliances and understandings which are based on wrong political principles. We have reached a stage where we are waiting for other countries to reach an agreement about Syria instead of us Syrians reaching such an understanding among ourselves. In brief, the Syrian voice is being silenced and no one treats us as equals. Any Syrian initiative is met with suspicion and is often accused of treason or serving another country’s agenda.”
Discussing the challenges facing women, especially those working in politics, Malek says: “The challenges facing women in the field of politics are particularly complicated due to several reasons. The most important factor is that the Syrian society is male-dominated and thus it views women as inferior to men. This is caused by a social authority which even the political authority was not able to undermine. On the contrary, political powers seem to support such views. Women in political positions in Syria were no more than a décor; their influence was limited to ministries such as Culture and Social Affairs. These were not key positions in the grand scheme of things. They were considered the exception rather than the norm.”
“Even among political opposition powers, women have not yet taken their deserved place,” Malek adds. “Women have not been given adequate representation, especially in terms of numbers. Women’s involvement in political bodies is still not the result of a deeply held belief in women’s abilities. Rather, such participation is caused by the need for female representation in these organizations. That’s why I oppose the idea of quotas for women’s participation. We must acknowledge women’s role in pushing for political action. We need to benefit from women’s intellectual and practical skills in various fields.”
One of the earliest members of the SWPM, Malek explains his decision to join, “I liked the movement’s aims, principles and even its name. I was also impressed by the fact that it was open for men as well as women. This was the real distinguishing feature of SWPM and it proved their commitment to the principles they preached. Despite the difficult task of the movement, its members were able to join efforts in the formulation of a vision for a new Syria. We are fully aware that political action requires a great deal of patience, perseverance and it needs to be carried out by people who possess a high level of culture and wisdom. The members of SWPM meet these requirements, each in their area.”
Malek believes that a necessary condition for correcting the path of the Syrian political opposition is to return to the basic principles of the revolution. “That way we can preserve the very existence of our cause. It will also restore respect to the Syrian activists who took the first initiative and called for a free Syria. We have suffered enough from regime tyranny, from terrorism and from foreign interference. It is our duty to place Syria’s interests above our personal gains. We need to carry on so that the sacrifices of Syrian men and women do not go to waste.” Malek confirms that such ideals give him the motivation to continue his political activity. He is also urged by his desire to employ his education and experience in the service of the Syrian cause and in rescuing the country that he loves. This is the only way to achieve social justice for people who lost their lives, were displaced, imprisoned, or lost dear ones.
Describing the Syria he wishes to lives in, Malek says that it is a country with equal citizenship and social justice for everyone. “I dream of the day that Syrians feel proud of their constitution, and implement its provisions in their daily lives. I dream of Syria as a country of leading scientific and cultural institutions,” he says.
To Syrian women, Malek has this piece of advice, “I do not mean to be unfair to men, but I believe that men are for words and women are for actions. Women have a great deal they can achieve for their country in all areas. Any progress in Syria must have a feminine factor in it. Therefore, it is the women’s responsibility to continue to promote their role not only through participation, but through promoting new initiatives for a solution.”