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Wednesday, October 5, 2011
New Syrian Order Cannot Be Ignored By Assad Regime
The Syrian opposition has been badly divided, but that is now
changing; new forces represent a political reality the Al Assad regime will
ignore at its peril.
By Muhammad Ali
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
very recently, the opposition to Syria's ruling regime seemed to be hopelessly
the eruption of protests more than six months ago, the expatriate opposition
has been fissured, and inside the country those who organise protests are
divided among disparate groups.
divisions seemed to be deepening further after a day of protest last month
under the profoundly contentious slogan "international protection".
then Sunday brought the news that the opposition has been waiting for: the
formation of a unified Syrian National Council in Istanbul. It is too early to
gauge how much influence this new council will have, but the early signs indicate
the majority inside Syria are happy to lend support to it. The council is still
a work in progress.
the reasons for the earlier disconnect among protesters should not be ignored:
that is, the emergence of powerful opposition forces inside Syria that control
the events on the ground and are ideologically different to the traditional
protesters took to the streets in Deraa in mid-March, they had no leadership.
They were not sponsored or led by the opposition. The protests were spontaneous
and were driven by anger at the torture and humiliation of 15 school boys in
protesters began to organise themselves and formed small organisational
committees - initially consisting of as few as two members - to draft slogans
and mobilise other Syrians to join the demonstrations. Those small committees
are credited for expanding protests town by town and city by city. The
committees have performed wide-ranging roles, from intercommunication and
logistic support to passing on news materials to Syrian activists outside the
country, who turned their rented rooms in Beirut and Istanbul to studios, to
send the videos and news on to the international media. They helped keep Syria
in the spotlight despite the absence of professional news reports from inside
the protests grew, the mission of the committees became more complex and
required more coordination to provide activists with necessary equipments to
cover the events and pass donations to victims and affected areas.
more coordination committees were established and as days went by they came
under one bloc: the largely secular Local Coordination Committees in Syria
(LCCS). Another bloc, the predominantly religious Syrian Revolution
Coordinators Union (SRCU) was created later. The establishment of the union was
clearly a result of disagreement in viewpoints among the protesters themselves,
especially as they both performed similar roles. The union members might have
been unhappy with the committees' rejection of any foreign help. Many protests
had no qualms in asking for foreign help, although they both reject military
two blocs agreed on sensitive matters such as peaceful uprising, civil state,
unity of Syrian people and rejection of dialogue with the regime. One could
sense, however, an elitist attitude on the part of the local committees -
judging by the statements they have issued in relation to political positions
and statements. The union's statements lately echoed the protesters' demands to
form a national council which the local committees were until recently
reluctant about. To make the council a reality, the union formed the Syrian
Revolution General Commission which has included activists from inside and
outside the country, tasked to set up a national council for the opposition.
last month, another bloc was formed: Syrian Revolutionary Council of
Coordinating Committees. It is a dubious council that has no apparent new
significance, headed by Muhammad Rahhal, who claimed to be the only member who
lives outside Syria. Mr Rahhal openly called for arming the protesters.
issue worth highlighting is the source of funding. The regime often argued that
because protesters would need funding for such facilities, that indicates they
receive funds from foreign hands. I have learnt through contacts in Syria that
a large number of businessmen have secretly joined the anti-regime protests.
Their support has direct effect on the ground, as protests become more
organised. Many businesses in the affected areas are closed but the owners are
still paying their staff as well as donating to victims and the unemployed.
also do not need a lot of money to operate, relying on basic communication
equipments despite their security risks and the firm restrictions on the
the regime accused them of receiving foreign funds and refused to recognise
them as legitimate partners in dialogue. In the "national dialogue
conference", held on July 10 and headed by Vice President Farouk Al-Shara,
the regime selected opposition figures - some respectable figures - who have no
direct contact with the protest movement. The regime realised that recognition
of the new blocs would legitimise them For that reason, the security forces
chose to hunt them down and arrest them. Now the Assad regime might have no
choice but negotiate with the newly-formed Syrian National Council.
formation of the council was delayed for six weeks largely due to differences
over the scale of representation for activists on the ground. Eventually, it
was agreed to give them the majority of seats. These emerging forces are the
new political reality in Syria and can no longer be ignored. It is they who
will eventually help end the rule of the Baath party.
-This commentary was published in The National on 05/10/2011
-Muhammad Ali is a Syrian political analyst and activist based in Istanbul