Syria and the Neutrality Trap:
The Dilemmas of Delivering Humanitarian Aid through Violent Regimes
I.B. Tauris, London (UK) 2021
Syria - A Decade of Lost Chances:
Repression and Revolution from Damascus Spring to Arab Spring
Cune Press, Seattle (USA) 2012
Public events (selection)
► Panelist on "Mediation and Human Rights" in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Week of the Consolat de Mar, Barcelona, 27 October
The Consolate of the Sea in Barcelona has 750 years of history in alternative conflict and dispute resolution in maritime and other contexts.
Discussing the tensions and interrelations of accountability, human rights and humanitarian aid with mediation efforts. On the panel with Milan Kučan (ex-President of Slovenia), Mats Melin (ex-President of the Supreme Administrative Court, Sweden), Rob Behrens (Parlamentary and Health Service Ombdusmann, UK), Neus Torbisco (professor of Philosophy of Law at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), and Victòria Alsina (Barcelona Council Member and former foreign policy councellor of Catalunya, professor at University of New York and Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona).
► Speaker on the abuse of humanitarian aid in conflicts with Russia at the Syrian Ukrainian Network conference “Justice and Accountability – New Ways of Thinking", Kyiv, 14-18 October 2023
Drawing parallels on dilemmas of delivering principled humanitarian assistence to people in need in Syria and Ukraine in the face of similar patterns of warfare by Russia. On the panel with Fadel Abdel Ghani (Syrian Network of Human Rights) and Ivan Nielsen (former Danish special envoy for Syria).
The conference venue in the historic city center of Ukraine's capital Kyiv near the Maidan.
► Keynote speaker in the webinar "The Ethics of Humanitarian Neutrality in Syria", Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS), Oslo, 16 January 2023
The roundtable opened with an introduction by Carsten Wieland followed by comments by Anna Cervi (Norwegian Refugee Council) and Emanuela Chiara-Gillard (Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict).
Discussing ethical dilemmas and international legal dimensions on the controversial practice of delivering humanitarian aid to Syria.
► Panelist in the conference "Withheld, Retained, Misappropriated: Humanitarian Aid in Syria", Heinrich Böll Foundation, Berlin, 11 January 2023
Discussing the continued abuse of humanitarian aid in Syria with Natasha Hall, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Ibrahim Olabi, lawyer at Guernica 37, founder of the Syrian Legal Development Program, and Susanne Fries-Gaier, Director for Humanitarian Aid in the German Foreign Office.
Puzzled why 90% of humanitarian aid were at times channelled through Damascus while some 90% of the destruction and human suffering was caused by the same government in place. Pledging for a different approach to humanitarian aid, more adherence to humanitarian principles, collective bargaining, less dependency on a paralized UN Security Council.
► Keynote Speech for the Workshop “Mediator as Gatekeeper and Door Opener”, Norwegian Peace Institute (PRIO), Oslo, 25 November 2021
► Panelist in the conference "The Last Vote? Obstacles to Renewing UN Cross-Border Assistance in Syria" of the Washington Institute, Washington D.C., 15 June 2021
Discussing the stakes and implications of continuing or ending UN cross border humanitarian assistence in Syria with Ambassador James Jeffrey, former US Envoy to Syria, and Basma Alloush from the Norwegian Refugee Council, moderated by Charles Thépaut from the Washington Institute.
Laying out the dimensions of the Syrian conflict in terms of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and the danger of letting Syria's Asad, and his UNSC allies Russia and China erode so far consensual humanitarian principles and return to the Westphalian notion of hard and unconditional state souvereignty detached from the responsibility of a government to protect its people.
► Panelist in the conference "Ten Years of the Syrian Crisis - Time for a New Approach?" of the Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA), Berlin, 11 March 2021
Giving an outline of 10 years of Syrian crisis marked by a large degree of military and humanitarian asymmetry, fragmentation of actors, negotiation venues and territory; also witnessing a bilateralization of short-term deals instead of a comprehensive and multilateral peace effort and an attempt to de-politicize issues like refugee return and reconstruction.
Discussion with Ralf Südhoff (CHA), Rim Turkmani (London School of Economics) and Lena Schellhammer (Maram Foundation) about the effectiveness of sanctions as part of a larger international tool kit and about colateral effects of humanitarian aid on terrorist actors on the ground.
► Talk with former UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan De Mistura, on "Possibilities and Limitations of International Conflict Mediation", Tawila and Bertelsmann Foundation, Berlin, 9 December 2019
De Mistura was the longest serving UN Special Envoy for Syria 2014-2018 but had to leave his work unfinished, too.
Discussion about possibilities, difficulties and missed chances for peace in Syria in a regional and international environment that doesn't seem to be ready for a UN-facilitated, comprehensive and multilateral solution.
► "Leadership in International Security" course: Running a mediation simulation Reform of the UN Security Council, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), Geneva, 29 November 2019
Discussing proposals of adjusting the UNSC's composition, work and veto rights.
A policy dilemma for mid-career students in an area where senior state diplomats have failed to reach an agreement for many years.
► Istanbul Security Conference: “Reassurance and Reengagement”, Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Baskent University, Istanbul (Turkey), 28-30 April 2019
Discussion about the Kurdish question and other regional policy challenges for Turkey and neighbouring countries.
Moderation of the Panel “The New Geopolitics and Dynamics at the East Mediterranean Region: Risks and Opportunities”
► International Syria Conference: “The Syrian War: Later Trajectory and Future Prospects”, 1-4 August 2018, University of St. Andrews (Scotland, UK)
Round table discussion "Where is Syria Going?", on the panel with Leila Vignal (Oxford University), Samir Altaqi (Orient Research Center Dubai), Yasmine Ghani, Adham Saouli and Omar Imady (University of St. Andrews), Eberhard Kienle (University Sciences Po, Paris) and Rim Turkmani (London School of Economics).
University of St. Andrews Campus
► Ramadan-Dialogue of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (KAS), panel discussion "7 Years War in Syria: Loss of Homeland through Emigration and Destruction - Hope for Peace, Return and Reconstruction?", Berlin (Germany) 15 June 2018
On the panel with journalist Kristin Helberg and German diplomat Andreas Krüger, moderated by Dr. Magdalena Kirchner...
...in the historic ambience of the Museum for Islamic Art in Berlin.
► Istanbul Security Conference: "Turning Challenges into Opportunities", Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Baskent University, Istanbul (Turkey), 6-8 May 2018
Both stability in Syria and the country's unity are highly questionable at this stage of conflict(s) as...
...the panel "Could a sustainable peace and unification be reached in Syria and Iraq?" discussed with Ünal Ceviköz (ret. Turkish ambassador), Dr. Timor Makhmutov (Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC) and me.
► Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) Fellow Briefing: "Multiple Conflicts in Syria and Mediation Challenges", GCSP, Geneva (Switzerland), 27 April 2018
Syria used to be a stable middle power in the region that exerted influence on other players, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, but nowadays the multiple conflicts emerging in the...
...fragmenting state are making the UN or any mediation process extremely difficult. GCSP fellows discussed the historical background of the conflicts and the current mediation challenges.
► Talk with former UN Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, on "Possibilities and Limitations of International Conflict Mediation", Tawila and Bertelsmann Foundation, Berlin, 17 November 2017
The former Algerian Foreign Minister brokered the Taif Agreement in 1989 that ended the Lebanese war, but in Syria the war parties are not exhausted yet.
Brahimi quit his efforts to find a peaceful solution in Syria in May 2014 with an apology to the Syrian people.
► Istanbul Security Conference "Boundless Crisis, Integrity and Security", Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Baskent University, Istanbul (Turkey), 7-9 May 2017
On the panel "Security Scenarios in the MENA Region with the Levant on Fire" with Amb. Mustafa Ergün Olgun, Amb. Murat Öszelik, and Amb. Ünal Ceviköz.
Following the discussions in times of rising bilateral Turkish-German and regional tensions.
► Memorial Conference on the Political Thought of the Syrian Philosopher Sadiq Jalal al-Azm (1934-2016), Haramoon Center for Contemporary Thought, Berlin (Germany), 11 February 2017
Speech: "Scout, Amonisher and Revolutionary: Sadiq al-Azm's Political Thinking"
On the panel with Dr. Abdelbaset Sieda, Dr. Aziz al-Azmeh, and Dr. Faleh Abdul Jabbar.
► Memorial Celebration in Memory of Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm (1934-2016), organized by Ibn Rushd Fund, Berlin (Germany), 10 February 2017
Sadiq's widow, Eman Shaker (l), with organizer from Ibn Rushd Fund, Cora Josting (r)
Personal farewell speech for Sadiq al-Azm:
► International conference "External Actors in Syria: Assessing the Influence and Interests of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah", Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Beirut (Lebanon), 30 November - 1 December 2016
Discussing the issue of how the external actors in Syria's proxy war affect substance and design of the political mediation process.
On the panel with Dr. Ammar Kahf, Omran for Strategic Studies (Istanbul), Prof. Dr. Eberhard Kienle, director of Institut francais du proche-orient (IFPO) (Beirut), and Alia Mansour, Political Committee of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (Istanbul)
► German-Turkish Security Policy Dialogue "The Return of the Cold War - New Era of Proxy Wars?", Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Ankara, 29-30 June 2016
On the panel "The future of Syria and Iraq with regard to IS and other non-state actors."
German and Turkish scholars, military experts and diplomats discuss the centrifugal forces in Turkey's neighbourhood and the repercussions in Syria, Iraq and Turkey itself. They also discussed the regional role of Iran and its internal dynamics.
►Panel discussion: Syria & Beyond: The Quest for Power and Survival” at the Joint International Conference "The Middle East and the Islamic World in the Mirror of Humanities and Social Sciences“ organized by the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO) and the Islamic Studies Section of the German Oriental Society (DMG), Ruhr University Bochum, 24 September 2015
Conference opening panel with Prof. Dr. Raymond Hinnebusch, Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St. Andrews (Scotland, UK), Prof. Dr. Sadiq al-Azm, Damascus University (now in Germany), and Prof. Dr. Fred Lawson, Mills College (Oakland, USA).
Speech “Between Geneva II and Geneva III: The Desperate Search for a Political Solution”
► The Syrian War and Its Repercussions of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on Turkey and the Region Kurdistan-Iraq, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin, 13 November 2014
On the panel with Prof. Dr. Friedbert Pflüger (Pflüger International), Dr. Walter Posch (German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP), Dr. Magdalena Kirchner (German Council on Foreign Relations, DGAP), Prof. Dr. Murat Erdogan (Hacettepe University, Ankara).
► Drivers and Spoilers - International Actors in Conflict Management: "Regional Hotspots Syria, Iran and Egypt", Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS), Berlin, 13 May 2014
On the panel with Iran expert Dr. Walter Posch (German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP) and Julie Kolsdorf (BAKS)
Syria's internal war in its third year fuelled by interests of regional actors and the absence of political negotiations
► German-Turkish Security Policy Dialogue "Latest Developments in Iraq, Syria and Iran and its Regional and Global Implications", Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Ankara 27-29 April 2014
Turkish and German security policy experts discuss regional tensions in the Middle East, repercussions for Turkey, and global challenges for Europe after the Ukrainian crisis.
Speech about the complexity of the Syrian conflict, the possible role of civil society and peace options.
► Expert meeting "The Alawis of Syria: War, Faith & Politics in the Levant", book project at King's College London, 8-9 January 2014
Expert round table on Alawis in Syria and broader discussions about Syria's political future.
Panel discussion "The Syrian War: Reflections and Responses" together with Prof. Dr. Raymond Hinnebusch (University of St. Andrews), Prof. Dr. Michael Kerr (King's College London), Dr. Michael Williams (Chatham House), and Dr. Reinoud Leenders (King's College London)
► Panel discussion "Syria After the Conflict" in the Islamic Museum, Pergamon Museum Berlin, during the chain of events "Nights of Ramadan", panel organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), 1 August 2013
On the panel with Daniyel Demir (President of the German Association of Arameans in Germany), Atefeh Sadeghi (Institute for Interreligious Dialogue), Aiman Mazyek (Central Council of the Muslims in Germany), Salam Kawakibi (Arab Reform Initiative), Otmar Oehring (Konrad Adenauer Foundation), Madlen Vartian (Speaker of the Christian-Alevit Friendship Circle), Lamya Kaddor (President of the Liberal Islamic Alliance).
Controversial discussion on future scenarios of religious coexistence in Syria.
► ViaMun Conference (United Nations simulation game), "Syria facing the break-up? Multiple challenges of the region", University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder, 20 June 2013
Mapping the different conflicts that are raging in Syria.
Trying to find answers for a political solution.
► International Conference "The Syrian Uprising: Drivers and Dynamics", University of St. Andrews, Centre for Syrian Studies, 17-19 June 2013
On the senior scholars panel with Prof. Dr. Raymond Hinnebusch, Dr. Thomas Pierret, Prof. Dr. Salwa Ismail, Prof. Dr. Eberhard Kienle, Dr. Yezid Sayigh, Prof. Dr. Dawn Chatty.
The conference took place on the 600th anniversary of the University of St. Andrews.
► German-Turkish Security Policy Dialogue "Arab Uprisings and its Regional and Global Effects", Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Ankara 29-30 April 2013
German and Turkish security and policy experts discuss the repercussions of the Arab Spring and the Syrian crisis for Turkey and the neighbourhood.
Speech about Syria's multiple crises: the overarching conflict of the Syrian regime fighting great parts of its population, and emerging sub-conflicts.
► Panel Discussion with Syrian writer Fawaz Haddad on his book "God's Bloody Hell" (Gottes Blutiger Himmel) at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) in Berlin, 23 April 2013
On the Panel with Ambassador Dr. Heinrich Kreft, Fawaz Haddad and Dr. Günther Orth.
The atrocities in Iraq described in Haddad's book are now happening in Syria, and the fight between Islamists and secularists drives a wedge through families and entire societies. (photos: KAS)
► Panel Discussion "Syria - Popular Upheaval or Civil War?" at the Leipzig Book Fair, 17 March 2013
International Forum at the Leipzig Book Fair
On the panel with Sadiqu Al-Mousllie, Mohammad Al-Zuabi, Hassan Suwaid, Bassam Helou and moderator Prof. Dr. Udo Steinbach
► Speech "A Decade of Lost Chances: Past and Present Dynamics of Asad's Syria" at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, 21 November 2012
Event sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Ankara.
Speech by invitation of Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Bağcı, chairman of the Department of International Relations at Middle East Technical University Ankara
►Panel Discussion "German-Turkish Relations at the Beginning of the 21st Century" organized by Network Turkey at Humboldt University, Berlin, 14 November 2012
Panel with Dr. Gülistan Gürbey (Free University, Berlin) and moderator Ali Aslan (Deutsche Welle)
Looking back at the ups and downs of Turkish-Syrian relations during the decade of Bashar al-Asad.
► Book presentation and discussion of "Syria - A Decade of Lost Chances", in the German Foreign Office in Berlin, 19 September 2012
Diplomats, academics and lay audience in the Ernst Kolbe Hall in the German Foreign Office
Discussion with Dutch ex-diplomat and Syria expert Nikolaos van Dam and German ex-ambassador to Damascus, Gunter Mulack (German Orient Institute)
► Book presentation and discussion "Syria: Repression and Revolution from Damascus Spring to Arab Spring", Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin, 25 June 2012
Panel with Ruprecht Polenz (President of the Foreign Committee in the German Bundestag), Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Bağcı (Middle East Technical University, Ankara), Kristin Helberg (journalist, Berlin), Dr. Kamal Sido (Society for Threatened Peoples, Göttingen)
The conference hall in the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Moderator: Sebastian Sons (German Orient Institute, Berlin)
► Conference "Regional Aspects of the Situation in Syria", Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Copenhagen, 10 May 2012
Speech of Villy Søvndal, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, about the challenges of the Syrian crisis for Danish and European foreign policy.
Panel on the internal dynamics of the Syrian conflict with Prof. Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen (University of Copenhagen), Louay Hussein (Buidling the Syrian State), Dr. Reinoud Leenders (University of Amsterdam)
► Conference "Syria: The Arab Spring's Unhappy Ending?", University of Bonn, 8 May 2012
Panel with Syrian philosopher Prof. Sadiq al-Azm and journalist Hannah Wettig
Speech of Ambassador Dr. Nikolaos van Dam: "The Regime of Bashar al-Asad: Battle for Political Survival"
Speech of Hozan Ibrahim (SNC): "Chances and Risks for Political Change: The Work of the Syrian National Council"
Speech of Dr. Carsten Wieland: "The Syrian Opposition: United in Disunity?"
► Mühlheimer Nahostgespräche: "Dynamic and Limits of the Upheaval in the Arab World", Duisburg, 19-20 November 2011
Panel with Dr. Oliver Ernst (KAS), Dr. Bijan Khajehpour (Atieh International) and Dr. Awat Asadi
Speech about Syria, Human Rights and the Dilemma of the West
► International Conference "The Aftermath of the Arab Spring - Challenges for the Foreign and Security Policy", Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Candenabbia (Italy), 27-30 October 2011
Panel with Dr. Anat Kurz (INSS, Tel Aviv), Dr. Michael Lange (KAS, Germany), and Prof. Dr. Carlo Masala (German Bundeswehr University, Munich)
Conference center Villa Collina at Lake Como
► Panel discussion: "Asad's Lost Chances", Bruno Kreisky Forum, Vienna, 06 October 2011
Panel with Khaled Oweis (Reuters), Dr. Amr al-Azm (Syrian opposition), and Gudrun Harrer (Der Standard)
The Bruno Kreisky House and Foundation
► Postgraduate Conference: "Syria in a Changing World", Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, 1-2 September 2011
Final panel with Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Picard, Dr. Thomas Pierret and Prof. Dr. Raymond Hinnebusch
Conference participants are enjoying a fresh breeze at the historic Cathedral of St. Andrews
► International Conference: "Bashar al-Asad's First Decade: A Period of Transition for Syria?" Center for Middle Estern Studies (CMES), Lund University, Lund (Sweden), 7-10 October 2010
Panel with Prof. Dr. Fred Lawson, Dr. Benafsheh Keynoush and Dr. Özlem Tur
Main historic building of the University of Lund
► "Colombia After the Uribe Era - Chances for a New Beginning?", Heinrich Böll Foundation, Berlin, 1 June 2010
With Angélica Lozano Correa, campaign manager of the Green Party of Colombia
Panel with Reiner Huhle (Nürnberg Human Rights Centre) Angélica Lozano (Green Party Colombia) and moderator Bernd Pickert (taz).
► "Bashar al-Asad’s First Decade: A Period of Transition for Syria", International Conference at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Lund (Sweden), 19-20 April 2010
Participants in Lund's historical main university building
Presentation on the Present Context of Syrian's Foreign Policy: Change in the Region and Stagnation at Home
► Aqqad House Media and Journalist Conference on Turkey and the Middle East, Danish Institute Damascus, 10-12 November 2009
Panel with Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Meliha Altunisik, and Jihad al-Zein
Participants in the Danish Institute Damascus
► Book presentation and dialogue with Prof. Dr. Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm on ethno-nationalism and primordialism vs. secularism and humanism in the Balkans, South Asia and the Middle East
German Orient Institute Beirut, 30 June 2009
Goethe Institute Damascus, 1 July 2009
► Eschborn Dialogue, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (gtz), Eschborn (Germany), 23-24 June 2009
Panel with Vabah Gayflor, Minister for Gender and Development, Liberia, Esther Mujawayo-Keiner, sociologist and trauma therapist, survivor of the Rwanda genocide (NGO Avega), Daniel de Torres, Deputy Head of Special Programmes at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF)
Speech on media, gender and conflict
► Mühlheimer Nahostgespräche, Duisburg, 21-23 November 2008
Panel with Prof. Dr. Udo Steinbach, Dr. Rainer Bernstein, Dr. Oliver Ernst
► Speech on Syria's Regional Role After the War in Lebanon, Dar al-Hewar Center, Vienna V.A. (USA), 1 December 2006
Panel with Mazhar Samman
► Syria Book Presentation and Speech at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. (USA), 29 November 2006
Speech on Syria under Bashar al-Asad and the Crisis in Lebanon
With Prof. Dr. Joe Ferrara, Dean of the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University
► Conference: "Arabic World(s): Diversity in Unity and Unity in Diversity", Panel on Syria, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Berlin, 17-19 September 2006
Panel with Ayman Abdel Nour, Kristin Helberg and Sami Moubayed
► Presidential Classroom speech: "Current Cleavages in the Middle East Conflict", Georgetown University, Washington D.C. (USA), 27 March 2006