An Open Letter to Asma al-Assad

France may be in the midst of elections and financial news is looming large. But why are we not talking about Syria? How can we forget those who are suffering in this way?

The international community's impotence
Many international diplomats have tried to stop or even just slow the massacres, and have tried to convince the regime to surrender. Kofi Annan, whom I greatly respect, has done his best to get his peace plan adopted. But clearly that plan has already been breached. I believe these initiatives are unlikely to succeed because some of the basic issues and related policies prevent a common position within the international community from being established. In the meantime, people are dying.

Economic sanctions are not effective
This is one way to try to influence Syria's leadership, but the reality is that sanctions will only penalize the Syrian people. And they are unlikely to achieve their goal.

There will be no Syrian Spring

The Arab Spring, with all its complications, gave rise to a great sense of hope. It seemed to show that people could create change in their countries by protests and active engagement in politics, and by bravely making their opinions known. The events were publicized across the world through social networks. We know, too, that outside help, from the United States, Europe and elsewhere played a role.

But when the issues are more complex, as is the case in Syria, an international consensus seems a long way off. It is likely that there will be no "Syrian Spring." So should we resign ourselves to doing nothing?

An urgent need for change
We cannot simply decline to act, standing by as spectators of a massacre. On April 11 and 12, students in the northern city of Aleppo, formed a human SOS symbol, standing together in an open space (watch the video below). It forces us confront the reality of our passivity. Is the global system of justice so ineffective? There is a deeper question too: have we learned to accept the unacceptable?

The role of Syrian women
I believe that women have a key role to play -- as they have so often in history. As I have written recently of African women, they are often the greatest proponents of peace.

I address this especially to the first lady of Syria, Asma al-Assad. On account of her husband, she holds a prominent position, enabling and encouraging a portion of the people to carry out the terrible actions that the international community condemns.

Recently, a group of women ambassadors across the world signed a petition in favor of peace in Syria, and I support it. They are turning towards you, Mrs. al-Assad, as I do now as well. I am familiar with the political world and -- as I have had an opportunity to see through my foundation -- there is always hope, even when a situation seems hopeless.

Open letter to Mrs. al-Assad
Mrs. al-Assad, on behalf of your children and the right that all people have to live to be listened to and heard, you must speak out and take a stand.

I'm sure you can do something to stop the massacres in your country. A woman bears children, and a woman knows life's value. A woman has the capacity to foster that most precious of treasures, peace.

Mrs. al-Assad, you must be the focal point of change in Syria. We are counting on you. The world is watching, and waiting for you.

I invite all people of good will to sign the petition at the end of the video.