Former leader of Syrian National Coalition declares ‘death’ of opposition body amid squabbling

Former leader of Syrian National Coalition declares ‘death’ of opposition body amid squabbling
Moaz al-Khatib, who led the opposition Syrian National Coalition between 2012 and 2013, declared the 'death' of the organisation amid reports of pressure on members to elect certain leaders.
3 min read
12 September, 2023
Moaz al-Khatib headed the SNC from 2012 to 2013 [Getty]

A former leader of the embattled Syrian National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SNC) – also known by its Arabic name Etilaf - has declared the “death” of the umbrella body in a series of angry posts on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Moaz al-Khatib, who led the SNC between November 2012 and April 2013, said on X on Saturday: "I commiserate all Syrians on the death of the Coalition which used to be opposition. There is a disgraceful threat to its members forcing them to vote for an imposed leadership."

Al-Khatib was referring to an alleged letter from coalition member Nasr Al-Hariri, accusing the prime minister of its "Syrian Interim Government", Abdul Rahman Mustafa, of saying that Hadi Bahra will be elected head of the body no matter what, in elections due to take place on Tuesday.

"The Stalinist Baath Party couldn’t make Syrians kneel, and its remnants can’t impose hegemony on them. There should be no funeral for the deceased [Coalition] because no prayers should be said for traitors," Al-Khatib said, in a reference to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s ruling party.

Al-Khatib, was formerly the imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and fled Syria in July 2012, being elected leader of the opposition coalition a few months later.

He was considered a popular and unifying force in the SNC and reached out to Syrian minority communities during his brief tenure.

The Syrian National Coalition has been plagued by infighting ever since its formation in the early years of the popular uprising against the Assad regime, which began in 2011. Different leaders in the group are often accused of working for the interests of various foreign powers.

The SNC is headquartered in Istanbul and Nasr Al-Hariri has accused Turkey of trying to impose Bahra as the coalition’s next head, amid reports that SNC leaders were summoned to Ankara by the Turkish government and told to chose him.

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Bahra previously headed the SNC between 2014 and 2015.

While the SNC’s leadership is in exile and it has little influence over events in Syria, it is considered the main body representing Syria’s political opposition. On the ground in rebel areas, however, armed groups including the hardline Islamist Hayaat Tahrir Al-Sham have control.

The SNC’s role has increasingly diminished after the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has recaptured areas of Syria once held by rebel groups.