The head of Syria’s main opposition bloc, Burhan Ghalioun, admitted after resigning Thursday that the Syrian National Council (SNC) was riven with divisions and has not lived up to Syrians’ sacrifices.
“We were not up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people. We did not answer the needs of the revolution enough and quickly enough,” Ghalioun told AFP, adding that the bloc was split between Islamists and secular activists.
The Paris-based academic said he resigned because “he did not want to be the candidate of division” within the SNC and “to say that this path of divisions between Islamist and secular does not work.”
Ghalioun said the SNC’s slowness was down to the consensual way it was run.
“The current formula is a coalition formula of a few parties and political groups that monopolize decisions and don’t give any chance to members to really take part in decisions, that’s what caused a lot of inertia,” he said.
“We were slow, the revolution goes at 100 kilometers per hour and we move at 100 meters per hour perhaps because we were blocked by this consensus rule,” he said.
More than 12,600 people, the majority of them civilians, have died since the Syrian uprising began, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, including nearly 1,500 since the putative UN-backed truce took effect April 12.
Ghalioun, formally resigned from his post, a statement issued by the Syrian National Council said Thursday after a two-day meeting in Istanbul.
Ghalioun, a secular sociologist backed by the Brotherhood, announced his resignation on May 17 to avert divisions within the opposition bloc, after activists on the ground accused him of monopolizing power.
The statement also said Syria’s unwillingness to stick to a peace deal brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and the continuing shelling and killing in the country were “a deliberate attempt to scupper the plan.”
It called on “the international community to immediately act to adopt a new mechanism, through the (U.N.) Security Council, to force the Syrian regime to put an end to its crimes because as it is this regime only reacts to force.”
Squabbling in the council has undermined international support for the opposition, as a military crackdown against the 14-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, now coupled with an armed insurgency against his rule, shows no signs of relenting.
A new leader could be key to winning international recognition for the council and allaying Western concerns about the rise of Islamists as the main force in the 14-month popular uprising. The Islamists already dominate the council but are divided between the Muslim Brotherhood and other factions.
The council’s executive bureau decided at a meeting in Istanbul to convene the 50-member general secretariat in the Turkish capital on June 11 and 12 to elect a replacement for Ghalioun, the statement added, according to Reuters.
Opposition activists last week had spoken of the “deteriorating situation in the SNC” when the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists on the ground in Syria, threatened on Thursday to pull out of opposition bloc the Syrian National Council over its “monopolization” of power.
“The deteriorating situation in the SNC is an impetus for us to take actions, which could begin with a freeze (of LCC membership in the SNC) and end with a withdrawal if errors are not solved and demands for reform go unmet,” the LCC said in a statement.
These “errors” were “a total absence of consensus between the SNC’s vision and that of the revolutionaries”; “a marginalization of most (LCC) representatives”; and “a monopolization of decision-making by influential members of the executive bureau.”
The SNC was particularly criticized for not sufficiently coordinating with activists on the ground, and for the strong influence wielded by Syrian Muslim Brotherhood representatives.
Ghalioun, who is a professor and lives in Paris, was not new to Syrian uprisings; in fact he returned to the scene in 2011 picking up from where he left off.
Ten years ago, he participated in the Damascus Spring, a period of intense political debate after the death of President Hafez al-Assad, in June 2000, and which continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.