Several months have passed now since the official launch of the Tharwa Project Website, and the Tharwa Team is fast approaching the end of the Site’s trial period. The trial period was intended to help us further define the particular mission of the Website, taking visitors’ comments, interests and queries into account.
Despite the low-profile that we have kept at this early stage, the Website has, nonetheless, generated much interest both regionally and internationally, as the number of reviews and interview requests that have so far been made and the combined total of visitors for the Arabic and English sites clearly demonstrate. Indeed, the total has so far exceeded 5000 visitors with over 30,000 hits per month, which is a pretty respectable figure at this early stage for such a serious website.
In fact, we have been caught off-guard to an extant by all the attention that we have received. Very quickly, we found ourselves having to grow at a much faster pace than we had originally planned, and we suddenly found ourselves with our resources stretched to the limit. This was reflected for a while on our ability to operate the site, that is, to keep it updated on a more regular basis and to commission articles and studies written specifically for Tharwa, as many of our visitors have noted.
Eventually however, we have managed to survive this chaotic period, and we are now reemerging, albeit slowly, armed with a greater sense of purpose and organization. Meanwhile, our team has grown and will continue to grow over the next few months, and the scope of our operations will soon be expanded to cover other parts of the Middle East, and not only Syria. For this is, as our Mission Statement clearly says, a regional and not simply a Syrian initiative.
Moreover, Tharwa is not only a website. It is indeed an ambitious program designed to work on the grassroots and academic levels as well. Organizing events such as community meetings and conferences is, therefore, part and parcel of its Mission.
Indeed, in May, and on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Amman, the Tharwa Project Team organized a meeting of regional and international scholars and activists concerned with the issue of religious and ethnic minorities in the region. The meeting helped provide certain guidelines and recommendations for future Tharwa activities and provided a welcome opportunity for the expansion of the Tharwa Network to include many new regional and international partners.
Soon thereafter, our application for joining the Pax Christi International Network was approved, a development that further consolidates our position as an advocacy organization committed to helping raise the standards of civic awareness in the region (for more information on these recent developments, please check our Events Section). With this, our organization, DarEmar, is slowly being transformed into a larger region-wide institution, as it was meant to be. Ours, then, are not haphazard efforts and steps, but carefully studied ones meant to help empower and inspire civil society activists in the region by building a larger and more effective support network.
We do realize, of course, that we are still in the embryonic phase and that what has been achieved so far is simply too miniscule in comparison to what needs to and can be achieved.
Nonetheless, we do also realize that, over the last few months, we have managed to take several important steps on the long and winding road towards fulfilling our Mission for transforming our religious and ethnic diversity and our differences in opinions and intellectual trends into a vital source of strength and wealth for all concerned, as, indeed, they should always be.
Written in Washington, D.C. during my fellowship at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.