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Opinion: Saving Syria’s Revolution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian Opposition Coalition members and Syrian National Coalition members attend a meeting in Istanbul. (AP)

All eyes are on the Syrian people who are set to choose a leader for the Syrian National Coalition next week. The process began approximately two months ago when members of the opposition disagreed over Ghassan Hitto’s appointment. A prospective choice who was not popular among Syrians, Hitto failed to establish a satisfactory government during the period following his “election”.

The most likely new candidate for this post is Ahmad Tohme. Contrary to Hitto, Tohme is a well-known face among the Syrians, an Islamist, and is based in Syria. Hitto is well known among the opposition since he participated in the “Damascus Declaration,” a statement of unity issued in October 2005, alongside key opposition figures such as Fayez Sara.

For the last eight years, the opposition has been calling for gradual change in Syria. Unlike Hitto—who previously resided in the United States and for this reason, is rejected by some—Tohme was born in Deir ez-Zor, in eastern Syria.

In his own words: “I’ve lived in Syria for most of my life except for the give years I spent in the Bisha province of Saudi Arabia where my father worked as a teacher between 1974 and 1979.”

Similar to the previous coalition president, Moaz Al-Khatib, Ahmad Tohme worked as a preacher in a mosque and specialized in Islamic studies. He calls for change and believes in “reconsidering our Muslim intellectual heritage and correcting a number of misunderstanding that resulted from the backwardness of our civilization.” Tohme is also a pacifist who believes in fighting peacefully for rights.

Those who know Tohme say he is a moderate person and represents the essential element for a post-Assad Syria, which requires someone who advocates co-existence between religions, sects and ideologies.

The chosen head of the new government will have to fulfill several idealistic requirements. He will initially have to save the revolution and its leaders who remain tormented by internal chaos.

If Tohme succeeds, he will also have to visits the world’s major cities to convince the international community of the integrity and unity of the opposition, as well as the fact that it represents all the Syrian people. Despite their integral influence, lack of arms and regional interventions in favor of Assad’s regime are not the main issues of concern here.

The real danger facing the success of the Syrian revolution is on behalf of the revolutionaries themselves, their leaders, and their internal division. It is the absence of a unified leadership to convince the Syrian peoples, first and foremost, and then the rest of the world, that an alternative option to the Syrian regime exists, and that it is active, responsible, and popular.

The question is whether Tohme will be able to handle the situation at a time when internal and external forces are conspiring against the Syrian people and their revolution? It has been suggested that he should not accept the position if he cannot handle it; this national duty is dangerous, difficult, and historical.

Meanwhile, the peace conference is a Russian-Iranian initiative that aims to convince the world to accept Bashar Al-Assad as president until next year, and then for life. Those who support the “Geneva 2” conference claim that the opposition has no leaders, the revolutionaries do not have a united body, and that the revolution is no better than the regime it aims to overthrow.

This image is being propagated by the Assad regime through individual manipulations and forged videos. An example of this would be the video allegedly showing revolutionaries eating the heart of a soldier after killing him. The Bolivian ambassador stated that this video prompted him to oppose a U.N. General Assembly resolution against the Assad regime a few days ago.

It is crucial that the opposition forms a government, chooses a leader, and maintains the openness of a coalition that rises above differences and unreasonable allegiances; these duties are as important as the use of weapons and self-sacrifice.