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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid