In mounting pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s main opposition groups agreed on Sunday to join a newly formed national council. For the Syrian opposition, this is the first step towards overthrowing al-Assad but the Syrian President, for now, remains unimpressed. By KHADIJA PATEL.
By forming a national council, the Syrian opposition has taken a leaf out of the Libyan rebels’ book. The Libyan rebels formed a National Transitional Council during the uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, which won international recognition and has gone on to become the country’s de facto government.
The Syrian National Council, which was announced in Istanbul on Sunday, has a general assembly, a general secretariat and an executive committee, whose members will chair the council through a rotation process. The diversity of the Syrian factions opposing Al-Assad is emphasised in the make-up of the council: an Islamist outlook vested in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is joined by secular groups, Kurdish factions, the pro-democracy Damascus Declaration and the Local Coordination Committees, which led Syrian street protests. Until Sunday, it had been impossible to unify the varying opposition factions under one umbrella group. The council’s credibility will be tested in its ability to overlook divergent views and remain cohesive in the face of Al-Assad’s brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters.
The Syrian uprising has until recently been described as a peaceful one. Recent reports however indicate that factions of the opposition have begun to fire against government forces, exemplifying the threat of an impending civil war. Syrian armed forces have continued to stamp out dissidents in various parts of the country and the United Nations indicates that the death toll continues to rise.
The formation of the council is seen as a preamble to an invitation to military intervention in the ongoing crisis in Syria. The council is yet to overtly request that a no-fly zone a-la-Libya be enforced over Syria, but has already implored the world to help the embattled Syrian people. In a statement released on Sunday, it said: “The Council demands international governments and organisations meet their responsibility to support the Syrian people, protect them and stop the crimes and gross human rights violations being committed by the illegitimate current regime.” DM
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall