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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

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

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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 US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
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.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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