The Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a key player within the Syrian National Council (SNC) -- an umbrella organization encompassing all opposition groups in Syria -- gathered in İstanbul on Monday for a two-day conference under the title “Muslim Brotherhood: Ongoing March” to hammer out a new road map to define the future of the revolution and to restructure the organization accordingly.
The conference comes as fierce fighting between Free Syrian Army (FSA) guerillas and Syrian troops in suburban areas of the capital Damascus enters a new phase.
“The primary objective of the conference is to reshape and restructure the organization. The second important goal is to define and determine the role and place of the organization in the Syrian people’s revolution,” said Omar A.Aziz Mushaweh, a member in the executive board of the MB and head of the Press Office, in an interview with Today’s Zaman. He said the conference aims to ensure that the organization is a key part of the new Syria.
Several Syrian NGOs, some members of the SNC -- including its head Abdulbaset Sieda -- and old and new generations of the MB convened to discuss the role of the organization in the revolution, as well as to restructure it in accordance with the demands of the Syrian people.
Delivering a speech at the opening of the conference, the organization’s head, Mohammad Riyad Sukfa, said the struggle of the Syrian people would never cease, and that the world has left them alone amid the ongoing slaughter of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
“Despite the enormous pressure and monitoring of the Assad regime, we, as Muslim Brothers, have managed to survive in the social, cultural, historical and political arena. We support all opposition groups. We don’t accept any plan which excludes the will and views of the Syrian people.” he said.
Hasan Hattab, deputy head of the Sura Council, said the organization is officially convening after a 30-year period in a law has been in effect enabling the death penalty for those proved to be members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. He argued that Assad’s fate will resemble the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The Syrian branch of the MB has faced brutal repression at the hands of the regime since more than 10,000 people were massacred by the Syrian army under the command of Rıfaat al-Assad, younger brother of then President Hafez al-Assad, during the siege of Hama in 1982.
The organization was banned by President Hafez al-Assad, and most of its members have been living in exile since that time. But when the Syrian uprising erupted, the organization reemerged as a key actor among opposition groups in the fight against the modern-day Assad regime.
Head of the SNC Seida noted at the conference that the aim of toppling the Assad regime could be achieved only with the unity of all groups. If factionalism and sectarianism hold their ground, the chance of success will be diminished, he argued.
Offering his thanks to the Arab League, the Turkish government and the Turkish people for their crucial help, Sieda urged Russia and Iran to withdraw their support of the Syrian regime. The supply of arms and financial aid must be stopped immediately, he stated.
In response to a question from Today’s Zaman regarding the relationship between the MB and the SNC, Sieda said that the MB is a critical social and political actor, with a grass roots organization and widespread support of people across the country, describing it as one of the key components of the SNC. He noted that the SNC works in harmony with the organization towards toppling the Assad regime. He said he cares deeply about the conference, and that a strong message emerging from it would have a positive effect on the Syrian revolution.
The future of the revolution, the state of the organization and it’s political trajectory, as well as building a future for Syria and the country’s youth and women, are topics to be discussed during the two-day conference.
Hitam al-Sufi, head of the women’s branch of the SNC, said women are able take an active role in the revolution thanks to the organization’s openness to female contribution in the political arena. She said female members actively work to help refugees from Syria in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.