Opening Statement: Safe Environment and Dignified Return for Syrians Symposium
We are glad to welcome all of you to our program.
Syria is the country that always played a major role in people’s crises, especially in the crisis in neighboring countries such as Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon and provides the most support to refugees fleeing. It is a fact that the Syrian people have always helped these refugees and provided them with shelter until they became a part of the social structure of Syria. The Syrian people have been the voice of displaced people for the voluntary, dignified and safe return to their homes.
When we recall the collective memory of the Turkish and Syrian society, we can see the reflections of the customs and traditions between the two countries beyond the geographical border, and the reflections of common cultural heritage that Turks and Syrians have lived together for centuries. The common martyrs’ blood that has shed in Turkey for years has connected and bonded these two communities. It is even said that during the First World War, in the Gallipoli War, the lands were filled with the blood of Syrian martyrs in order to defend Istanbul, the heart of Turkey.
Besides the geographical proximity, it is the social harmony between the two communities, that prompted millions of Syrians, who fled the fighting areas in Syria to go to Turkey and find temporary residence there, yet carrying with them the hope of a voluntary, dignified and safe return to their homes.
How could the Syrians know that the date of their return to their homes was so far away? That this situation would last for years, that they would have to struggle for a long time, and that the situation would require sacrifices beyond their imagination and beyond the imagination of all host countries?
The Syrians could not imagine that they would experience the pain of displacement and the hardship of losing their land, property and children. That they would be defined with the word “refugee” for such a long time. These definitions will continue much longer if the international community does not take action and responsibility for creating a sustainable solution to provide a safe environment for the return of more than 13 million displaced Syrians. On the one hand, the internally displaced people try to live in security and living conditions that do not even meet the minimum requirements for a decent life. Not to mention the difficulties the refugees face in host countries to adapt and integrate with the host community. There is no doubt that the dream of all of them is a voluntary, dignified and safe return to their home and the lands where they were forced to leave. All the displaced want to reunite with their families, visit the graves of their loved ones who died during this war, or experience the joy of seeing a relative who disappeared in prisons.
One of the most essential and significant rights of displaced people is the safe, voluntary, and dignified return to their homes, especially given the long-term suffering of displacement and its effects.
Today, we are at the eleventh anniversary of Syrian suffering and displacement from their home. This symposium was organized with the awareness of the importance of the Syrian refugee issue in Turkey’s domestic politics, its impact on national security, and the importance of Turkey’s interest as one of the key countries in the ongoing debate on Syria’s future. In this symposium, we aim to explain the concept of a safe environment for the return of Syrians, the basic conditions for this return, and how the media interprets the concept of a safe environment and its impact on refugees.
The importance of this symposium is based on the strategic position of Turkey, which plays a key role in contributing to the resolution of the Syrian crisis and creating the safe environment that all Syrians dream of.
The past experiences of peoples such as Bosnia and Herzegovina that have had similar experiences to Syria, have shown that any political solution cannot be implemented without determining the safe environment and conditions for a voluntary, dignified and safe return for refugees, which is the most important focus of the negotiations.
Therefore, in three sessions over the next two days at the symposium, we will try to discuss a safe environment for Syria, a sustainable solution and the main conditions of return. We will address how the public see the “safe environment” and its impact on refugees. We hope these points that shape the discussion will enable decision makers to understand the real meaning of the notion of a safe environment and will provide practical and useful suggestions for the voluntary and dignified return of Syrians.
Even today, while the symposium is held, there are different forms of forced displacement cases in Syria. The vast majority of the Syrian people still put their lives in danger. Syrians have worked hard to make a living, dreaming of crossing Syrian borders, dreaming of a safer future for themselves and their children, and dreaming of a better Syria where they will be able to return and reconstruct it.
The current situation and conditions in Syria may make it difficult or even impossible to return, however, this dream and hope will not end until the Syrians’ dream of returning comes true.