Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai

 

BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter

 

Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.

 

Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

 
 

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This Week in Syria: New Aleppo Violence as Free Syrian Army Falls Under Scrutiny

 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

 

In Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army made a "tactical withdrawal" from the strategic neighborhood of Salaheddine last week, citing a shortage of ammunition. According to BBC Arabic, they have returned and opened new fronts in the city, including a push to control Aleppo International Airport, as well as the military airfield adjacent to it.

However, Aleppo City and some of the governorate proper is coming under heavy fire from the Syrian Army. On Thursday, Dubai TV reported that at least 80 were killed in an air strike on the town of Azaz, which is about 50 kilometers from Aleppo. There were also air raids on several Aleppo neighborhoods on Friday.

The Free Syrian Army, known in Arabic as al-Jaish al-Suri al-Hurr, also came under scrutiny this week after videos surfaced showing alleged FSA members participating in a morally questionable execution in Aleppo and kidnapping a Lebanese national, the latter of which the FSA denied. New TV showed the footage of a what appears to be a "shabeha" getting his throat slit by an FSA member, alongside footage of the FSA with a captured Syrian Army pilot. According to Dubai TV, however, the FSA claimed that both the kidnapping of Hassan al-Miqdad of the powerful al-Miqdad family, as well as the group involved in the abduction, were fabricated by the Syrian regime in an attempt to fuel strife between Syrians and Lebanese.

In the south of the country, Damascus also experienced heavy fighting this week. Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that the Free Syrian Army detonated a bomb under a fuel truck near Umayyad Square. The FSA said that the bomb had targeted a meeting of the Syrian Air Force, but the explosion was also very close to the UN observers' hotel. The bombing was followed by clashes in the neighborhood of Kafr Susa, which is near the prime minister's office.

Meanwhile, at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation's latest summit in Mecca, Algerie TV reported that Syria was suspended from the OIC, and the leaders agreed to continue pursuing the political solution and a peaceful solution to the crisis that would guarantee the country's unity and sovereignty during the violence. The meeting ended by confirming support for oppressed Muslim people, and with calls to combat strife between Islamic teachings, as well as countering terrorism and extremism.

 

Image: A man cries in front of houses destroyed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Azaz, some 47 km (29 miles) north of Aleppo, August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

 
 

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Inside Syria's Divided Opposition

Seven months into the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the Syrian opposition remains starkly divided on several key issues. According to the BBC, these issues include "the question of whether or not to encourage foreign intervention, whether there should be regime change or dialogue, and whether there should be armed rebellion or peaceful protest."

 

The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was recently formed in Turkey, and the Damascus-based National Coordination Committee (NCC) are the two main opposition groups that have emerged in Syria. While both blocs agree on overthrowing the current regime, the NCC calls for dialogue with Assad's regime (on the condition that the regime ends the violence against protestors), while the SNC vehemently rejects any form of dialogue. 

 

While the SNC and the NCC both originally rejected foreign intervention, the SNC membership now seems divided on the issue. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, "some SNC members, especially the youth activists, have been calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians including a NATO-led intervention akin to the one in Libya." The NCC calls instead for economic sanctions and other political maneuvers to counter Assad's regime. 

 

Military defectors organized under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) mark yet another facet of Syria's opposition. The FSA has repeatedly mounted attacks on Syrian security forces and Syrian security forces and army, worrying many that the crisis will escalate into a civil war. A majority of the opposition agrees that protests should remain non-violent, however many youth activists are growing impatient with the slow progress on the political front.

 

A Syrian protester living in Egypt attacks a member of the Syrian opposition delegation before the delegation was due to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo November 9, 2011.

Many protestors are weary of both opposition blocs, saying they aren't representative of the people and their demands. In an article titled, "Opposing (Some) Arab Opposition Groups," As'ad AbuKhalil warns against endorsing Arab opposition groups simply because they oppose dictatorial regimes. He says, "Some Arab opposition groups may promise democracy and rule of law, while they carry the agenda of a sponsoring tyrannical government… It is our duty…to speak out against those opposition groups who promise to take the people from one form of tyranny to another."

 

As the protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad continue on a daily basis in Syria, the deepening divide in the muddled Syrian opposition will continue to hinder a resolution to the crisis. In the words of Steven Heydemann, senior advisor for Middle East initiatives at the US Institute of Peace, the Syrian revolution will be  "a marathon" if Syrians cannot unite. 

 

(Photo:  A Syrian protestor living in Egypt attacks a member of the Syrian opposition delegation before the delegation was due to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo November 9, 2011. Watch New TV's report on the altercation here.

 

 
 

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