SNC member on Islamist rebel union: ‘With this statement they are united in extremism’


October 6, 2013

October 6, 2013

Last month, 13 Islamist rebel groups in Aleppo disavowed their allegiance to the exiled Syrian National Coalition while Coalition members purported to represent the Syrian opposition on the international stage at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The statement, which was read by a spokesman from Liwa al-Tawid, the largest rebel group in Aleppo, also issued a call for sharia law. Supporters of the statement include FSA-affiliated Ahrar al Sham and Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra. Abdulrahman al-Masri spoke to Moafaq Nierbiyeh, a member of the SNC, about the statement and its implications for the SNC, and the SNC’s attempt to garner support inside Syria.

Q: Is the SNC going to do anything to improve the relationship with the battalions that announced the statement in Aleppo?

A: The SNC is already working on it. It is working to improve relations with all the battalions in the FSA and even the extremists.

Q: Does the SNC fear that the gap [between the Syrian National Coalition and rebel groups inside Syria] will expand?

A: Despite what is happening, the gap [between the groups] is getting smaller, not the opposite, despite these phenomena. It is normal that the closer we move to a political solution, the more worried and afraid the fighters are that they will be alienated from their revolutionary rights, or that they themselves will be alienated. Or, they feel they have ideas that do not coincide with this track [the political solution], and that is natural. It is also natural to share this concern and to counter it.

We are worried about the slide into sectarianism.

Q: Which political groups in the coalition are working on reducing this gap between the fighters and the SNC, and to stop this extremism?

A: The SNC administration, the Politics Committee and the Commons Council are all working on that. There are different opinions, but what gathers them all is a common interest: taking down the regime and building a modern, civilian, democratic nation.

Q: Jabhat a-Nusra is one of the groups that signed the statement, what are your comments?

A: As I said we are not sure about that yet. But if the statement is real, their signature would be remarkable, and we need to scrutinize it. These battalions are not united, but with this statement they are united in extremism.

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