Syrian opposition receiving 'democracy' training in Germany: Reports

Ahram Online , Monday 30 Jul 2012

Members of Syrian opposition receive training in Berlin on 'democratic governance' in programme run by Swiss Foreign Ministry, Dutch and Norwegian NGOs, and US State Dept

A protestor chanting against Bashar El Assad in Damascus, Syria, December 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Members of the Syrian opposition have recently received training in Berlin on 'democratic governance,' Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sunday. 

Around 40 Syrian nationals – including defected military personnel, lawyers and members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood – have been undergoing training in law, economics, security practices and other aspects of governance, Haaretz reported.

The project, dubbed "The day thereafter: Support for democratic transition in Syria," was funded by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, along with Dutch and Norwegian NGOs.

While the German and US governments were not directly involved in the meetings, which were held behind closed doors, the German government reportedly provided logistical support for the project, while the US State Department provided some additional funding for training sessions.

The training involved a visit to the German authority that administered the files for the Stasi, the infamous East German security organisation dissolved in 1990. The visit could be of value to the Syrian opposition, Russia Today reported, should it need to address Syria's existing security services.   

Project leader and senior advisor Steven Heydemann of the US Institute for Peace, the driving force behind the project, explained that Syrian opposition leaders were being trained for the aftermath of regime collapse in Syria. 

"We created a framework that basically made it possible for Syrian participants to focus on the kinds of challenges that would emerge in the course of a transition in each of those issue areas," Heydemann told US television network ABC.

Heydemann said that the training covered reforms to the justice system and the role of the armed opposition in the post-Assad era. The next step, he explained, would be to establish a network of officials for the transitional period and to prepare recommendations for the formulation of a future transitional government. 

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