Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Syrian 'opposition' does not have to prove itself

Syrian political society will show its real face only after the regime is gone – and it needs support to get to that place

Nadim Shehadi
(Associate fellow of Chatham House's Middle East and north Africa programme), Saturday 1 October 2011

"We do not do justice to the Syrian people when we use the term "opposition" to describe those who are in revolt against the Assad regime. What is now being called the opposition is in reality Syrian political society that has been hijacked for decades – and it is from this society with all its rich diversity that a new government and its opposition will emerge after the fall of the regime.

Using the terminology of a regime in power and an "opposition" against it ultimately legitimises the regime itself and puts the onus on that opposition to prove its own legitimacy....

Moreover, we cannot require protesters to confirm their unity; it is natural that they are not united. Diversity is their strength, not their weakness. Nor can we expect them to prove that they are a viable alternative; the Syrian regime has survived by allowing no such alternatives to emerge or to seem viable. It is precisely because of this that the regime is being opposed. If it had allowed for a credible opposition to be visible, there would be no need to change it.

The simple fact is that any person who had the potential to constitute a challenge to the power of the regime has been eliminated, is out of the country, in jail, or dead.....

The real drivers of the revolts are the local co-ordination committees (LCCs) led by courageous youth with very little means and who operate in secrecy using social media. It is not uncommon for western policymakers to be heard asking for a list of the leaders of the LCCs, wanting to know who they are and if they constitute again a viable "opposition" to the regime. If these names were to be known, these local leaders would be already dead and indeed many have paid with their lives when they can be identified and others have taken great risks to participate in meetings. For these youth, the success of the revolt is a matter of life and death and they know very well that there is no turning back....."

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