The speech of Ziedan coincided with the Syrian general elections, which many have called a ''farce''. It was one of five speeches during the conference organised by professor Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, who was also one of the speakers and who teaches archaeology and Near East ancient art history at the University of Udine. ''Story of a trampled democracy'' is the title of Ziedan's story. She told the audience about the period of democracy in independent Syria: from 1946, the year the French mandate ended, to 1958, when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel basically annexed the Syrian territories, formally making them part of the United Arab Republic. That spirit of democracy, the archaeologist continued, already surfaced during the years of the mandate, when Syrian partisans from all regions, confessions and ethnic groups, started their battle against the French. After years of mainly political struggle they succeeded in making the country independent. ''The Syrian Republic has had a parliament for years, with many different political parties.
It was a real Republic,'' said Ziedan, referring to the absence of individual and political freedom in Syria under the Baath party and the al Assad family. ''At that time, the national assembly was a real parliament and women were giving voting right in 1949 (three years after Italy),'' the archaeologist pointed out, showing a rare photograph taken in 1930 at the university of Damascus during a conference of Arab women. The picture shows dozens of women posing with the flag of their country of origin. ''Like today Syria was a country with a Muslim majority. But in those years a Christian, Fares al Khuri, had been elected as head of state.'' But the constitution that was 'reformed' in the past months, an initiative of the 'secular' president Bashar al Assad, still states that the head of state must be a Muslim.