From the Facebook group: ‘Children for an honest, just and fair world’.

Nov 2, 2011 by



1st November 2011.


Entracte: On brevity.


Last Sunday I attended a conference on the future of Syria organised by the Next Century Foundation in the Initiatives for Change Centre in London.

The current situation is stark. Either the Assad regime prepares for democracy or there will be chaos and civil war. War will involve Turkey, Iraq, Israel, probably Iran. It will spread.

The deeper complexity in Syria was described by NCF director, William Morris. The population is divided into at least a dozen groups, regional, tribal, religious, and secular: Turkomen; Druze; Armenian; Ismaili; Christian; Jews; Alawite; Sunni; Palestinian. There is also the Kurdish nation, divided between Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. At first there seemed little that I could say, and as usual I was nervous (believe me!), but encouraged by a lady in the audience who pointed me out repeatedly to the chairman, I first introduced myself and then said: “There is an expression in English that refers to ‘a sea-change’. If you know the sea, you will know how quickly its moods can change. At present, the mood in this room is for war. Most of you can see no alternative. You need a sea-change. Of all the groups that I have heard spoken of in Syria, there is one that I have not heard mentioned, although it is more numerous than all the others combined. What is this group?”

I waited, hoping. After a moment someone in the room responded: “Women!”

“Thank you.” I continued, “Women: women and children make up far more than half of the population of any country. There are two very simple principles that women, as mothers, can teach their children: two principles which when understood by a majority will automatically produce a democratic society.” I paused. “The first principle is that they must always be as honest as they are able.” I paused: longer this time. “And the second principle is that they must always know that they have a right to ask questions.”

I had to leave an hour before the end. As I did, I was met by three young men who had spoken passionately in earlier discussions. “Come back!” they requested. “You have made more sense today than anyone!” Sadly, it was impossible for me to stay. But there was also no more to be said. Tell the women to tell their children: the future is theirs to make.


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