THE Syrian uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad has inspired the world. But all is not well in the opposition camp. I joined the Syrian National Council (SNC), Syria’s “government-in-exile”, for the greater good of my country, agreeing to work with different factions within the Council in the hope of ending the bloodshed imposed by the regime. A year on, the SNC has got nothing to show, apart from infighting and bickering. The SNC is in dire need of reform to achieve the unity it lacks, but my calls for change have fallen on deaf ears.
The SNC acts as the public face of Syrian opposition, but it has three major flaws. First, there is an overrepresentation of the Muslim Brotherhood within the Council. This is hindering our ability to reach out to ethnic minorities who, like myself, would like to see a democratic secular state in Syria, where all religions are respected, not persecuted because of differences in beliefs.
Second, the SNC Executive Committee is made up of exiles. While I commend their work and intentions, people revolting on the streets cannot associate themselves with would-be leaders who have been away from Syria for decades. Some have been in exile since before Hafez Al-Assad, the father of Syria’s current president, came to power. This has caused the SNC to lose credibility on the Syrian street. A true leadership has to be the voice of those who are suffering, sacrificing and dying every day inside Syria to bring down a regime which kills its own people, including women and children, in their thousands.
Finally, under the leadership of Burhan Ghalioun, the SNC has been mired in secrecy. The recent announcement of an SNC military bureau to coordinate the rebels was made without consultation with the Free Syrian Army, the main armed group: a prime example of its secrecy and autocratic tendencies. Even members of the SNC had to find out about the military bureau through the media.
A lack of transparency will not help the opposition’s cause abroad or on the streets of Syria. The SNC must account for every penny it receives and spends. It also should have consultations with the ground revolution on how the money is spent and where.
Set up more than a year ago, the SNC has little to show apart from its lack of progress and a jet-setting lifestyle that alienates it from the real opposition on the ground. It is with great regret and sadness that I have had to announce my resignation from the SNC.
I will continue to work relentlessly together with all the resistance within and outside Syria towards a free, fair Syria. But those in Britain watching this revolution from the sidelines should know that just because the SNC is on the right side of history does not mean that it truly represents those Syrians fighting and dying for their freedom.
Haitham Maleh is a leading Syrian human rights activist and former judge. He has been imprisoned and tortured by the Syrian government as a political prisoner on several occasions since the 1960s.