Q&A on the occasion of the publishing the Citizenship Handbook

1- “Citizenship Handbook” is very luxurious and quite close to an artistic catalog, not accessible to the ordinary citizen, why was this elitist choice taken?

Yes, the Handbook is printed elegantly, but not at all luxurious, and this is a technical and intellectual choice.

Firstly, on a technical level, we had three types of texts: the main text containing the primary material, an explanatory text including material related to the primary material and which helps explain it but cannot be included in it, and finally an annex including selected material from general references which clarifies and simplifies the primary material and makes it easy to remember. We had to distinguish between these three levels, so we did this through colors.

Secondly, we were aiming for a working tool handbook that the readers could constantly use as reference, and write their remarks in it, all this in conditions not being ideal for reading, justifies the need for the handbook to be of quality paper which is not easily perishable, therefore we decided to increase the grammage of the papers, but with no exaggeration. Whereas at the intellectual level, it was a deliberate choice for the handbook to be aesthetic, as it is widely known that the beauty of an educational book attracts the readers, and we did not want the Handbook to be unattractive to its readers.

Finally, allow me to strongly object on the fact that the luxurious look of the handbook makes it “not accessible to the ordinary citizen”; this fact is only applicable when the book is for sale, making its price higher due to the higher costs, but when the book is distributed free of charge and as many copies as desired, what makes it then not accessible to the ordinary citizen?

The book/handbook was issued less than two months ago, and we distributed, until now, around five hundred copies, and it will be available electronically on the website starting next month, we are also working on printing more copies in order not to run out once the first one thousand five hundred copies are distributed. So how could you stigmatize the book as “elitist”? In all cases, what is wrong with producing a beautiful educational book, if this does not affect its content, its distribution or the reading quality? 

 2- One of the most important aspects of the regional revolutions is that they started from the streets, from the bottom, and its spontaneous and simple claims for the most important meanings of citizenship; dignity, equality, freedom and participatory approach, outside of all the different theoretical and superior framework, what is the need for such a framework now in your opinion?

First, I completely agree with you that the revolutions in the region was in its inception, a citizenship uprising by excellence, even if it did not claim, directly, all the four principles of citizenship: participatory approach, freedom, responsibility, and equality.

Second, Citizenship League, and I refuse to consider the handbook as a theoretical superior framework; at least we do not understand nor present it this way. The “Citizenship Handbook” is a handbook, no more, no less, in a sense that the four objectives that constitute the principles and values of citizenship and the related issues, such as secularism and the diversity management, gender, education, and identity; and that draw the challenges of building a new country, did not get any sufficient share of the explanation and clarification in the educational tracks in modern history of our region. Therefore, we wanted to present in this guide what we could to help fill this gap. Even though the handbook, in its first section, offers only a theoretical explanation, it explains in its second and “applied” section a set of exercises and skills, which deepen the explanations.

We do not claim to include in this Handbook the mechanisms to build citizenship relations, and we do not outline the form of citizenship in the future, but we say that the planning and construction need knowledge of tools and priorities and the handbook helps in owning them. 

 3- In the last five years, many initiatives have used and employed the term “citizenship” for several objectives within the context of the region conflict issue, how do you see your position so far and who does the “Citizenship League” represent?

The league is part of this citizenship movement in its uneven depth and its diverse areas of application. We may have succeeded in some areas or dug deep in some issues more than others, but we are proud of what the other organizations have done. Our situation is very complex, and our losses are immeasurable, every effort towards citizenship and human rights is a beneficial effort, and we consider every success, from any source, a success for us as well. 

We stand with our people in their dream; to live in a state of law and citizenship. We only represent the group of activists working to build citizenship and to distribute its culture and to consider its relations as a basis to build a new country.

Exclusive Interview by the Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution website with
Dr. Hassan Abbas the head of Citizenship League / Photo by  Caroline M. Poésie.


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