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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs