Posted by Joshua on Sunday, February 12th, 2012
The Real Opposition in Syria is Not the Syrian National Council or Free Syrian Army
By Idaf (who recently left Syria and has been working with opposition activists)
12 February 2012 for Syria Comment
It’s a grave mistake to put all opposition in one group. Some are worse than the regime, some as bad, others are smart, savvy with a plan. Of course you only hear in the news (and sometimes though selective attention as Alex calls it) about those pushed by the different powers (Qatar, France, Saudi, etc.) like the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), because they best fit the agenda of the sensationalist media. Everybody (including Ehsani in his previous article) willingly ignore the large activist networks on the ground and those independent and rational political opposition groups inside who are not proxies for other powers, who have a plan and working for a state after the regime is gone, not for revenge like the opposition you hear about in the media.
Simplifying things by using the “Regime vs. SNC/FSA” shallow lens only helps the regime. Media, policy makers and think tanks should be educated about the richness of the opposition and how they should focus more on the real opposition, not the one shoved by the Aljazeera down the throat of Syrians (SNC) or the FSA myth that perfectly fits the agenda of regime, the Islamists, and the media, all at the same time. As someone who is in touch with all key opposition groups and the activists on the ground, I can tell you that I’m fed up with the simplified, naive views and the manipulative perception management tactics that aim to draw unrealistic picture about the conflict by conveniently framing it simply as idiot proxies and armed elements (SNC/FSA) vs. the brutal mass-murderer autocratic regime (the regime). While both description of the two groups are accurate, but there is much more to the opposition than the SNC and FSA.
The amount of political opportunism, corruption, lack of vision and lack of independence in the SNC is staggering and identical to the Iraqi National Congress. The SNC is becoming less relevant by the day. The FSA is a myth, as there is no coordinated group of militants across the country, only hundreds of small militias that have nothing in common in terms of ideology, arms, political awareness or anything else for that matter. Pushing the “FSA” in the media is just a media phenomenon that fits some agendas and gives false hope to the people inside. It also fits nicely with the regime’s line.
The real opposition is maturing and growing in influence inside and on the ground away from the influence of Qatar, Turkey, Saudi, France or the US. It is a matter of time before the regime gives way. Soon the SNC will be simply remembered as something like one of the many Iraqi opportunistic opposition groups that mushroomed just before the war on Iraq. The FSA myth will be debunked but the militias will continue to exist. The regime maybe able to crush or maneuver its way for a while with a combination of “Souria Allah 7amiha” strikes of luck coupled with idiotic strategic mistakes from the SNC/FSA, but new more realistic, mature, civic and political powers are taking shape on the ground and will be emerging as powerful players soon. Even if the regime survives this round, there will be new rounds between an exhausted regime and new re-envigorated opposition groups. Forget the SNC and the FSA if you want to talk about the future. The simplistic media and analysts can continue to focus on them as they are sensational enough for media consumption for Syrians abroad, for Arabs and for westerners who are entertaining themselves with watching another Syrian TV series. This time it’s not باب الحارة ["The Door of the Neighborhood," a famous TV series] featuring macho conflicts of good vs. bad on MBC, but باب الخرا ["The door of Shit,"] perception manipulations on Aljazeera and other media. The reality is happening on the ground inside (and online on closed social media networks) with brave and thoughtful groups of Syrians who are working on interim solutions for the conflict, for long term ones for a sustainable state and for justice rather than revenge.
Syrians who want a solution should focus on channeling their energy towards reducing the impact of the fall of the regime rather than supporting the SNC/FSA or supporting the regime out of fear of the “FSA”, the Islamists or the militants. Everyone should stop simply forcing the Syrians to chose between the Regime or SNC/FSA/Islamists. These are not the only options. Far from it.
They are multiple movements shaping and reshaping on weekly basis. Most activists are learning and maturing with time. They change their views and jump from one group to another according to events and developments. When one’s friend or family gets detained or killed they move from peaceful to supporting violence. When you argue with those supporting violence they change their mind, etc. The movements are in constant change but you can notice the fast organic maturity.
Why don’t you hear about them?
1- The international media is lazy and sloppy and has settled for simplifying things. They like a good vs. bad story and don’t want to lose their audience by explaining the complex reality.
2- The movements themselves are secretive in nature as the only survival tactic.
3- Most of these movements bring together people with different political and ideological points of view. They work on unified broad lines. As such they focus more on 3amal maydani [work on the ground] and not political action.
4- In most of these movements, politics is frowned upon and activism is glorified. Doing politics publicly (even as opposition to the regime) is still viewed as opportunism and “riding the revolution”. It’ a matter of time till some of these groups get enough legitimacy to lead politically. In other words, doing politics is still suicide within the revolution. Only those groups or individuals that have some sort of earlier political legitimacy can work publicly in politics (and very few have survived or remain in the country due to the brutality of the regime).
These are some of the reasons.