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Syrian Civil Society: A closing door report

This report seeks to give a truer view of Syrian civil society, giving a voice to people who have often been mentioned only as a footnote to atrocities, as aid workers killed in a shelling, or vilified as terrorists in the narratives of the government and its allies. Since March 2011, Syria has experienced one of the bloodiest and cruellest conflicts of recent times. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands more injured.  But while these grim figures have been repeated in the western media frequently, less often told is the story of the Syrians who did everything in their power to counter this.  Against the backdrop of conflict arose an active Syrian civil society – Syrians on the ground who, more often than not, had no previous experience in this sector. Syrians who came from a society whose government allowed no space for civil society to grow: and yet it did. But as civil society’s space is being squeezed worldwide, to grasp the potential for Syrian civil society we must act now. The door is already closing and it will slam shut, returning the country to the pre-2011 hostile environment where civil society groups faced being shut down and their members and volunteers risked being arrested or imprisoned if they were perceived to challenge the state. This report is an appeal and a challenge. Will the international community support the Syrians who recognise the difficulty of the task they face?