Damascus, Syria, 10 November 2001 - His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims today concluded his eight-day visit to Syria with a second round of extensive discussions with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
The Aga Khan and Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa Miro also signed a Framework Development Agreement between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and Syria. The Agreement will facilitate the effective functioning and optimum utilisation of the human and financial resources that the AKDN would mobilise for Syria. It also establishes an AKDN Representation Office in Damascus.
Prime Minister Miro, who was accompanied by ministers heading departments concerned with social and economic development, pledged the commitment of the Syrian government to provide the AKDN with whatever assistance it needed to realise development objectives of mutual importance to Syria and the Network.
Underlining the long-term nature of the commitment represented by this agreement, the Aga Khan referred to the beginning of a “partnership for development into the future not constrained by time.” “We look forward to this collaboration,” he said, “so that we can prioritise the greatest necessities where you feel strategies of partnership are most urgent.”
During his visit to Syria, the Aga Khan held discussions at the highest levels of government on a number of initiatives that the AKDN is preparing to launch in Syria. These include investment in information technology for education, support for the healthcare system through assistance to hospitals, strengthening of resources in the area of early childhood development and providing expertise for water resource management. The Aga Khan had the opportunity to review personally work that has been completed and that is underway by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Syria. The review included site visits to the Citadel of Aleppo and to the Citadel and city of Masyaf.
At the Citadel of Aleppo, the Aga Khan presided over the presentation ceremony of the triennial Aga Khan Award for Architecture and participated in an international seminar to discuss the nine projects from eight different countries that shared the Award this year. Both events gave the Aga Khan to interact with architects, urban planners, conservation experts, academicians, government officials, civic authorities, students and a wide range of individuals with a close interest in the built environment in countries where Muslims have a significant presence.
In both Damascus and Aleppo, the Aga Khan held meetings with religious leaders including Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, Dr. Ahmad Hassoun, Mufti of Aleppo, and Greek Orthodox Bishop Johanna Ibrahim. Whilst in Damascus, he visited the Omayyad Mosque in the historic old city. The Aga Khan made short visits to Lattakia, to the mausoleum of late President Hafez Al Assad at Qardaha, to Tartous and to Hama. Others whom the Aga Khan met during his tour included the Governors of Damascus, Aleppo, Lattakia, Tartous, Hama and the Mayor of Salamieh.
The Aga Khan also addressed gatherings of members of the Ismaili Muslim community and people of other traditions of Islam and other faiths in Al Khwabi and in Salamieh where over a hundred thousand people were present to hear him speak of Islam and contemporary challenges facing Syria.
In Salamieh, the Aga Khan paid his respects at the mausoleum where his father, Prince Aly Khan, was laid to rest in 1972.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions with specific mandates that range from health and education to rural development, culture, architecture and the promotion of private sector enterprise. These agencies and institutions, working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Africa and Asia. Established by the Ismaili Imamat (office of spiritual leadership) and working in over 20 countries, the Network’s underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion.