The reality of Syria’s opposition

Is the job of the media to report or make news, to provide a channel for expressing views or direct its audience? Is its mission to reflect realities or formulate them?

Is it the media's job to introduce public figures to the audience or to impose certain people on its viewers?

All these questions linger unanswered as the Syrian uprising enters its second year with the prospects for change wrecked, after both the regime and the opposition have managed to turn the country into a battlefield for regional powers wishing to control it.

When the uprising started in Syria a year ago, along with the seemingly successful uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, the ongoing struggle in Bahrain and the militaristic revolution in Libya, the divide between the proponents of tyranny and liberation was already clear.

The international community — or rather the United States and its Arab allies — dealt an indirect blow to this movement of popular mobility by lending momentum to efforts to form the Syrian National Council (SNC), which was appointed in a fashion no more democratic than Bashar al-Assad himself.

The creation of the SNC, as opposed to the National Coordination Committee (NCC), led to a rift within the Syrian opposition, for the former has introduced the language of treason, transformed the Syrian struggle into an internal one between members of the opposition, and finally led to the legitimization of some sectarian voices and those calling for the normalization of ties with Israel. The SNC, a Turkey-based Syrian “government-in-exile,” stands in contrast to the National Coordination Committee (NCC), which is an opposition front comprising mostly of left-leaning political parties and individual activists both inside and outside of Syria.

The SNC represented a watershed for the Syrian uprising: It thrust regional and international powers into the Syrian revolution by pledging a future Syria whose economic and political future would serve US interests, as well as those of America’s Turkish and Qatari clients.

Moreover, the Syrian regime, which is no longer worthy of criticism having collapsed both politically and morally, has managed to bait Syrian revolutionaries with the SNC into internationalizing the Syrian question.

The SNC managed to lure opponents of the regime with its populist language and emotional one-upmanship, while Gulf media worked to tarnish the image of the NCC by accusing its members of negligence, ridiculing its measures, and casting doubt over the credibility of its members.

The NCC in fact represents the sensible opposition but was subjected to smear campaigns by the media for insisting on certain political and ethical stances in its discourse. The NCC has consistently refused to ally with radical Islamists, particularly those promoting excommunication and anathema and other shady groups that do not fit with the Syrian societal fabric, to avoid a reproduction of the Lebanese or Balkan scenarios.

Secondly, the NCC rejected devious coordination with international powers as was done with Iraq or Libya, in the belief that foreign intervention threatens the collapse of the entire nation.

We should then rightfully ask why the Syrian uprising is being exclusively represented by the SNC. The vast majority of the SNC's members belong to the economic and political right, in addition to including various religious fundamentalists. That strange alliance — which is suspiciously sponsored by the US, welcomed by Turkey and well-received by Qatar and countries subservient to the island nation — raises questions about the legitimacy of the SNC and its peculiar role in the future of Syria.

What guarantees has the SNC given to the major Western powers that other elements of the opposition have failed to provide?

The battle, therefore, is over who can best guarantee the interests of those major powers. In the battle to deploy a missile shield around Russia, supply Qatari and Asian gas to Europe, and destroy Iran's sole ally in the coming nuclear war, it seems the only victims are the unarmed people of Syria caught between their suppressive bloody regime and opportunistic opposition leadership negotiating strategic, economic and political gains at the expense of Syrian lives.

The Syrian uprising is on the verge of degenerating into a civil war, given the inability of the leaders of the Syrian opposition to formulate a discourse that attracts the country’s diverse minorities. They fear a discourse that will excommunicate them, accuse them of treason or allow the spilling of their blood.

The greatest challenge for Syrians is to liberate themselves from the former Baathist mindset that imprisoned them for the past 40 years. This mindset is enslaving those who are still willing to beg and double-deal to safeguard their status.

Let’s hope that the coming year will see new young Syrian leaders who act in the interest of their country, rather than just seek power. A liberated Syria needs a genuine national dialogue that encompasses supporters and opponents of the regime alike.

This required leadership is one that disposes of the rhetoric promoted by the regime’s proponents and the opposition groups over the last year, and that deems sovereignty and democracy not to be mutually exclusive. We want a democratic, sovereign and free Syria. We want a democracy that overthrows Bashar al-Assad and appoints a national government not subdued by imperialist powers, a leadership that can maintain national sovereignty and the option to resist without being undermined through provocative media campaigns.

Khodor Salameh is a Lebanese journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://jou3an.wordpress.com/

Translated by Dina Zafer

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