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

Russia's 'V-Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

Critics say Soviet-style display of power, nationalism don't recognize tragic scars of warfare that still influence politics, fighting in Ukraine More

Tensions Simmer in Hong Kong in Lead Up to Vote

Many Hong Kong citizen say if the reform plan will be a step back for the pro-democracy movement if passed More

Multimedia Obama Calls for New Commitment to Help Minority Youths Succeed

President introduces My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, foundation supporting better education and job prospects 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.
Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalistsi
X
May 04, 2015 3:32 PM
Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs