This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2018)
The first opposition structures to form in the Syrian uprising
were local protest-organizing committees. These formed in April 2011, as protesters graduated from spontaneous protests to protests organized by meetings beforehand.
The Syrian uprising phase
, from March 2011 until the start of August 2011, was characterized by a consensus for nonviolent struggle among the uprising's participants.
Thus the conflict could not have been yet characterized as a "civil war", until army units defected in response to government reprisals against the protest movement
.This occurred 2012, allowing the conflict to meet the definition of "civil war."
A broader opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
, was formed in November 2012 and has gained recognition as the "legitimate representative of the Syrian people" by the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
(CCASG) and as a "representative of aspirations of Syrian people" by the Arab League
The Syrian National Coalition was subsequently considered to take the seat of Syria in the Arab League, with the representative of Bashar Al-Assad's
government suspended that year. The Syrian National Council, initially a part of the Syrian National Coalition, withdrew on 20 January 2014 in protest at the decision of the coalition to attend the Geneva talks
Despite tensions, the Syrian National Council retained a degree of ties with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Syrian opposition groups held reconciliation talks in Astana, Kazakhstan in October 2015.
In late 2015, the Syrian Interim Government
relocated its headquarters to the Turkish-occupied areas
in North Syria and began to execute some authority in the area. In 2017, the opposition government in the Idlib Governorate was challenged by the rival Syrian Salvation Government
, backed by the Islamist faction Hayat Tahrir al-Sham
A July 2015 ORB International poll of 1,365 adults across all of Syria's 14 governorates found that about 26 percent of the population supported the Syrian opposition (41 percent in the areas it controlled), compared to 47 percent who supported the Syrian Arab Republic's government (73 percent in the areas it controlled), 35 percent who supported the Al-Nusra Front
(58 percent in the areas it controlled), and 22 percent who supported the Islamic State
(71 percent in the areas it controlled).
A March 2018 ORB International Poll with a similar method and sample size found that support had changed to 40% Syrian government, 40% Syrian opposition (in general), 15% Syrian Democratic Forces
, 10% al-Nusra Front, and 4% Islamic State (crossover may exist between supporters of factions).
Organized by Ammar al-Qurabi
's National Organization for Human Rights in Syria
and financed by the wealthy Damascene Sanqar family, it led to a final statement refusing compromise or reform solutions, and to the election of a 31-member leadership.
The Syrian opposition does not have a definitive political structure. In December 2015, members of the Syrian opposition convened in Riyadh
, Saudi Arabia: 34 groups attended the convention, which aimed to produce a unified delegation for negotiations with the Syrian government.
Notable groups present included:
The December 2015 convention notably did not include:
National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
Official logo of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
is a coalition of opposition groups and individuals, mostly exilic, who support the Syrian revolution side and oppose the Assad government ruling Syria. It formed on 11 November 2012 at a conference of opposition groups and individuals held in Doha
. It has relations with other opposition organizations such as the Syrian National Council, the previous iteration of an exilic political body attempting to represent the grassroots movement; the union of the two was planned,[by whom?]
but has failed to realize. Moderate Islamic preacher Moaz al-Khatib
, who had protested on the Syrian street in the early nonviolent phase of the uprising, served a term as the president of the coalition, but soon resigned his post, frustrated with the gap between the body and the grassroots of the uprising inside Syria. Riad Seif
and Suheir Atassi
, both of whom had also protested on the street in Syria early in the uprising, were elected as vice presidents. Mustafa Sabbagh is the coalition's secretary-general.
Notable members of the Coalition include:
Syrian National Council
Notable members of the Council include:
National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change
Notable former members of the Committee have included:
Syrian Democratic Council
The Syrian Democratic Council is considered an "alternative opposition" bloc.
Its leaders included former NCC members such as Riad Darar
, a "key figure" in the Syrian opposition, and Haytham Manna
, who resigned from the SDC in March 2016 in protest of its announcement of the Northern Syria Federation
The SDC was rejected by some other opposition groups due to its system of federalism.
Other groups affiliated with Syrian opposition
- 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 Muslim Brotherhood has issued statements of support for the Syrian uprising. Other sources have described the group as having "risen from the ashes", "resurrected itself" to be a dominant force in the uprising. The Muslim Brotherhood has constantly lost influence with militants on the ground, who have defected from the Brotherhood affiliated Shields of the Revolution Council to the Islamic Front.
- Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians: nucleus of a Syrian secular and democratic opposition that appeared during the Syrian civil war. It came about through the union of a dozen Muslim and Christian, Arab and Kurd parties, who called the minorities of Syria to support the fight against the government 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 SNC, is Randa Kassis.
- Syrian Turkmen Assembly: A recently formed assembly of Syrian Turkmens which constitutes a coalition of Turkmen parties and groups in Syria. It is against the partition of Syria after the collapse of Baath government. The common decision of Syrian Turkmen Assembly is: "Regardless of any ethnic or religious identity, a future in which everybody can be able to live commonly under the identity of Syrian is targeted in the future of Syria."
Syrian Turkmen National Bloc
: An opposition party of Syrian Turkmens, which was founded in February 2012. The chairman of the political party is Yusuf Molla.
- 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.
- 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 the wish to replace Bashar al-Assad with the authoritarian state apparatus intact, and to guarantee the safety of government members, while also making vague allusions to a "transition". Rifaat has his own political organisation, the United National Democratic Rally.
- Syrian Revolution General Commission: Syrian coalition of 40 Syrian opposition groups to unite their efforts during the Syrian civil war that was announced[by whom?] on 19 August 2011 in Istanbul.
- Hizb ut-Tahrir
Syrian Interim Government
At a conference held in Istanbul on 19 March 2013 members of the National Coalition elected Ghassan Hitto
as prime minister of an interim government
for Syria, the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). Hitto has announced that a technical government
will be formed which will be led by between 10 and 12 ministers, with the Free Syrian Army
choosing the Minister of Defense.
The SIG is based in Turkey. It has been the primary civilian authority throughout most of opposition-held Syria. Its system of administrative local councils operate services such as schools and hospitals in these areas, as well as the Free Aleppo University.
By late 2017, it presided over 12 provincial councils and over 400 elected local councils. It also operates a major border crossing between Syria and Turkey, which generates an estimated $1 million revenue each month.
It is internationally recognized by the European Union and the United States, among others. It maintains diplomatic ties with some non-FSA rebel groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham
, but is in conflict with the more extreme Tahrir al-Sham
, which is one of the largest armed groups in Idlib Governorate.
Syrian Salvation Government
The Syrian Salvation Government
is an alternative government of the Syrian opposition seated within Idlib Governorate
, which was formed by the General Syrian Conference in September 2017.
The domestic group has appointed Mohammed al-Sheikh as head of the Government with 11 more ministers for Interior, Justice, Endowment, Higher Education, Education, Health, Agriculture, Economy, Social Affairs and Displaced, Housing and Reconstruction and Local Administration and Services. Al-Sheikh, in a press conference held at the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing
has also announced the formation of four commissions: Inspection Authority, Prisoners and missing Affairs, Planning and Statistics Authority, and the Union of Trade Unions.
The founder of the Free Syrian Army
, Col. Riad al-Asaad
, was appointed as deputy prime minister for military affairs.
The SSG is associated with Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham
(HTS) and not recognised by the rest of the opposition, which is in conflict with HTS.
There is a sharp ideological divide between the two competing opposition civil authorities: The SIG espouses secular
, moderate values and regularly participates in international peace talks; the SSG enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic law and stringently rejects talks with the Syrian regime.
Various Syrian opposition groups have at least some presence in seven Syrian governorates, though none is fully under the control of the entity. Governorates with partial opposition control include:
Governorates under partial control of opposition groups aligned with the Syrian Interim Government:
Governorates under partial control of opposition groups aligned with the Syrian Democratic Council:
Turkish-Controlled territories and territories controlled by the Syrian Interim Government
In April 2015, after the Second Battle of Idlib
, the interim seat of the Syrian Interim Government was proposed to be Idlib, in the Idlib Governorate. However, this move was rejected by the al-Nusra Front
and Ahrar al-Sham
-led Army of Conquest
, which between them controlled Idlib.
According to the Syrian National Coalition, in 2017 there were 404 opposition-aligned local councils operating in villages, towns, and cities controlled by rebel forces.
In 2016, the Syrian Interim Government became established within the Turkish Controlled areas
Territories governed by the Salvation Government
The Salvation Government extends authority mostly in the Idlib Governorate.
Recognition and foreign relations
The foreign relations of the Syrian Opposition
refers to the external relations of the self-proclaimed oppositional Syrian Arab Republic, which sees itself as the genuine Syria. The region of control of Syrian opposition affiliated groups is not well defined. The Turkish government recognizes Syrian opposition as the genuine Syrian Arab Republic and hosts several of its institutions on its territory. The seat of Syria in the Arab League is reserved for the Syrian opposition since 2014, but not populated.
Initially, the Free Syrian Army
was perceived as the ultimate military force of the Syrian Opposition, but with the collapse of many FSA factions and emergence of powerful Islamist groups, it became clear to the opposition that only a cooperation of secular military forces and moderate Islamists could form a sufficient coalition to battle both the Syrian Government forces and radical Jihadists such as ISIL and in some cases al-Nusra Front.
- Free Syrian Army: 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. It has also been reported that many former Syrian Consulates are trying to band together a Free Syrian Navy from fishermen and defectors to secure the coast.
Syrian Turkmen Brigades
: An armed opposition structure of Syrian Turkmens fighting against Syrian Armed Forces. It is also the military wing of Syrian Turkmen Assembly. It is led by Colonel Muhammad Awad and Ali Basher.
- Islamic Front: An Islamist rebel group formed in November 2013 and led by Ahrar al-Sham. It was always a loose alliance and was defunct by 2015.
Other rebel fighting forces:
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, leading Human-Rights Advocate, Founder of Tharwa Foundation, first Syrian to testify in front of American Congress 2006/2008, briefed Presidents of the United States, and called for Syria Revolution in 2006.
- Aref Dalilah, prominent economist, professor, former member of Syrian Parliament and a member of the Damascus Declaration
- Burhan Ghalioun, former head of the SNC
- Riad al-Asaad, a leader in 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 rightsactivist 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 former spokesperson of the SNC
- Radwan Ziadeh, co-spokesperson for the SNC
- Randa Kassis, president of the Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians
- Fadwa Suleiman, leader of protests in Homs
- Razan Ghazzawi, prominent blogger
- Samar Yazbek, Syrian author and journalist. She was awarded the 2012 PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage Award for her book, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution. She fled Syria in 2011 but continues to be an outspoken critic of the al-Assad government from abroad, from Europe and the US.
- Razan Zaitouneh, leader in the Local Coordination Committees of Syria and the 2011 Sakharov Prize winner
- Muhammad al-Yaqoubi Sunni Muslim scholar and preacher, currently residing in exile in Morocco
- Hussam Awak, ex-Syrian Air Force and Air Force Intelligence Directorate officer who later joined the Syrian Democratic Forces
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