The Syrian Opposition Coalition is not a lost cause. But we need more external support

We are the only credible force seeking a democratic, ethnically-diverse Syria

Share

For three years the suffering of the Syrian people was met with deathly silence from the UN Security Council because of Russia and China's veto. This was broken on 22 February, when the Security Council unanimously passed resolution 2139. This resolution clearly identified the regime as guilty of multiple accounts of international humanitarian law violations. The resolution asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report monthly. He delivered his first report to the Security Council on Friday, showing that Assad has continued to bomb, murder, torture and starve our people in blatant defiance of the will of the international community.  The lives and aspirations of Syrians are not all that is at stake, so too is the credibility of the international system unless it can move beyond condemning barbarity to actually stopping it.

Our war is no “civil war” fought between morally and practically equal combatants. It is a “war on civilians” perpetrated by a dictatorship. Peaceful protests which began in Daraa were met with a brutal military assault the like of which was catalogued in resolution 2139. It states that hundreds of thousands of civilians are “besieged by the Syrian armed forces”; highlights “arbitrary detention and torture of civilians…notably in prisons and detention facilities”. It condemns “shelling”, “aerial bombardment”, and “barrel bombs”, the last two of which are exclusively perpetrated by the regime. It identifies the regime's tactic of “starvation of civilians” as “prevented by international humanitarian law” and reminds the world that the “primary responsibility” not to impede humanitarian relief activities “lies with the Syrian authorities”.

These words are meaningless to Syrian civilians unless they lead to action – either Assad abiding by them, or the international community taking measures to ensure compliance. Ban Ki-moon’s implementation report shows that the former hasn’t happened. He states: “I strongly condemn the continued heavy shelling, including the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian government forces in residential neighbourhoods”. This is no surprise. Assad and his backers believe that the international community is toothless. After using chemical weapons in 2013, the only price he paid was to hand over the remainder of his chemical stockpile. He has not even done this, since at most a third of it has been surrendered so far. He is at liberty meantime to continue to drop all kinds of conventional weaponry on Syrian cities inhabited by civilians, and continue his tactic of “starvation to surrender”.

Our Free Syrian Army forces are expected to uphold international humanitarian law and the laws of war; for Assad's forces, the opposite is true and is indeed their modus operandi. All too often the media confuses the public by conflating all forces fighting the regime under the banner “rebels”. Yet the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria recently differentiated our “moderate nationalist forces” as separate from the extremist groups. We oversee the Free Syrian Army, which has been defending Syrian civilians and which is not only taking on Assad’s forces, but fighting against the extremists, Iran-backed terrorists of Hezbollah, and Iraqi sectarian militias.

Resolution 2139 expresses the Security Council's “intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance”. Ban Ki-moon's report offers an opportunity for the Security Council to show that its words carry weight, to offer Syrians something more than words of sympathy, shock and solidarity. In the likely event that Russia vetoes any “further steps” the West must now show that it will finally challenge what is essentially a “veto” of death for Syrians. This is not just the right thing to do ethically: it is also in the world’s interests and it is in the interests of all who believe in a genuine international community. Red lines must be respected. Otherwise, the world sinks into chaos. In Syria this chaos is unnecessary, arising not by chance but through the malign actions by Assad, and his backers, it is deepened by the inaction of others.

Needless to say, the massacres and brutality of Assad's forces formed a recruiting tool for al-Qa’ida to establish presence in Syria. They are not welcomed by our society, and their dark age actions are making them two faces of one coin, together with the Assad regime. 

This dark picture could change if the Syrian Opposition Coalition received more external support. We are not a lost cause. Our forces are liberating and holding contiguous territory and in these areas we are establishing governance on the ground, including through a network of Local councils, which are grassroots self-government bodies. We have also established an Interim Syrian Government based in Gaziantep, which started paying the salaries of previous government employees, and slowly establishing services to citizens. Local Coordination Committees on the other hand are helping establish a resurgent civil society after decades of Ba'athist mis-rule which destroyed any organisation it couldn't control.

There is hope for Syria. At the Geneva talks we stated our guiding principles of security for all, human rights, transitional justice, freedom and democracy, and published a detailed plan of how to achieve this through a Transitional Governing Body which will lead Syria from dictatorship to democracy, from the tyranny of one family to a state that works for all its citizens. But our noble words remain redundant while a dictator is protected by the perverse consequences of Security Council vetoes. It is time for the world to move from inaction towards action showing that it won't allow Syrian civilians to pay the price for a flawed international system. We are the only credible force seeking a democratic, ethnically-diverse Syria which respects human rights. We need help to bring this about. Resolution 2139 hinted at action. In Syria, actions speak louder than words.

Monzer Akbik is Chief of Staff to Ahmad Jarba, President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Desktop Deployment Engineer

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A prestigious IT & Telecoms Sales and Su...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants - GERMAN SPEAKING

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engineer (Windows Server, Exchange Server)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Suppo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Rochester by-election: UKIP did less well than expected (and Labour suffered a malfunction)

John Rentoul
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Shanghai  

Is Russia and China’s ‘Nato of the East’ more than a Potemkin alliance?

Nigel Morris
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines