News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition Groups Try to Meld Divergent Approaches

Syrian protesters shout anti-Assad slogans during a protest in front of the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, November 12, 2011.
Syrian protesters shout anti-Assad slogans during a protest in front of the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, November 12, 2011.
Elizabeth Arrott

As the Arab League moves closer to Syria's opposition, differences in both aims and approach among anti-government forces are coming to the fore.

Syria's opposition is united on one point: the status quo cannot hold - and many praise the Arab League for the way it framed the issue.

The league's ultimatum for a withdrawal of security forces, the release of jailed opponents and dialogue has some activists calling it a strategic move that highlights the Syrian government's plight.

A Look At Syria's Main Opposition Groups

  • Syrian National Council:

    Turkey-based coalition of varying ideologies is Syria's largest opposition grouping. Secular dissident Bourhan Ghalioun announced the council's formation in October and said it rejects foreign intervention. Rejects dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad's government and has been urging him to resign. Has created a general assembly, a general secretariat and an executive committee whose members will chair the council on a rotating basis.

  • National Coordination Committee:

    Primarily based in Syria. Wants the government to enact reforms though dialogue and by building new civilian institutions. Headed by Hassan Abdul-Azim, who has been demanding an end to President Assad's crackdown as a condition for any dialogue between the government and the opposition.

  • Free Syrian Army:

    Comprises thousands of military defectors. Formed initially to protect civilians but has shown an increased willingness to go on the offensive against pro-government forces.

Cairo-based activist Mohamed Aloush says if the regime implements the Arab League plan, it is finished -if it does not implement the plan, it is finished as well.  The independent activist says the government fell the moment the uprising began and now it is just trying to buy time.

The Arab League and others are reaching out to members of Syria's opposition, reportedly even the government's long-time backer, Iran.  But even as the call for change grows - most recently from Jordan's King Abdullah - divisions among anti-government forces are emerging.  

Reform through dialogue

Among the disparate voices is the National Coordination Committee, led by Hassan Abdul-Azim.  The mainly Syria-based group hopes to persuade the government to reform through dialogue and building civil institutions.  The approach has earned the NCC the wrath of other activists, who threw eggs at members engaged in talks in Cairo last week.

Activist Aloush thinks the reaction is unfair. He says there is no denying the NCC has people who carry weight within the opposition and have a documented history of struggle.  Their patriotism, he adds, cannot be doubted.

But many in the opposition look to another group, the Turkey-based Syrian National Council.  Its supporters prefer the group's rejection of dialogue with the government of President Bashar al-Assad and just want him to leave.  

Supporter Abdel Kader of the opposition Syria Media Office says the Syrian National Council represents the "Syrian street," and that can be seen in a recent rally in its support, which he says drew millions of people.

Despite their differences on goals, the two groups are united in their methods.  Both share a commitment to peaceful protests, no matter what the provocation of Syrian government forces.

Offensive stance

But a third group has shown increasing willingness to go on the offensive.  The Free Syrian Army, made up of some of the estimated 10,000 military defectors, was initially formed to protect civilians, but some members have recently gone on the attack.

Amateur video indicates they are also increasingly better armed, trading the standard-issue rifles they defected with for machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The idea of armed resistance is gaining traction among some government opponents.  Activist Taha Khelo has been keeping vigil outside Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

Khelo calls for a no-fly zone, to keep the Syrian military under control, and the creation of a buffer zone for civilians as well as military defectors from which they can attack government forces.

Political observers say regional and international action, or inaction, on Syria in the coming days could either help coalesce or further divide these competing groups.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More