The head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and a key member of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a critical actor within the SNC -- an umbrella organization encompassing all opposition groups in Syria -- have reiterated their calls for an international intervention to stop the unrelenting slaughter of civilians by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
On Monday the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood officially convened for a two-day conference under the title “Muslim Brotherhood: Ongoing March,” for the first time in 30 years to discuss the future of the revolution and to restructure the organization.
In an interview with Today's Zaman, Omar A. Aziz Mushaweh, a member of the executive board of the MB and head of its Press Office, said as the Syrian regime has intensified its brutal atrocities and slaughter through reviving its assaults on densely populated urban areas with heavy weaponry, the Muslim Brotherhood has revisited its earlier stance towards international intervention and is now more open to such an option than ever before.
“The truth is that we demand international intervention following the increase in the regime's massacres and atrocities. We only want the massacres of the regime to be stopped. We had already asked for a buffer zone and no-fly zone, but none of those requests were met by the international community,” he said.
However, he states that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood need to clarify how the Syrian people feel about the issue. He said they would approve such an intervention only if the Syrian people want it. The Syrian Brotherhood is asking for an intervention within the scope of Chapter VII of the UN Charter to protect the Syrian people from the regime's unremitting slaughter.
“We want an intervention by the international community primarily to protect civilians. How the intervention would take place is up to the international community, but any action must be taken under the roof of the UN and within the scope of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which includes the use of force. Our priority is to stop the killing of civilians [at the hands of the regime's troops],” the SNC head, Abdulbaset Sieda, said in remarks to Today's Zaman.
Along with Mushaweh he underlined Chapter VII of the UN Charter as a basis of any action to obtain international legitimacy.
Regarding the recent crisis that broke out between Turkey and Syria when Damascus shot down a Turkish jet in June, Mushaweh said the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood thinks Turkey has a right to intervene in Syria after the downing of the jet. However, he noted that this is a trap by the Assad regime to pull Turkey into a war. The Syrian regime wants the crisis to engulf the whole region, he says. Approving of cautious Turkish policy as the ideal one, Mushaweh said Turkey should act with the international community with regards to the ongoing Syrian crisis.
“The Ihvan-ı Muslimin [The Muslim Brotherhood] does not back unilateral action taken by Turkey, but rather it wants Turkey to jointly act with the UN and international community,” he said.
On strained ties between Turkey and Syria, Sieda said Turkey has always lent a friendly hand to Syria. “We expect that Turkey will act together with the international community. If Turkey insists upon an intervention, it should be within the scope of international law,” he stated.
“I want to address the opposition parties in Turkey. The Syrian uprising emerged out of a need. The Syrian people had been exposed to oppression and humiliation of a dictatorial regime for roughly 50 years. The people revolted to restore their honor and to obtain their freedom. This is a movement led by people and it should be understood in that way,” Sieda said.
Commenting on their expectations of Turkey, Mushaweh said both the Turkish government and the Turkish people have already met most of their needs. “Turkey provides any logistical support and whatever we need hosting the SNC and being a home to thousands of refugees. It has helped us to act in a more organized way.”
He said their main expectation from Turkey is to intensify it's pressure on the international community to open the way for an international intervention. In response to a question over possible NATO involvement in military action against Syria, he said if there is no option left except a NATO intervention, they will accept it only if it is led by Turkey.
Syrian MB is against federalism
As attempts to represent broader segments of society with the inclusion of other opposition groups within the SNC continue, the Muslim Brotherhood, the council's strongest group, has apparently clarified its position over the form of government it wishes to see after the toppling of the Assad regime, underlying that it is against any kind of federalism.
For the moment, the SNC is still far from representing all the opposition groups in Syria as Syrian Kurds have refused to take any part in it because of disagreements over the form of government in the post-Assad Syria, as well as their status.
In response to a question over what form of government the MB would prefer, a decentralized form of government or a more centric government, Musaweh said, “The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is against any federal form of government, and endorses a unitary state.” He noted that they defend Kurds' cultural and educational rights.