Syrian Opposition Activists Form Council, Warn of Civil War

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photographer: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Syrian activists formed a council to coordinate efforts to end President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and stop his deadly crackdown that has claimed more than 3,600 lives this year.

The so-called Syrian National Council will include the head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political party banned in the country, as well as Kurdish and other groups, Burhan Ghaliun, a political sociologist at Paris’s Sorbonne University and member of the council, told reporters in Istanbul today. Assad’s crackdown on dissenters threatens the country with civil war, he said.

Syria’s opposition is following the path taken by Libya’s rebels, who formed a National Transitional Council during that country’s uprising. The NTC became the main governing authority in Libya in late August after seizing Tripoli, the capital, and ending the four-decade rule of Muammar Qaddafi. The Libyan and Syrian revolts were inspired by a wave of unrest that unseated Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak the following month.

“It benefits everyone to establish a common platform for these leaderless groups, where there is uncertainty as to whether they have shared goals,” Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations and political science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a good thing for them to unite under one roof.”

While the council rejects any outside intervention in Syria’s internal affairs, it seeks United Nations protection for the Syrian people, Ghaliun said.

Minorities ‘Scared’

Assad’s regime “stands today because minorities are rightfully scared about who will protect them if it falls,” said Ozel. “They are forming this council and will slowly seek to establish their credibility. We’ll see if they will gain the international community’s respect going forward.”

The council will have an executive panel of six or seven people, who will rotate chairmanship, said Basma Qadmani, another opposition figure. The head of the opposition council, which seeks to establish a democratic government, hasn’t been decided, Ghaliun said.

Assad’s crackdown has left more than 3,600 civilians dead since the protests began in March, according to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria. About 30,000 people have also been detained and 13,000 are still being held, he said. About 700 members of the state security forces have been killed in the uprising.

Draft Resolution

European nations on the UN Security Council on Sept. 29 circulated a fourth version of their draft resolution on Syria in a continuing bid to win Russia’s support. It deletes the word “sanctions,” instead threatening to adopt “targeted measures” in the event that Assad’s government doesn’t halt attacks on protesters. The text also drops a reference to possible referral of alleged crimes to the International Criminal Court and adds a line that “urges all sides to reject violence and extremism.”

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