The Syrian opposition (Arabic: المعارضة السورية Al-Mu'aradah Al-Suriyah) is an umbrella term for groups and individuals calling for regime change in Syria and who oppose its Ba'athist government. Opposition groups in Syria took a new turn in 2011 after the Syrian civil war as they united to form the Syrian National Council that has managed to get international support and recognized as partner for dialogue. The SNC is recognized by at least one country, Libya.
Syria was under Emergency Law since 1963 when the Ba'ath Party took power in a coup. The head of state since 1971 has been a member of the Assad family. Under Hafez's time as a president of Syria, from 1980 onward opposition to the Ba'athist regime had been prohibited. Five principal security agencies served primarily to monitor political dissent. The state of emergency meant military courts apply martial law and special courts try political cases with no regard for human rights or due process. Prisoners were routinely tortured and held in appalling conditions. Following the death of Hafez al-Assad in June 2000 his son, Bashar, took over as new president of Syria. When the Arab Spring broke out, Syrian protesters began consolidating opposition councils.
Syrian National Council
SNC is a coalition of Syrian opposition groups based in Istanbul, Turkey that was formed in 2011 during the Syrian civil war. Key people are current chairman Abdulbaset Sieda as well as ex chairman Burhan Ghalioun.
- Muslim Brotherhood: Islamist party founded in 1930. The brotherhood was behind the Islamic uprising in Syria between 1976 until 1982. The party is banned in Syria and membership became a capital offence in 1980. The regime of Bashar al Assad and others have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being key players in the Syrian uprising that escalated into a civil war. Other sources have described the group as having "risen from the ashes", "resurrected itself" to be a dominant force in the uprising. Current leader is Ali Sadreddine Al-Bayanouni.
- Damascus Declaration: Opposition bloc from 2005. Twelve members were sentenced to 2,5 years in prison in 2008. Syrian journalist and activist Michel Kilo launched the declaration, after the Syrian writer and thinker Abdulrazak Eid had written its first draft. Riad Seif, another democracy activist, was the first signatory. The "five small opposition groups" signing the declaration were the Arab nationalist National Democratic Rally, the Kurdish Democratic Alliance, the Committees of Civil Society, the Kurdish Democratic Front and the Movement of the Future. The Movement for Justice and Development in Syria (MJD) also subscribes to the Damascus Declaration. In a series of splits 2007-2009, most members left the Damascus Declaration, leaving the MJD and SDPP (see below) as the only remaining factions of any consequence, along with a number of independents.
- National Democratic Rally: Banned opposition alliance formed in 1980 comprising five political parties of a secularist, pan-Arabist, Arab nationalist and socialist bent; Democratic Arab Socialist Union, Syrian Democratic People's Party, Arab Revolutionary Workers Party, Movement of Arab Socialists, Democratic Socialist Arab Ba'ath Party. In 2006 Communist Labour Party joined the coalition. The Rally originally signed the Damascus Declaration, but most members later split from the group. Among the Rally parties, only the SDPP is now active in the SNC, while most others have joined the NCC, a rival opposition alliance.
- Local Coordination Committees of Syria: Network of local protest groups that organise and report on protests as part of the Syrian civil war, founded in 2011. As of August 2011 , the network supported civil disobedience and opposed local armed resistance and international military intervention as methods of opposing the Syrian government. Key people are activists Razan Zaitouneh and Suhair al-Atassi.
- Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution: Syrian opposition group supporting the overthrow of the Bashar al-Assad's government. It grants local opposition groups representation in its national organization.
- Syrian Revolution General Commission: Syrian coalition of 40 Syrian opposition groups to unite their efforts during the Syrian civil war that was announced on 19 August 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
- Free Syrian Army & Higher Military Council: Paramilitary that has been active during the Syrian civil war. Composed mainly of defected Syrian Armed Forces personnel, its formation was announced on 29 July 2011 in a video released on the internet by a uniformed group of deserters from the Syrian military who called upon members of the Syrian army to defect and join them. The leader of the group, who identified himself as Colonel Riad al-Asaad, announced that the Free Syrian Army would work with demonstrators to bring down the system, and declared that all security forces attacking civilians are justified targets.
- Syrian Liberation Army: an armed insurgent group fighting against the Syrian government in the Idlib province of Syria. It is a loose coalition of localized forces, mostly composed of armed Syrian civilians who have joined the uprising.
- Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians: nucleus of a Syrian secular and democratic opposition that appeared during the Syrian civil war. It was created by the union of a dozen Muslim and Christian, Arab and Kurd parties, who called the minorities of Syria to support the fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Coalition has also called for military intervention in Syria, under the form of a no-fly zone similar to that of Kosovo, with a safe zone and cities. The president of the coalition, who is also a member of the Syrian National Council, is Randa Kassis.
- Syrian Democratic People's Party: A socialist party which played a "key role" in the creation of the SNC. The party's leader George Sabra (a secularist born to a Christian family) is the official spokesman of the SNC, and also ran for chairman.
Other opposition groups
- National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCC or NCB, for National Coordination Bureau): Syrian opposition bloc chaired by Hassan Abdel Azim consisting of about 13 mostly left-leaning political parties and independent political activists, including three Kurdish political parties, and youth activists, operating within Syria and abroad.. The NCC gathers a large proportion of the secular political parties in the pre-revolutionary Syrian dissident movement, mainly leftists and Arab nationalists. Many of its leaders are veteran dissidents, some of them famous former prisoners of conscience. It was the first major coalition formed during the revolution, in summer 2011. It was originally considered a chief rival of the SNC, and portrayed itself as Syria's "internal opposition" (in contrast to the exile-backed SNC), but it has lost influence as the conflict has become more militarized.
- The NCC is isolated within the Syrian opposition, and is not recognized by the Syrian Revolution General Commission, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria or the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution The NCC has failed to come to any agreement with the Syrian National Council. Despite recognizing the Free Syrian Army on 23 September 2012, the FSA has rebuffed any association with the NCC. The NCC differs from the SNC on two main points of strategy:
- 1) The NCC refuses to accept foreign military intervention, although it does accept various forms of support for the opposition and supports Arab League involvement in the conflict.
- 2) It tries to maintain a pacifist stance in relationship to the Syrian regime, despite recently endorsing the Free Syrian Army.
- Syrian National Democratic Council: formed in Paris on 13 November 2011 during the Syrian civil war by Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Bashar al-Assad. Rifaat al-Assad has expressed wishes to replace Bashar al-Assad with the authoritarian state apparatus intact, and guarantee the safety of regime members, while also making vague allusions to a "transition".
Kurdish Supreme Committee
The Kurdish flag flies over cities in the Kurdish statelet
that has emerged in north-eastern Syria.
The Kurdish Supreme Committee is a governing body of Kurdish-held regions in Syria founded by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and Kurdish National Council following cooperation agreement between the two sides, signed on 12 July, in Erbil under auspice of the Iraqi Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani. Its member board consist of equal number of PYD and KNC members.
- Kurdish Democratic Union Party: Kurdish Syrian political party established in 2003 by Arab and Kurdish nationalists in northern Syria. The party is linked with the PKK, Kurdistan Workers' Party, also known as KGK which is considered and listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, the European Union and NATO. The PYD does admit that the two parties have a close relationship, with the PKK not interfering with PYD management of Syrian Kurdish affairs. It is currently not officially registered as a political party in Syria because the Constitution of Syria before 2012 did not allow political parties to be formed without permission.
- Kurdish National Council: The Kurdish National Council was founded in Erbil, Iraq on 26 October 2011, under the sponsorship of President Massoud Barzani, following the earlier creation of the Syrian National Council. The organisation was originally composed of 11 Syrian Kurdish parties, however by May 2012 this had grown to 15. The key difference between the KNC and the SNC is over their approach to the issue of decentralization, with the KNC pressing for Kurdish autonomy, whereas the SNC has rejected anything more than administrative decentralization.
- Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria led by Dr. Abdel Hakim Bashar / Nasreddin Ibrahim
- Kurdish Democratic National Party in Syria led by Tahir Sfook
- Kurdish Democratic Equality Party in Syria led by Aziz Dawe
- Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party in Syria led by Hamid Darwish
- Kurdish Democratic Unity Party in Syria led by Sheikh Ali
- Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria led by Ismail Hamo
- Azadi Kurdish Party in Syria led by Mustafa Oso / Mustafa Jumaa
- Syrian Democratic Kurdish Party led by Sheikh Jamal
- Kurdish Left Party in Syria led by Muhammad Musa
- Yekiti Kurdistani led by Abdul Basit Hamo
- Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria led by Abdul Rahman Aluji / Yusuf Faisal
- Kurdish Democratic Wifaq Party led by Nash’at Muhammad
- Popular Protection Units: Paramilitary fighting against the Syrian government in Syrian Kurdistan. The group was founded by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and Kurdish National Council and is responsible for maintaining order and protecting the lives of residents in Kurdish neighbourhoods.
The regime itself is divided, with several factions calling for either a change of direction under Assad, or for the replacement of Assad and the continuation of the Ba'athist regime.
List of opposition figures
- Abdulrazak Eid, Syrian writer and thinker, participated in finding the Committees for the Civil Society in Syria, wrote the first draft of the Statement of 1000, and participated in drafting the Damascus Declaration, president of the national council of Damascus Declaration abroad.
- Ammar Abdulhamid,Human-Rights Advocate, Founder of Tharwa Foundation, first Syrian to testify in front of American Congress 2006/2008 and briefed President of the United States.
- Aref Dalilah, prominent economist, and a member of the Damascus Declaration
- Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council
- Riad al-Asaad, leader of the Free Syrian Army
- Riad Seif, former head of the Forum for National Dialogue
- Riyad al-Turk, ex-communist politician and liberal democrat
- Haitham al-Maleh, leading human rights activist and former judge
- Anwar al-Bunni, human rights lawyer, democracy activist and political prisoner
- Maher Arar, Syrian-Canadian human rights activist
- Marwan Habash, politician and writer and pre-Assad Minister of Industry
- Michel Kilo, Christian writer and human rights activist, who has been called "one of Syria's leading opposition thinkers"
- Kamal al-Labwani, doctor and artist, considered one of the most prominent members of the Syrian opposition movement
- Tal al-Mallohi, blogger from Homs and world's youngest prisoner of conscience
- Yassin al-Haj Saleh, writer and political dissident
- Fares Tammo, son of assassinated Kurdish politician Mashaal Tammo
- Bassma Kodmani, an academic and spokesperson of the Syrian National Council
- Radwan Ziadeh, co-spokesperson for the Syrian National Council
- Randa Kassis, president of the Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians
- Fadwa Suleiman, leader of protests in Homs
- Razan Ghazzawi, prominent blogger
- Razan Zaitouneh, leader in the Local Coordination Committees of Syria and the 2011 Sakharov Prize winner
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