Syria opposition in exile fails to elect women

Syria’s main opposition bloc elected an all-male leadership team early Thursday, undermining its own bid to showcase itself as a more diverse group that can represent all those trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian National Council’s general assembly of some 420 members chose a 40-member leadership body after hours of voting at a conference held at a hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha. The 40-member group is to choose an 11-member executive body and an SNC president later Thursday.

The SNC, largely made up of exiles and heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, has been criticized as ineffective and out of touch with those trying to topple Assad. The U.S. wants a more cohesive and representative opposition, suggesting the SNC’s leadership days are over.

When the SNC election results were announced, women delegates jumped up in protest. Some of the male delegates joined their demands that several women be added to the leadership group retroactively.

“This is a big problem,” Rima Fleihan, a Syrian writer and women’s activists, said of the marginal role of women in the political opposition in exile, noting that women in Syria are key activists in anti-regime protests.

SNC officials said Wednesday that the internal election may not be enough to deflect criticism of the group and halt U.S.-backed efforts to set up a broader opposition leadership council in which the SNC’s influence would be diluted.

Under that plan, Syrian dissident Riad Seif initially proposed the SNC would receive only 15 out of 50 seats in the new group, to make room for activists from inside Syria. Seif’s plan is to be discussed Thursday at a wider meeting of opposition groups.

SNC spokesman George Sabra said he believes the U.S. and Qatar support a new opposition leadership along those lines, even if the final details still need to be sorted out. He said the opposition is under intense pressure to conclude a deal before leaving Doha.

SNC leaders met Tuesday with U.S. diplomats on the sidelines of the Doha conference, said Sabra, who attended the discussions.

The diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told the SNC that Washington wants to see a unified opposition negotiate a political transition with members of the Syrian regime who don’t have blood on their hands, said Sabra and another participant, SNC political strategist Louay Safi.

The U.S. diplomats reiterated that the Washington would not intervene militarily, either by sending weapons or enforcing a no-fly zone to assist the rebels, said Safi and Sabra. Assad and members of his inner circle would have to leave before such talks can begin, they said of the U.S. position.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the nation’s civil war.

U.S. officials in the region had no immediate comment Wednesday.

Seattle Times

  • Hannibal

    I wonder if any Christians, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, Shiites, or other minorities are represented in the SNC… I really honestly doubt it.

    • Patience2

       Now THAT is a good question … maybe there’ll be (eventually) a ‘news’ release listing any positions being held by women.  You’d think the SNC would make big of this!  Of course, you have to have persons with the qualifications for a position, not just ‘window-dressing’.

  • Hannibal

    I wonder if any Christians, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, Shiites, or other minorities are represented in the SNC… I really honestly doubt it.

    • Patience2

       Now THAT is a good question … maybe there’ll be (eventually) a ‘news’ release listing any positions being held by women.  You’d think the SNC would make big of this!  Of course, you have to have persons with the qualifications for a position, not just ‘window-dressing’.

  • Prophettttt

    This a is a big blow to Hillary Clinton,who has weaved the coat,but can’t find anyone to wear it.Maybe when John Kerry,the anticipated new secretary of state, takes over the state department,He can find a new formula to unite the fractured opposition.
    They failed to form a united opposition,so failing to elect a woman is the least of their problems right now.
    They will leave Doha more fractured than ever.

    • 5thDrawer

      They will need to be as ‘pro-active’ as ‘the west’ was about including women in politics to eventually have men accept that they actually CAN function in a variety of capacities, as well as have the women begin to believe they are welcome. There is NO DOUBT many women ARE involved on the ground, and they WILL have their say one way or the other. To ignore them will be at the peril of any ‘new’ government.
      Women of ‘the west’ like Clinton have not been able to grasp that ‘fact of exclusion’ by some religious thinkers after hauling themselves up from drudgery over a hundred years ago. Women of ‘the east’ will not accept it now. And should not.

  • Prophettttt

    This a is a big blow to Hillary Clinton,who has weaved the coat,but can’t find anyone to wear it.Maybe when John Kerry,the anticipated new secretary of state, takes over the state department,He can find a new formula to unite the fractured opposition.
    They failed to forma united opposition.  Failing to elect woman is the least of their problems.
    They will leave Doha more fractured than ever.

    • 5thDrawer

      They will need to be as ‘pro-active’ as ‘the west’ was about including women in politics to eventually have men accept that they actually CAN function in a variety of capacities, as well as have the women begin to believe they are welcome. There is NO DOUBT many women ARE involved on the ground, and they WILL have their say one way or the other. To ignore them will be at the peril of any ‘new’ government.
      Women of ‘the west’ like Clinton have not been able to grasp that ‘fact of exclusion’ by some religious thinkers after hauling themselves up from drudgery over a hundred years ago. Women of ‘the east’ will not accept it now. And should not.

  • rossoferrari

    The Free Syrian Army
    reported on Thursday via their Facebook page “اخبار الكتائب المقاتلة”
    that Abdo Ghazali, son of the top Syrian security official Rustom
    Ghazali was kidnapped on his way back home by the battalion of Aicha
    affiliated with the Southern Front command in Daraa.

  • rossoferrari

    The Free Syrian Army
    reported on Thursday via their Facebook page “اخبار الكتائب المقاتلة”
    that Abdo Ghazali, son of the top Syrian security official Rustom
    Ghazali was kidnapped on his way back home by the battalion of Aicha
    affiliated with the Southern Front command in Daraa.

  • JS_Bach

    I don’t know what genius wrote this article but he/she is out of touch with how the world works. Are you f***ing serious now?! People are getting slaughtered every day, dying of cold, torture, hunger, thirst, or simply lost fleeing in the wild mountains, and you are talking to me about frickin’ gender equality and electing women?!! WTF?!

    I am all for gender equality in the Jarab world, but it’s a bit ludicrous to bring this up as a “failure” while people are getting massacred every day. What exactly is the priority and focal point right now? This self-righteous, holier-than-thou preaching author can go shove his pointed object of choice you know where, while jogging with his Golden Retriever—complete with bluetooth earbuds—in a gorgeous Seattle park of his choice! There are ongoing issues that are just a tiny bit higher priority than that, won’t you say, Seattle Times?!

    Gender equality is quite a noble concept that you arrive to after years, decades, and multiple generations of cultural evolution and revolution. This is not me saying that—world history says that. Gender equality is a VERY recent arrival on the time axis even in the USA and Europe. Jarab countries with not a bullet fired as we speak can’t even bring themselves to human rights for goodness’ sake, never mind women’s rights.

    I absolutely do not agree with the view that “well you have to start right now to get it eventually“. There are way too many and more urgent, humanitarian issues that must be focused on right now. And in fact I think tackling the gender subject now weakens the importance of the issue given the large scale of the ongoing conundrum—for the issue is bound and certain to lodge itself where it realistically belongs on the priority/evolution scale, whether we like it or not.

    This is like the farcical smoking law that was recently passed in Lebanon, while people are getting KILLED on the goddamn Lebanese roads every day due to no (enforcement of) traffic laws. You look at that and you cannot but think Are you f***ing kidding me?!!

    You cleanup a trashed, filthy, uninhabitable apartment first, and then you bitch and moan about the missing Jacuzzi.

  • JS_Bach

    I don’t know what genius wrote this article but he/she is out of touch with how the world works. Are you f***ing serious now?! People are getting slaughtered every day, dying of cold, torture, hunger, thirst, or simply lost fleeing in the wild mountains, and you are talking to me about frickin’ gender equality and electing women?!! WTF?!

    I am all for gender equality in the Jarab world, but it’s a bit ludicrous to bring this up as a “failure” while people are getting massacred every day. What exactly is the priority and focal point right now? This self-righteous, holier-than-thou preaching author can go shove his pointed object of choice you know where, while jogging with his Golden Retriever—complete with bluetooth earbuds—in a gorgeous Seattle park of his choice! There are ongoing issues that are just a tiny bit higher priority than that, won’t you say, Seattle Times?!

    Gender equality is quite a noble concept that you arrive to after years, decades, and multiple generations of cultural evolution and revolution. This is not me saying that—world history says that. Gender equality is a VERY recent arrival on the time axis even in the USA and Europe. Jarab countries with not a bullet fired as we speak can’t even bring themselves to human rights for goodness’ sake, never mind women’s rights.

    I absolutely do not agree with the view that “well you have to start right now to get it eventually“. There are way too many and more urgent, humanitarian issues that must be focused on right now. And in fact I think tackling the gender subject now weakens the importance of the issue given the large scale of the ongoing conundrum—for the issue is bound and certain to lodge itself where it realistically belongs on the priority/evolution scale, whether we like it or not.

    This is like the farcical smoking law that was recently passed in Lebanon, while people are getting KILLED on the goddamn Lebanese roads every day due to no (enforcement of) traffic laws. You look at that and you cannot but think Are you f***ing kidding me?!!

    You cleanup a trashed, filthy, uninhabitable apartment first, and then you bitch and moan about the missing Jacuzzi.