Syrian opposition’s must-dos
The dictatorship of the Assad family regime and its brutal practices against political opponents during the 40 years before the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011 have created a big political vacuum which led to the absence of organized opposition bodies. This has been crystal clear throughout the past six years.
Nearly seven months into the revolution, the first opposition entity aiming at representing the Syrian people was formed under the name “Syrian National Council”. But it soon failed to be effective and comprehensive.
With the support of “Friends of Syria Group”, a newer entity was formed: “National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces” which attended to a wider segment of revolutionary and opposition components, but opposition fighters were absent.
Finally, the “High Negotiations Committee” was formed, which included representatives from most of the political and military factions of the opposition. In response to these moves, involved adversaries supported the establishment of other opposition political groups (Moscow, Cairo or Astana platforms) in name only, but on the ground they do not have any popular base of support. The purpose behind their creation was to overtly or covertly distract the international community from the real representatives of the Syrian opposition.
The Syrian political opposition is characterized by the lack of an appropriate strategy to deal with international or internal developments commensurate with the people demands which led to a decline in the support of the grassroots.
Therefore, the highest priority of the Syrian opposition should be getting the recognition of the people inside Syria, in every liberated city and town, getting closer to the people, listening to their grievances and needs and exerting all possible efforts, in cooperation with organizations already active inside, to help them.
During the first year of the revolution, Western public opinion was favorable. But with time, when the situation on the ground became more complicated, positive Western view started to change gradually. This was the result of the continuous effort of various parties involved to distort the image of the Syrian political and military opposition. A number of formerly supportive countries became neutral or shifted towards supporting Assad though indirectly. One reason for this is the lack of confidence on the part of the countries in the Syrian opposition, and its inability to be an alternative to the Assad regime (at least this is what some claim). Also, the change in European peoples’ views towards the events in Syria put pressure on their governments to re-evaluate their dealings with the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime. One solution for this problem is to create a reliable delegation to visit all Western countries, favorable or neutral, in a mission to regain confidence.
All these years, I have been wondering why the Syrian opposition has not established offices in every European capital, something that would facilitate its approach of governments, affect public opinion and offer the opportunity to get close to millions of Syrian refugees. Regardless of the future solution to the Syrian crisis, these people who left their country to save themselves from the regime’s military machine will play an important role in choosing the next Syria rulers. These people are currently informed by major media outlets which try to make them despise both sides: opposition and regime. It is the duty of the Syrian opposition to be in touch with them, listen to them, and ensure their rights wherever they live. These steps will prove to the people that the Syrian opposition is different from Assad regime which looks at them as terrorists, thus increasing the level of confidence in them.
Communication professionals like to say that the best communication strategy is to tell the truth. Since the beginning of the revolution, thousands of lies have been spread all around the globe regarding the real motives behind revolting against a criminal regime. Contacts should be established with public opinion makers − especially in Europe − not politicians or journalists but professors, entrepreneurs and simple people who know the truth and are supporting the revolution. Young educated Syrians who can present arguments for the revolution cause need to organize press conferences and media appearances, attend cultural seminars and events, and make visits to refugee camps. They need to speak up the truth about Assad regime, say who really created terrorist organizations - on top of them ISIS - and inform about the role of military opposition in fighting them, every day, everywhere.
These are only few proposals that may revitalize international and internal support for the Syrian revolution, as Assad regime supporters like Russia and Iran are working day and night through all diplomatic and media manipulation to market Assad as Syria’s “savior”, while in fact he is no more than a blood-thirsty dictator.
Eva J. Koulouriotis is a Greek political analyst specialized in the Middle East. Twitter: @evacool_f, Facebook: @evakoulouriotis