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Syrian opposition express dismay at lack of Arab action during week-long conference in Egypt

In a roundtable discussion in Cairo a Syrian delegation expressed dismay at opposition's inability to unify as well as Arab world inaction while Syrians die on the streets

Nada El-Kouny, Tuesday 13 Sep 2011
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Syrian opposition demonstrators living in Turkey during protest against Assad in central Istanbul (Reuters)
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A delegation of Syrian opposition figures held a roundtable discussion at the Al-Ahram office during their week-long visit, titled "Support and victory for the Syrian people."

A roundtable discussion was held at Al-Ahram newspaper building by the Syrian opposition delegation on their week-long visit to Egypt. The discussion commenced with Fahd El-Masry, a political and media advisor, currently residing in France, who highlighted the gravity of the Syrian crisis and expressed Syrians' dismay and despair over the Arab and international lack of response to the conflict

El-Masry broke out in tears as he stated that the current Arab regimes are not taking a "decisive stand" towards the violence and bloodshed that are directed towards civilians, as there currently exist "between 4,000 to 5,000 martyrs, 7,000 who remain missing and 25,000 refugees, most of whom currently reside in Turkey."

"When the Egyptian public moves, the Arab public will follow suit," said El-Masry pointedly, "that is why it is crucial for Egypt to take a lead role in pushing for the removal of the Syrian regime."

The million man march in solidarity with Syrians planned for 16 September, he announced, is postponed because it’s too risky after police attacked protesters over the weekend in front of the Israeli embassy and an Egyptian security building nearby.

The international response was focused on the Russian and Iranian roles in the conflict. The delegation had met with the Russian Chargé d'affaires in Cairo to discuss the severe consequences of their continued support of the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, Syrians were considering holding a Friday march under the banner "Russian bullets are killing us."  

"The Iranian regime is playing a role worse than Israel’s," expressed Fares Al Shoufy, a druze political activist who was imprisoned in the 1980's and later exiled. He says that the Iranian regime’s stability depends on the survival of the Syrian regime. Were the Assad regime to fall, he said, Iran would be much more fragile.

Abd Al Ahad Astepho, the exiled chairman of the banned Assyrian Democratic Organisation founded in Syria in 1957 commented that sectarian divisions have been mostly overblown.  He argues that they were a creation for political means. He added that sectarianism was an unfamiliar phenomenon prior to the Assad regimes.  

Bassam Sa'eed Ishaak, a Christian opposition figure, also commenting on sectarianism, stated that "if we [Syrians] truly took a chance towards a democratic process, we will succeed in eliminating sectarian divisions."

Ahram Online asked about the military defectors and their significance. Ahmed Riad Ghannam, a member of The Advisory Committee for Change in Syria answered that the media exaggerated the issue, making it seem as if a significant break has taken place within the army.

"Leaving the army is an act of suicide," Astepho. Yet, most of those defecting from the military are Sunni, anyways, which although they are the majority, it is the Shia Alawite sect that dominates most political positions. The truth of the matter is; if there really was a significant break inside the army, the regime would have fallen by now, Astepho clarified.

"Leaving the army is an act of suicide" added Astepho.

The delegation of Syrian opposition visits to Egypt this week comes amid months of speculation over Syrian opposition. The most echoed criticism of the different opposition groups is their lack of ability to unite and to form a strong, cohesive body that could represent the population regionally and internationally.  

One major current issue is that while protesters want to get rid of Al Bashar’s regime they are still unsure of a credible alternative.

Six months have passed in the Syrian conflict and there has yet to surface a Syrian version of the Libyan National Council: a coherent body that has come forth to represent the opposition, negotiate and coordinate the needed assistance.

The Economist reported on 3 September, 2011 that while actual street movement seems to be increasingly more organised, protesters are getting more frustrated over the inability of opposition - within Syria and abroad - to unite.   

Although a Syrian National Council was created in Turkey in April, most of the 94 listed opposition members did not approve of it.

According to an article by The Guardian, analysts warn that Syria’s political stalemate could make the situation deteriorate, similar to Yemen. Additionally, Kurdish writer and dissident in Syria stated that it is difficult to create a united front, "as there are too many differences between us." 

Most of members at the roundtable discussion pointed out that the Arab world is failing to focus on the street, arguing that legitimacy has to be achieved from the street.

Likewise, these members said that if opposition figures are to demand more political representation, priority has to be given to end the bloodshed as soon as possible, spotlighting the life and death situation that Syrians face on the streets.  

The week-long visit has included meeting with several political parties and civil society organisations, such as the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. Business tycoon and founder of the El Masreyeen El Ahrar Party, Naguib Sawiris, was also in attendance.

Coinciding with the roundtable meeting held at Al Ahram, several other members from the delegation attended the Forum of National Unity at the Safir Hotel in Dokki, according to El-Masry’s opening statement.  

Expressing concern over the Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Arabi's visit to Syria, the delegation plans to protest at the headquarters during the 136th regular meeting for Arab Foreign Ministers on Tuesday.

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