Raid, rift cloud Syrian opposition’s unity deal

Representatives of Syrian tribes and members of the Syrian opposition inside Syria raid a meeting of the Syrian National Council, a collection of Syrian opposition movements
Syrian dissidents fight on the sidelines of a gathering of Syrian opposition leaders and activists in Istanbul on Sunday. AFP photo

Syrian dissidents fight on the sidelines of a gathering of Syrian opposition leaders and activists in Istanbul on Sunday. AFP photo

Syrian opposition groups meeting in Istanbul on Sunday announced they had reached agreement on a united front, but their achievement was overshadowed by representatives of Syrian tribes who raided the hosting hotel and delayed the start of the gathering.

Representatives of Syrian tribes and dissidents who call themselves “Opposition on the Streets” raided the meeting of Syrian opposition movements and claimed they were being excluded from the opposition-formed Syrian National Council.

Representatives of the Syrian opposition movements were holding a meeting Sunday to announce that they had formed a common front uniting all groups that oppose the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. But the meeting started with a one-hour delay because the Syrian tribal representatives raided the hotel where the meeting was being held. More than 100 Syrian dissidents came to the hotel and wanted to attend the meeting of the Syrian National Council that was announced in Istanbul in August.

A verbal confrontation erupted between opposition groups after the representatives of the Arab tribes were not let inside by the other members of the council.

Police forces were called to the hotel to prevent a clash between the two groups.

“We are from inside Syria. Many Arab tribes have sacrificed themselves in Syria for the revolution, and we are not being represented here in the National Council that is being formed by Syrians outside Syria,” President of the Arab Tribes Ben Wafian Methgal told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.

“We will give the leaders of this council one month. If they don’t fulfill the Syrian street hopes of ending and finishing the Assad regime and giving the Syrian resistance their freedom, then we will create another council that must be named from the Syrian streets, not from the exterior opposition, which will be considered illegitimate by the Syrian opposition inside,” Methgal said.

Members of the Syrian National Council refused the claims and said the Arab tribes and representatives of the revolution were already represented in the council.

“The Syrian National Council is open to all Syrians. It is an independent group personifying the sovereignty of the Syrian people in their struggle for liberty,” Paris-based Burhan Ghalioun told reporters. “The council rejects any outside interference that undermines the sovereignty of the Syrian people.”

Ghalioun, a France-based academic, was recently designated leader of the opposition group National Transitional Council, which has Islamist and nationalist supporters.

The new opposition grouping announced on Sunday unites Syrian opposition movements across the political spectrum and includes local coordination committees that group activists on the ground, liberals, and the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood as well as Kurds and Syriacs.

Representatives of Syria’s six-month-old protest movement and opposition had been meeting since Tuesday to forge a united front against Assad’s regime, which the U.N. says has killed at least 2,700 people since protests erupted in mid-March.



Sunday, October 2, 2011
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News