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Q+A: George Sabra on the Opposition’s Woes

This week, Ahmed al-Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), called for the creation of a unified Free Syrian Army operating under chief of staff Gen. Selim Idris.

Written by Karen Leigh Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

It’s the Syrian opposition’s latest attempt to unite what critics say is an increasingly fragmented, leaderless membership, which is now battling not just infighting and the frequent turnover of its highest-ranking officials but outside forces including Hezbollah, Jabhat al-Nusra and, of course, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government. (Speaking this week, al-Jarba deemed the situation in rebel-held eastern Syria “chaos.”)

<div dir=”ltr”> <p> In turn, the SNC has called repeatedly for the international community to do more to help it succeed, including supplying its fighters with weapons. </p>

<p> We caught up with George Sabra, president of the Syrian National Council and a former acting head of the SNC, in Istanbul and asked him where the opposition stands. Sabra was attending a conference held by <a href=””>WATAN</a>, a Syrian progressive movement that works to achieve civil and societal progress in Syria and says it is open to all Syrians, irrespective of racial, religious or national affiliation. </p> </div>

Syria Deeply: What’s the current situation?

<div source=’picture’ id=’7747′ flow=’alignright’ />

George Sabra: We are doing our best to provide the Free Syrian Army with weapons, because the most important thing for Syrians these days is to defend themselves. How can they defend themselves without getting weapons? The second is to provide enough humanitarian aid for Syrians inside Syria and in refugee camps. The last week [has seen] conflict in the northern part of Syria between the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — it’s part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — and some extremist Islamic organizations. This is a big issue for us these days. We are doing our best to solve this problem.

SD: What’s the biggest challenge facing the opposition in the next month?

GS: This conflict [above]. Groups fighting among themselves, when we have already considered them a part of the revolution, is a very bad thing. The regime itself did its best to [create] this conflict in the free areas.

SD: What do you say to critics who say you’re not doing as much on the ground as you could be?

GS: The problem is we don’t have enough support from Arab countries and the international community, and from international organizations. Unfortunately, we have nothing [concrete] to provide for our people except our efforts with Arab countries, our friends in the world. We have so many friends, more than 130 countries, but few of them really support us.

SD: How much does an event like this help?

GS: It’s very important. It’s an event that indicates to Syrians that you have to depend upon yourself, and this organization will be a pioneer for other Syrian civil organizations to further activities.

SD: Have you had as much support recently from Arab countries as you would like?

GS: Just a few things, from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya. Most Arab countries have their own problems, like us.

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