Filed Under:

In A New Setback, Syrian Opposition Splits

Play associated audio

Monday was a rough day for the opposition in Syria. Senior officials in the main opposition group announced that they're forming a new organization. The development was the latest sign of the divisions within the Syrian opposition that's trying to oust the government of President Bashar Assad.

At the same time, Assad's government said that nearly 90 percent of voters endorsed constitutional reforms in a referendum a day earlier, even though the Syrian opposition and international critics called the balloting a farce.

The most urgent news from Syria continues to come from the central city of Homs. One video posted online appears to show an assault on the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr.

With no progress reported on a humanitarian cease-fire, Syrian opposition fighters, wounded civilians and Western journalists remained trapped for another day. Another video showed a young boy apparently killed by deep shrapnel wounds.

Away from the battle zone, the news was of more disunion and frustration. A group of well-respected opposition figures announced a split from the main Syrian National Council to form a new organization called the Syrian Patriotic Group.

Led by attorney Haitham al-Maleh, Kamal al-Labwani and others, they said the new group would try to help defend Syrians against what Labwani called "this killing regime."

Unable To Unify

Analyst and author Andrew Tabler, with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the exiled opposition leaders in SNC have never felt the same pressure to unify as the activists inside Syria who are facing a daily artillery barrage.

"People are forced to work together. You are forced to choose a leadership structure. You are forced to consolidate the position of elites in different communities," Tabler says. "And unfortunately, the SNC was not able to do that. There was a lot of infighting."

Reached by phone in Jordan, Labwani told NPR that although the new group isn't necessarily opposing the SNC, the internal bickering has to stop. He also believes the Muslim Brotherhood has too strong a role within the council.

Also Monday, the Red Cross reported that for the first time in a month an aid mission got into the central city of Hama, delivering food and supplies for 12,000 people for a month. Geneva-based spokesman Hicham Hassan told NPR that talks on access to Homs are continuing.

In the Baba Amr neighborhood of that city, an activist using the name Abu Bakr said he hopes that the new opposition group forces everyone to get together before it's too late to save the revolution.

"This Syrian Patriotic Group was formed because the National Council is far from the pulse of the street," he says. "But we hope they will learn to work together to lead the revolution, not walk behind it the way they do now."

The government, meanwhile, announced an 89 percent approval for constitutional reforms put to a referendum Sunday. The interior minister was quoted as saying turnout was good, despite what he called "armed terrorist groups" in some areas.

Member of the opposition, however, dismissed the referendum as a sham.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Not My Job: Journalist Lesley Stahl Gets Quizzed On 'Star Trek'

This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek. To mark the occasion, we've invited Stahl to answer three questions about the show.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

David Cameron's Former Advisor Wants To Revamp The U.S. Conservative Movement

British political operative Steve Hilton tells NPR's Scott Simon what he thinks the conservative movement needs both in the U.K. and the U.S.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.