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Syria: The internal opposition - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Anyone following Syrian affairs would have to stop and take note of the statement issued by the recent Syrian opposition conference held near Damascus, and attended by nearly 300 members of the internal opposition. The statement included language that the al-Assad regime is not used to, and we are certainly not used to hearing from a conference held within Syria itself!

The closing statement of the opposition conference, held in the town of Helbon in the outskirts of Damascus, said that “the decisive factor in achieving national democratic change, which entails overthrowing the corrupt, authoritarian, security regime, is the continuation of the Syrian people’s peaceful revolution”. The statement continued “therefore, the conference calls on all powers and actors involved, as well as their friends and their supporters, to continue to engage in the [the revolution] and provide all forms of support, so as to help it continue until the objectives of the Syrian people have been achieved, in terms of freedom, dignity, and democracy”.

It is hard to imagine that the al-Assad regime could accept such language, especially when the regime is described by the internal conference with terms such as “authoritarian” and “corrupt”, and likewise the calls for more to join the revolution and continue it. It is strange of course that the conference was held inside Syria, and that the opposition members were able to issue a statement without being attacked by the al-Assad regime’s Shabiha, or the conference being stormed by the security forces.

Thus, the question that comes to mind is: has the al-Assad regime become exhausted and hence unable to pursue the participants in the internal opposition conference, or did the regime allow them to meet in order to achieve its own private goals?

Indicators suggest the most plausible answer is that the al-Assad regime deliberately turned a blind eye to the opposition conference held just outside Damascus, even though it released a statement calling for the continuation of the revolution and the need to overthrow the corrupt and authoritarian regime, in order to send a message to Moscow that the al-Assad regime is giving the internal Syrian opposition an opportunity to mobilize, contrary to what others have said, and that it is not oppressing and killing everyone. Will the al-Assad regime’s tricks help it to secure Moscow’s position? The short answer is no. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has burned all its bridges with the Syrian people, and the Syrian revolution today has reached a point of no return. The Syrians are no longer afraid of the al-Assad police regime, which used to intimidate the Syrian youth with its authority. Now young school students are burning pictures of Bashar al-Assad and Baath party publications, and chanting slogans which no one expected to hear being repeated in public on a daily basis. The Syrians have even burned the Russian flag.

Thus, regardless of the multitude of Syrian opposition conferences, internally or externally, and whether the al-Assad regime has a hand in them or not, the reality is that Syria has changed, and more changes are coming, whether today or tomorrow. The al-Assad regime today is becoming more powerless; it is now being challenged by school students. The current state of affairs has become a reality that all but a few inside Syria are aware of, specifically the al-Assad regime and its followers. It seems that they are unable to hear anything, with their bullets drowning out all sounds around them.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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