Look at Syrian constitutions... the committee declared is extension of past mistakes

Since the First World War, Syria has witnessed a change in many constitutions, but the common denominator among them is that they do not represent the cultural, religious and national diversity in Syria. These constitutions have led to major crises. Will the last UN-declared committee fruit new results while it is repeating the old mistakes?

After the end of World War I in November 11, 1918, the Ottoman rule ended throughout the region, until Syria declared its independence in March 8, 1920 by the General Syrian Congress, and established a federal constitution for the Kingdom of Syria, and Syria was under the French mandate, where it lived several transitional stages to the structure of the state, from the Kingdom of Syria to the Syrian Union and then to the State of Syria, which includes Aleppo and Damascus in 1925.

An overview of the history of transformations in the structure of modern Syria

Since 1924, the Kurds had been demanding the establishment of a Kurdish state similar to what was formed in other Syrian regions due to their specificity in the north and east of Syria. Until then, Turkey had been pressing the French to prevent them from giving any national rights to the Kurds, in order to continuously modify the borders and perhaps be able to get the lion share after the shrinking of their alleged empire.

The duckbill, as it was called in French documents (the entire east of the Euphrates to Dêrik), is managed by the Kurdish, Syriac and Arab components until the 1929 border agreement, and demarcation of the Syrian-Turkish border continued until 1933.

After the end of World War II, the independence uprising that led to Syria gaining full independence in 1946, in which all Syrian components joined forces, then intervened in a series of coups that began from 1949 to 1970.

Constitutions of Syria ...

The Constitution of 1920

In March 8, 1920, the Syrian General Congress declared, without coordination with the Allies, the "independence of Syria" and the establishment of the Syrian Arab Republic, and appointed Faisal I as its king, but this entity did not receive any international recognition, however, it formed a special committee headed by Hashem Atassi which task is drafting the Kingdom's constitution, the constitution came with twelve chapters and 147 articles. One of the most important is that Syria is a "civil and parliamentary monarchy, with Damascus as its capital and the religion of Islam."

The constitution also stipulates that the country is administered on a decentralized basis, and that each province has its own parliament, government, and governor appointed by the king, and no one interferes with its administrations and internal affairs, except in public matters that are the prerogative of the central government.

In July 28, 1922, the Basic Law of the Syrian Union was proclaimed as the Federal Constitution of the provinces of Damascus, Aleppo, and Alawites, and the Federal Council was created to be the supreme legislative authority in the country. The President of the Federation shall not take any decision without the approval of the council. The proposals of the three federal local governments shall be submitted for scrutiny and approval. The Federal Council shall have the right to establish certain laws such as penalties and personal status and deciding the general budget of the state.

The constitution of 1928

In February 14, 1928, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hassani was appointed head of state, calling for elections to a constituent assembly that was held in April 1928.The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting in May 9, 1928 at the Government House. Hashim al-Atassi was unanimously elected as its president and Fawzi al-Ghazi and Fethullah Asyun as vice presidents.

In June 9 of the same year, the Constitutional Drafting Committee, chaired by Ibrahim Hanano, was elected.

This constitution affirmed the separation of powers, and considered that Syria is a “representative republic with capital of Damascus and the religion of its president, Islam”.

In 1939, Atassi resigned and the constitution was suspended as a result of the World War II until 1941 when the constitution was re-enacted. However, no elections were held and Tajuddin al-Hassani was appointed president. The elections took place in 1943 and led to the victory of the National Bloc and the arrival of Shukri al-Quwatli to the presidency. The constitution was amended again in 1948 to allow Qawatli to be elected for a second term immediately after his first term. In 30 March 1949, Hosni al-Zaim overthrew Shukri al-Qawatli and suspended the constitution. Sami al-Hinnawi turned against him in August 1949, and elections to the Constituent Assembly were organized to draft a new constitution for the country.

The 1950 Constitution

In 1950, a new constitution, called the “Constitution of Independence,” was written.

The draft constitution contained 177 articles, which 11 articles of which were ruled out during the discussions (not yet known) and the final draft of the 166 articles came out, stipulating the religion of the head of state of Islam and the official Arabic language of the country, that is, the committee violated the principle of citizenship and the pursuit of cultural and linguistic centralization.

Although it ostensibly preserved the nature of parliamentary rule, it set the powers of the president and withdrew the right to veto laws and decrees by giving him only ten days to sign them, maintain his competence to ratify international treaties, appoint diplomatic missions abroad, accept foreign missions, grant special amnesty, and represent the state, as well as calling the Council of Ministers to convene under his presidency and address letters to the Syrians.

The articles of public rights in the 1950 Constitution were expanded and preserved to 28 articles, which dealt exclusively with rights and freedoms. Then, the Constitution was suspended at the time of Adib Shishakli first and the second time between 1958 and 1961 during the period when Syria was part of the United Arab Republic. Following the secession of the republic, the constitution was reinstated following remarkable amendments that changed the official name of the republic from the Syrian Republic to the Syrian Arab Republic, after being subjected to a formal referendum and adopted until 1963, then Baath Party revolted against the existing constitutional order.

Constitution of 1973

With the 1963 coup, Baathist army divisions overthrew the government in March 8, which led to the abolition of the constitution, the dissolution of the executive, legislative and judicial authorities, exile of the majority of the political class out of the country, as well as the declaration of a state of emergency. The other was the coup d'état of 1966 and the second, the Corrective Movement of 1970, which brought Hafez al-Assad to power. In 1973, a new constitution was adopted for the country, dedicated to the one-party regime of the Baath Party, which is still in power.

A committee headed by Muhammad Fadel was subsequently formed to draft a "permanent constitution for the country," which was approved by referendum in March 12 and promulgated by the president in March 13 by a presidential decree, imposing Baath Party ideology on the state. (The Emergency Law of 1963, which prohibits demonstrations and allows for arrest and eavesdropping, although it was included in the 1950 constitution within constitutional rights, the Revolution Protection Law was promulgated by Legislative Decree No. 6 of 1965, and the Military Trials Law No. 109 of 1968 legitimized the prosecution of civilians for military trials. The creation of state security courts which Dr. Legislative Decree No. 47 of 1968, and the execution of the law of each member or affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood's No. 49 in 1980 against the backdrop of the events of the eighties.

Constitution of 2012

After the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011 with the uprising of the people against the existing regime - the Baath Party, as they demanded change and respect for the rights and freedoms of all segments and components, the crisis; however, led to widespread destruction in the country and the displacement of millions, killing and injuring thousands of civilians, and the emergence of several streams at the instigation of global and regional countries, which led to the dissociation of Syrian society.

In October 15, 2011, Bashar al-Assad issued Republican Decree No. 33, which established the Committee for Rewriting the Constitution, headed by Mazhar al-Anbari, the author of the 1973 constitution itself, consisting of 29 members limited to representatives of the Progressive National Front’s parties, independents and human rights experts, and set the committee's work to four months.

In February 15, 2012, the committee handed over the draft to al-Assad, who issued a decree calling for voters to referendum in the 26th of the same month.

According to the Syrian Interior Ministry, 57% of the voters took part in the referendum and 89.4% supported it. The following day, February 27, Decree 94 was issued approving the new constitution, which preserved most of the articles and articles of the previous constitution.

To keep the constitution intact without drastic amendments, in what they called critics that the constitution was made to suit the existing regime, the Baath Party, without the participation of all parties or components of Syria, or to change the way in the management of the country, and considering the demands of the revolution and the uprising of the people and Syria's approach to democracy and pluralism.

According to Dr. Seifah Isoli, in international law, the Syrian constitutions adopted since 1920, the 1973 constitution, and the last constitution of 2012 are democratic constitutions under international law: “It should be noted that there is no single binding legal rule governing the drafting of constitutions in international law. The constitution is the supreme symbol of the sovereignty and independence of the state, adding that every state has the right to choose freely and without any external interference, its constitution and the way it is formulated, provided that the universally recognized democratic principles and foundations are respected, the most important of which is to reflect and express the free will of the people and its aspirations, and ensures fundamental rights and freedoms recognized at international agreements and conventions.

Astana... and the constitution proposed by Russia

During a series of meetings held abroad in the absence of Syrian components and those involved in the Syrian crisis, Russia came up with a draft constitution it prepared without the presence of the parties concerned in drafting the necessary constitution, following the discussions of the Astana meeting, which was managed by Russia, Turkey and Iran in 2017.

It appeared in the draft proposed by Russia, that it was drafted in a manner similar to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, adopted in 12 December 1993, the distribution of powers was built on the powers of Russian institutions.

However, the talks and negotiations between the interlocutors did not reach a conclusion, and the opposition parties to the Syrian regime have expressed their rejection of the draft, such as the Astana and Sochi meetings.

Drafting the Constitution in accordance with international law

In the drafting of the constitution in accordance with international law, says Dr. in international law Saif Isoli, who lives in the capital of France, Paris says,

“It is certain that the previous constitutions that governed the Syrian Republic were not mostly democratic constitutions according to the standards adopted in international law. For the constitution to be legitimate and democratic, the means of drafting and adopting must be democratic and respectful of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the covenants. International conventions, especially on human rights and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, must be the embodiment of the free and direct expression of the free will of the people.”

Isoli added, “One of the most important elements of the committee tasked with drafting the constitution was not to be disillusioned, but rather independent and delegated by the people, representing all of its spectra and expressing its aspirations, which seemed to be unavailable in the Constitutional Committee.”

“It is clear that the Constitutional Committee now constituted does not meet the conditions adopted by Security Council Resolution 2254, and therefore it is difficult to reach a constitution that first reflects the will and aspirations of the Syrian people before the interests of conflicting states on Syrian soil.” She said.

DAA in N, E Syria’s proposal on the constitution

Within the Social Contract, the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA)in Northern and Eastern Syria and the Syrian Democratic Council suggested a proposal how all parties and components can be managed democratically in the Syrian constitution.

In 28 April 2013, the Democratic Society Movement called for a meeting attended by 48 academics from Rojava and northern Syria to draw up a social contract for the DAA of Northern and Eastern Syria. Three committees were formed (the Social Contract Drafting Committee, the Follow-up Committee, and the Media Committee). The drafting committee concluded the social contract in 24 July 2013.

The Social Contract calls for a democratic, decentralized pluralism in Syria, and the attainment of the political and moral fabric of Syrian society to its function of mutual understanding, coexistence within pluralism, self-protection and legitimate defense, as well as ensuring the rights of education in the mother tongues of the peoples of Syria.

On the vision of the Democratic Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria, and the Syrian Democratic Council on the work of the recently proposed Constitutional Committee, which ended with the identification of 150 personalities with the exclusion of Syrian parties concerned with resolving the Syrian crisis, says a member of the Presidential Board of the Syrian Democratic Council of Syria and a member of the drafting of the Social Contract for the Autonomous Administration Sihanouk Dibo: "The committee is walking on its hands if not to say that it lacks methodology."

He added that a creative dialectics must be followed to negotiate to solve the Syrian crisis; if so, we will reach a new Syria that can accommodate all its peoples and its components in words and deeds.

Dibo criticized the mechanism for drafting the Syrian constitution saying, “seeing the names included in this committee, most of them, in addition to their unconstitutionality, constitute a prolongation of regional and international interventions on the sovereign issue. This combination is a mixture of cooking gravel, which is unacceptable, it will surely fail because it is essentially a prelude to a failed act."


Given the events and phases of the Syrian regimes and their constitutions that have led to coups, chaos and marginalization of the rights of the peoples of the region, the main reason is that the will of the peoples is not taken into consideration and that the segments of society do not participate in the adoption of a constitution that recognizes their destiny and the fate of their homeland. Contrarily, it led Syria to the destruction and more foreign interventions.

If the above mistakes are not taken advantage of, their repetition will not lead to different results, but will further complicate the crisis.

If the Syrians are unable to achieve a new democratic constitution with radical changes, it means that we are in the process of producing and amplifying the crisis and breaking up the rest. This is an opportunity to write a new era for a new and modern Syria, without resorting to the constitution imposed and losing the opportunity to create a pluralistic and democratic Syria.



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