The evening news opens and ends with coverage of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Last Monday some 600 students gathered on campus to commemorate the victims. The terror of IS remains the talk of the day.

For EM, Petra Stienen looks ahead to her lecture “What’s Next for Syria?”, on Wednesday, November 25th at the Erasmus Pavilion. Stienen worked at the Dutch embassies in Damascus and Cairo and is also Arabist, author, consultant and independent senator for D66.

You worked for five years (1999-2004) as a diplomat at the Dutch embassy in Damascus. Do you recognize Syria from that time to the present Syria?

“I have not been there for some time, but I do recognize the brutality of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. If anyone then had read the Amnesty reports, which described what the seventeen secret services were doing to the population, you can’t be surprised at the ferocity of the attacks. Violence always creates other violence.
Today’s Syria is a destroyed country. My heart bleeds, a country with so many cultures and extraordinary people. The Syrians are struck at all levels. They are victims of the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, but also the so-called Islamic State which is often called in Arabic ‘Daesh’. Daesh insists on a lifestyle that does not fit with Syria, and now bestow fear in many parts of the country what causes people to decide to flee. “

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has declared war on IS the day after the attacks in Paris. Does a declaration of war make sense?

“It’s just strong language of Rutte and I wonder whether it really addresses the root of the problem. The cause of the problems in the region is not only Daesh. Each doctor can explain to you that if you want to remove a tumor, you should first ask you self what the basis is of the tumor. Many people think a collaboration with Assad to combat Daesh is a good idea. They aspect Assad to provide stability. If that’s your opinion, you really have no clue.”

With the meetings of Putin and Obama in mind, we still seem to be pushing forward to a solution with Assad

“I agree that we, in any case, seriously have to try to get all the warring parties to the table and seek a political solution. There are three scenarios at the moment: Assad will stop bombing his own people and will hand over power to someone who can rebuild Syria again. I think this is a fantastic scenario, but I am afraid it this is not going to happen. A second scenario is that Assad, along with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, is fooling us. He pretends to bring stability and pretends to be moving forward to a peace process, while the bombings continue because we didn’t make any demands. That is the current situation. The third scenario is that Daesh will conquer Damascus, a city of four million people, and we’ll have the black flag waving across Syria. “

A doomsday scenario

“It’s not impossible, and in the meantime, the refugees remain to flee. That means people with great potential have little or no access to education, employment or nutrition.”

The title of your lecture is “What’s Next for Syria?”, but can we actually expect an answer?

“After attending my lecture, I hope that people see that there were more options in Syria than the dark black of Assad and the dark black of the Islamic groups. There are still other alternatives.”


Would you like to attend the lecture “What’s Next for Syria?”? Unfortunately, the lecture is sold out, but fortunately for you EM will give away two tickets.
Do you want to win those free places? Please email [email protected] with the subject ‘give away’ and let us know why you’d like to go to the lecture.

The lecture ‘What’s Next for Syria? “and the ensuing debate will be held on Wednesday, November 25th at 16:00 at the Erasmus Pavilion. The official language is English.
The lecture is organized by SG Erasmus in collaboration with the NGIZ (Dutch Society for International Affairs).