Who are the Syrian Opposition?

Some of the Syrian Opposition in Cairo 2012 (Credit: Reuters)

Following on from my Special Post on Friday about the Friends on Syria Conference in Paris and earlier meetings of the Syrian opposition in Cairo I thought I would post on the Syrian Opposition.  With so many names of opposition groups being used in the Media, such as the Syrian National Council or the Local Coordination Committees, who exactly are the Syrian opposition? A good explanation can be found by Elizabeth O’Bagy, from the Institute for the Study of War, which describes the different levels of opposition groups in Syria, from the local to international. Here is my take on the opposition groups that have emerged from the Syrian Uprising.

Local Level:

At the ground level, local groups are running the everyday revolution, organizing demonstrations and carrying out military actions in villages and towns. The three most well known are:

Free Syrian Army (FSA) – Main opposition fighting force in Syria, made up of several fighting groups who fight under the FSA banner.

Syrian Liberation Army (SLA) – Idlib based fighting force in Syria. SLA claim they are carrying out the majority of fighting in Syria, not the FSA.

Local Coordination Committees (LLC) – Largest and most well known activist network in Syria, currently organizing on the ground around Syria.

District Level:

At the district and city levels, Councils and Committees are helping coordinate between the local groups and the national groups. These groups are the main conduits for media reports coming out of Syria with two main groups carrying out the majority of activity:

Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution (SCSR) – The main district level group, cooperates with the Syria National Council (SNC) and local groups.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) – The second main district level group, refuses to cooperate with the SNC and not so well known.

National Level:

At the National level are several opposition groups, all working with the district and local level groups to varying degree. These include:

Syrian National Council (SNC) – The self-proclaimed main Syrian opposition party, Established in Turkey in 2011.

National Co-ordination Committee (NCC) –Widely seen as the second main Syrian opposition party after the SNC. Established inside Syria in 2011.

Syrian Patriotic Group (SPG) – Party formed by disillusioned SNC members over failure of SNC to achieve results. Established in Tunis in 2012.

Syrian Kurdish National Council – A Kurdish opposition party, attempting to promote Kurdish rights in the opposition. Established in Turkey in 2011.

Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians (CSDS) – Party made up of minorities in Syria (Christian, Muslim and Kurdish) Cooperates with the SNC.

International Level:

The Friends of Syria – Platform for Western Powers and Syrian opposition members to meet and discuss Syria. Established by France in 2012.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – London based activist network that records and reports on human rights abuses in the Syrian uprising.


Outlined above is a brief view of the Syrian opposition groups formed since 2011. Prior to 2011, a good number of opposition groups were also founded and are also vying for stake in any future Syria. For outside observers it is difficult to define who exactly is leading the Syrian opposition, the SNC? The LLC? The NCC? But for the Syrian people paying with their lives opposing President Assad, it must be hugely disappointing and demoralizing. For any transition period, yes Assad needs to go, but someone needs to be ready to fill the gap otherwise all hell could break loose.

J Robinson – Twitter: @jprobinsons


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