Rethink Rebuild Society hosted a conference on 17 October 2014 at the British Muslim Heritage Centre titled 'Syrian Conflict in Regional Crises: Complications, Implications, and the Way Forward'. There were over 120 attendees, inclusive of policy makers, academics, activists, students, and members of the wider community.
The conference was opened by Rethink Rebuild Society's director, Dr. Haytham Alhamwi, who cited the international community's selectivity in dealing with the dire humanitarian crisis in Syria and said, 'Let's stop the hypocrisy and let's face the realities'. Dr. Alhamwi's remarks were followed by words of solidarity from MP John Leech and Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd, and by an overview of 'why Syria matters' by Amnesty International's Kristyan Benedict.
The first panel (Syrian Cause, Realities and Misconceptions: ISIS, British Jihadists, UK Media and Policies) hosted Dr. Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar, Raffaello Pantucci, and Asim Qureshi. Dr. Shameela, having been to Syria on multiple humanitarian aid convoys, spoke of the setbacks befalling humanitarian efforts in Syria as a result of British national policy, which has come to associate such humanitarian work with terrorism. Next, Raffaello Pantucci cited three major concerns with respect to the Syrian conflict, including instability to the wider region, the emergence of terrorist groups which pose threats to the west, and ISIS (although he argued that their threat is exaggerated). Finally, Asim Qureshi argued that some of the crimes committed by armed groups in Syria are a direct result of counterterrorism strategy employed by Western countries since 9/11 which have entailed the severe curtailment of human rights.
The second panel (Decoding the Future of Syria and the Region: What Should the UK and International Community Do?) hosted Dr. Christopher Phillips, Dr. James Pattison, and Anas Al Abdah. Dr. Phillips outlined the decline of US influence in the Middle Eastern region in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war, noting that regional actors unsuccessfully filled this power vacuum and in effect exacerbated the situation in Syria. Next, Dr. James Pattison framed the Syrian conflict around the responsibility to protect doctrine. He argued that military intervention in Syria would not have been legal under this doctrine, although the deterioration of the situation shows that despite the potential violation of international law, it may have been better to intervene militarily. Finally, Anas Al Abdah revealed that it was made clear to the Syrian opposition from the conflict's outset that the US had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria. He concluded that the diplomatic route represented the best hope for the return of peace to the country.