Syrians mourn death of leading activist Bassma Kodmani

Syrians mourn death of leading activist Bassma Kodmani
A key Syrian opposition activist passed away in France on Thursday, her organisation announced.
4 min read
03 March, 2023
Kodmani spent most of her life outside of Syria [Getty/archive]

Prominent Syrian opposition activist Bassma Kodmani, 65, died on Thursday in Paris after suffering from an illness.

"It is with deepest sadness that we announce the death of ARI’s founder and board member, Dr. Bassma Kodmani, who passed away on 2 March 2023 after succumbing to a prolonged illness that she fought with admirable courage and determination," the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI), Kodmani's organisation, said in a statement Thursday.

Described as an "inspiring figure, brilliant analyst and exceptionally warm and generous colleague and "friend", ARI said her passing left a void "impossible to fill."

Born in Damascus in 1958, Kodmani left with her family for exile in Beirut, where they lived for three years before moving to London and then Paris, where she was to spend the rest of her life.

Her father, Nazim Kodmani, was imprisoned in Syria following the 1967 Six-Day war with Israel over his stances against the Syrian regime's foreign minister at the time. He was then released and exiled.

In 2004, Kodmani established the ARI, an independent think tank on democratic change and social justice in the Middle East and North Africa. She stepped down as director of the organisation in 2019 and remained a board member.

She also launched the Arab Democracy Index, which measured democratic progress and transition across the region, before the wave of Arab revolutions started in 2011, known as the Arab Spring, and before the start of the Syrian conflict that same year when peaceful protests were brutally suppressed by the Assad regime.

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Bassma then co-founded and became a member of the Syrian National Council – a coalition of opposition Syrian groups based in Istanbul – and later a member of the Syrian Negotiations Committee at the Constitutional Committee. This track sought to construct a new Syrian constitution in the war-torn country and was based in Geneva.

She was also a professor at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

"While our sadness over her passing will be with us for a long time, her legacy will continue through our work and our commitment to promoting participatory politics, social justice, accountability, and full and equal rights across the region," ARI’s statement said.

"She has left an indelible mark on the organisation and its staff, and, we are sure, the much wider circle of people whose lives she touched."

Social media users paid their respects to Kodmani.

"We agreed on the revolution, and we differed a lot on everything else, but I realise how much her loss is a loss for us all, a loss for those who believe in a free Syria, and a loss for those who believe in equality," wrote Lebanese Syrian columnist Alia Mansour.

"It may be fair to say that the Syrian revolution today mourns one of the most sincere national figures, Mrs. Bassma Kodmani.. She passed away before the dawn of victory, but left the Syrian revolution with a national asset and an important academic legacy," wrote Syrian news anchor Siba Madwar.

"May God have mercy on her and perpetuate her remembrance among the coming free generations."

"I’ve seen that many of the Syrians who mourned Dr. Bassma Kodmani and spoke about what she did in her career, disagreed with her politically and criticised her opinions and ideas," one Syrian Kurdish activist wrote, adding that this proved the respect people had for Kodmani.

"Dr. Bassma Kodmani, with whom it was possible to disagree with, passed away. She was a speaker with a distinguished opinion and presence and one of the most efficient Syrian political figures," wrote journalist Yassin Al Haj Saleh.