News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition Struggles to Create Union in War

Syrian youth with megaphone leads rally supporting the Free Syrian Army in the Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district, January 4. (AP)
Syrian youth with megaphone leads rally supporting the Free Syrian Army in the Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district, January 4. (AP)
David Arnold
International support for the 21-month-old uprising in Syria is coming together around a newly formed coalition that hopes it can avoid the chaos and continued bloodshed many have predicted when President Bashar al-Assad’s regime falls.

The new opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), was formed last November at a conference in Doha. Its first order of business has been to find some way to link their own national transition efforts with the political activists and community leaders inside Syria.

So far, the front-line rebel fighters have been pushing ahead with their military offensive faster than their would-be diplomatic allies outside Syria. Thanks to covert outside aid, Syrian Army defectors and captured weaponry, those rebel units have been able to take on and often beat Assad’s military in the larger cities such as Damascus and Aleppo as well as in the oil fields of the northeast. The rebels also effectively control large swathes of the north along the Turkish frontier.
 
The opposition’s politicians and diplomats are now trying to catch up. In the coming weeks, the Syrian National Coalition is expected elect an interim prime minister who will then name a provisional cabinet to govern Syria after Assad’s expected downfall. The plan is that after the country has been stabilized, national elections could be held to choose a parliament.
 
Gulf interests funding local administrations
 
As the Assad regime’s military and government officials withdraw from cities and villages, opposition civic councils are taking on governmental responsibilities such as re-starting schools, courts, trash collection, medical care and other basic services. The SNC already has chosen representatives for each of Syria’s 14 governorates to coordinate the effort.
 
When somebody comes into the country with a million dollars to buy and distribute relief and food, people inside are not going to tell him go away
A key to that process going forward is establishing a political structure between the emerging civic councils inside Syria and the SNC’s provisional headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey. As SNC officials see it, this will allow the coalition to funnel assistance, much of it financial and humanitarian, that is beginning to come in from more than 160 nations and organizations investing in Syria’s future national and local institutions.

A member of the coalition, Jaber Zaien, complains that as of now, no one is coordinating the delivery of civil assistance to Syria. Zaien represents one of the largest of the political activist networks inside Syria. The problem, he says, is similar to what has been happening with military assistance to the Syrian Free Army rebel fighters.
 
“It is the same story it was for the armed groups,” Zaien said. The councils “have been supported by different people and different countries and that is one main reason why it is very difficult for them to unite.”
 
“When somebody comes into the country with a million dollars to buy and distribute relief and food, people inside are not going to tell him go away,” he explained.

Weak links into Syria
 
Shortly after its creation at the conference in Doha, the Syrian National Coalition announced its first effort to coordinate support inside Syria by naming the SNC representatives to the 14 governorates.  The criticism began almost immediately.
 
I think predictions of the unity of the opposition are overstated
Of the 14 representatives, only one – Jalal al-Khanji, an engineer who runs the largest local council in Aleppo – still lives in Syria. Five appointees had left the country in recent months. The others had been outside Syria “for a very long time,” Zaien said.
 
According to Zaien, delegates in Doha had expected the representatives would be chosen by each governorate as local elections became possible. He said delegates were surprised when they arrived at the conference to find out the representatives had already been appointed, apparently with strong input from conference host Qatar.
 
Andrew Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington D.C., indicated this is a sign that the SNC’s efforts are not going smoothly.
 
“I think predictions of the unity of the opposition are overstated,” Tabler said. “The question is, how much sway do they (the 14 appointed representatives) have in their governorates?”
 
Councils emerge under fire to collect trash

Over and above the administrative and bureaucratic issues, trying to set up opposition government structures in the middle of a civil war is dangerous.
 
The place where they were meeting was bombed and 20 out of the 23 were killed
One of the first civic councils was formed three months ago in Deir Azzour, the capital of a governorate on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria. Twenty-three members were elected. They decided to meet secretly in the basement of the city’s Civil Service Building.
 
“The place where they were meeting was bombed and 20 out of the 23 were killed,” said Khalid Saleh, media director for the Syrian National Coalition.  He said the attack was carried out by an Assad regime MiG fighter-bomber, adding that one of the three survivors died a few days later.

Saleh acknowledged that much SNC work needs to be done. He said links to governorates “are not fully created. We don’t have full coverage over the provinces, such as Damascus.”
 
“I know some of the areas are trying to improve on their constituencies,” Saleh said.
 
The rebel-controlled Idlib governorate will hold a conference in the coming month, Saleh said. He added that 75 Syrians were selected to replace the original council in Deir Azzour to represent the governorate’s 84 villages, towns and cities.
 
Zaien acknowledged, however, that some governorates and larger communities are forming their own civic councils not linked to the SNC structures.
 
“You have different sources and different interests and if you cannot unite sources, then it will to be very difficult to unite forces because people are starving,” Zaien said.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
January 10, 2013 8:49 AM
This Syrian, revolution is a stage managed farce paid for by the "Friends of Syria". 60000 dead thanks to them...
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 10, 2013 10:38 PM
I agree. People in Syria lived in peace with Asad, and all was good! But foreign terorists("opositions") want to take this country, they killed peple of Syria, childrens. I hope peple of Syria will protect their country and all be good!

by: mb from: tx
January 09, 2013 2:48 PM
BS, get the foreign fighters out and leave them alone. Assad is doing nothing any other country wouldn't do when attacked from within or outside interference. We need to stop invading all these countries because of the almighty dollar.

by: Clarence Nah from: Monrovia,Liiberia
January 09, 2013 2:28 PM
Just like the prophet Bob Marley said, "everywhere is war". The people of Syria needs to wake up and smell the coffee. War is never the answer. They should look at my country "Liberia" than they will know the true meaning of war-destruction.
In Response

by: mb from: tx
January 09, 2013 3:02 PM
I dont think its the people of Syria, all these countries where fine before the so called Arab Spring. Now look at Iraq and Libya etc,( I know Iraq is not part of AS) destroyed and you hardly have any news. Before it was the dictators that wouldn't allow the news, what now? Like any crime, look to see who benefits.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs