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Middle east

'Syrians feel abandoned by the international community'

Text by Douglas HERBERT

Latest update : 2012-03-16

One year after the uprising in Syria, critics charge that the opposition is fractured and disorganised. In an interview with FRANCE 24, a spokesperson for the Syrian National Council, Bassma Kodmani, explains why those allegations are misinformed.

On the first anniversary of the Syria uprising, the main opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, faces accusations that it has failed to help rebels inside the country fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. In an interview with FRANCE 24, Bassma Kodmani played down divisions within the opposition. Calling Syria an occupied country, she blamed Russian support for emboldening Assad and appealed for outside intervention to counter the regime’s superior firepower.

FRANCE 24: The SNC has seen several high-profile members resign, calling the body autocratic and ineffective. How do you respond?

Bassma Kodmani: This is an umbrella organization and it is a substitute for the country, it's a substitute for the state. Today there is no more Syria for us. Syria is under occupation by this regime. We need to have an alternative framework that brings in all national groups. This is the big challenge…There are people who just decide they do not want to operate in this national framework. We have to fight in this framework. Other revolutions solved this quickly, and then fought on the ground between themselves, politically. For us, we have to do everything: resist the regime, support the revolution on the ground, and solve our problems among political groups. That is the big challenge.

F24: Critics say there is little coordination between the SNC and defecting officers in the Free Syrian Army. How would you describe the relationship?

B.K.: An agreement was signed with the Free Syrian Army. The fact that people picked up arms is not the decision of the SNC. It became a reality on the ground, and we are trying to bring these groups under one integrated command and put them in connection with each other so they can coordinate the work that we need to do. We are working with these groups. Those sitting outside do not represent those who are inside, or only partially, and those on the inside are organizing themselves. This is happening very quickly. I think this is positive because we do see the emergence of regional commands for the Free Syrian Army and they are organizing the civilians who are coming under their banner. So we are seeing quick developments on the ground and that is something that we need to do very closely with the FSA to provide them with financial support, but also to organize them and get them integrated under one command.

We are in the worst situation ever because they [the rebels] are targeted as having arms and at the same time they don't have what is needed to counter the regime's forces. That is not what we look forward to seeing develop on the ground. We would rather see -- and I think it would be much less costly in the long term for the stability of the whole region, and the integrity of Syria -- to have outside intervention. It is a very difficult decision to make, a difficult choice. We would prefer [foreign intervention] to come in the shape of the Security Council, but frankly, those dying on the ground don't care whether it is the Security Council or NATO.

F24: What are your immediate hopes for the opposition movement?

B.K.: We are still waiting for the financial support we need in order to channel it to the population. It is announced by the media, so expectations rise, and we have to deal with the expectations that are not satisfied.

Syrians feel they are abandoned by the international community, they need to rely on themselves. If we feel that here or there, there is some dissent, it is because the horizon is closed, there is no prospect for real and serious intervention. What we need today is humanitarian intervention, safe zones, surgical strikes against the regime that has not listened or cooperated on any of the political or diplomatic initiatives.

Date created : 2012-03-15


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