Letter from the Editor: While others turn away from Syria, Syria Direct will remain committed to it

Despite forecasts to the contrary, the Syrian crisis is far from over.

Following a blitzkrieg offensive on Daraa by the Syrian government and its allies, and the capture of the Naseeb crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border, everyone from analysts to government officials, business figures to the usual online partisans have been suggesting that Syria’s seven-year conflict may finally be winding down—sentiments that we heard following government offensives on East Ghouta, northern Homs as well as the south Damascus suburbs.

But one doesn’t need to look far to understand that the conflict is not so much ending, as it is changing. It is a crisis in transition rather than one in retreat. Question marks still hang over almost everything in Syria. What will be the fate of millions of displaced refugees and internally displaced persons, and will they be able to return to their homes? What future awaits Syria’s remaining rebel-held territories, as well as areas recently reconciled with the Syrian government and its allies? How will the conflict’s various proxies respond to developments on the ground? And how will Syria be reconstructed, and by whom?

I believe that Syria Direct’s team of hugely talented Syrian and international reporters are in prime position to chart all of these future trajectories of the conflict, as well as the myriad post-conflict scenarios that will undoubtedly arise in remaining opposition-held territories, recently reconciled areas now back under Syrian government control, as well as Syria as a whole.

Since 2013, Syria Direct has carved out a unique space in the conversation around Syria by producing timely, credible coverage of the country while training highly talented, aspiring Syrian and international journalists in professional news-gathering and accurate, in-depth reporting.

First of all, I’d like to pay my utmost respect to the groundbreaking work already being done at Syria Direct—in particular to outgoing English Managing Editor Maria Nelson and award-winning Arabic editor Noura al-Hourani, as well as to each and every reporter on what is a diverse and dynamic editorial team.

As a journalist, I have always tried to keep my reporting human-driven and close to the ground. I first began working as an independent journalist in Egypt between 2013 and 2015 before moving to Lebanon between 2016 and 2017, reporting on displacement and migration, the Syrian conflict and Palestinian refugees from Syria for Al Jazeera English, IRIN, Mada Masr and The National during those years. More recently I’ve worked on a forthcoming research project to narrate the post-2011 displacement of Palestinian refugees from Syria and investigate the legal vulnerabilities they face after fleeing their homes. Through this work, I have learned the importance of bringing the voices of Syrians (and Palestinian-Syrians) to the fore of Syria coverage, and making sure that they are the ones who take the lead in telling the story of their country.

As editor, I will work alongside Syria Direct's reporters and trainee journalists to produce robust, human and in-depth journalism about Syria that is told by Syrians themselves—something of a radical proposition in a time of proxy wars, UN vetoes and unprecedented disinformation regarding even the most fundamental facts on the ground.

That will mean more news and feature reporting in Arabic on issues directly affecting Syrians themselves, as well as building on the English site with creative, in-depth reporting. The changing conflict will require new ways to tell Syrian stories, while also keeping an international audience informed about developments in Syria that they perhaps would not be informed of otherwise.

While others turn away from Syria, Syria Direct will remain committed to it—and I hope that all of our readers will join us as we continue to chart the future trajectory of the Syrian crisis.

Tom Rollins

Tom Rollins is a journalist and researcher from the north of England, who graduated with an English BA from the University of Cambridge. He previously worked as an independent journalist in Egypt between 2013 and 2015 and Lebanon between 2016 and 2017, and has written for Al Jazeera English, IRIN, Mada Masr and The National.