The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, commonly named the Syrian National Coalition, is a coalition of opposition groups that was formed in November 2012 during opposition meetings in Doha, Qatar. Mouaz al-Khatib, a former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, was elected president of the new coalition. Two vice presidents were elected -- Riad Seif, who tabled original call for an initiative to unite the opposition and Suheir Atassi, a prominent female secular activist. Mustafa Sabbagh was elected as the coalition's secretary-general.
The coalition has a council of 60 seats, of which 22 are to be filled by the Syrian National Council.
Mouaz al-Khatib: president
Riad Seif: vice president
Suheir Atasi: vice president
Mustafa Sabbagh: secretary general
Walid al-Bunni: spokesman
The full list of the members of the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is available here.
The Doha meeting was a response to increasing pressure from the United States and other countries for the formation of a Syrian opposition coalition that was more diverse and inclusive than the Syrian National Council – in particular, a coalition that included greater representation from minority groups and groups operating inside the country. The primary objective was to establish a group that would be able to gain more widespread international recognition and, along with recognition, increased financial and material support.
The new coalition for the first time includes representation from the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC Syria), a grassroots network of 70 tansiqiya (coordination) groups, as well as representatives of the local councils in the National Coalition – key internal opposition groups within Syria. The National Coalition also has the support of the Free Syrian Army.
Within Syria, news of the formation of the new coalition was greeted with acclaim. According to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, 497 street demonstrations expressing support for the National Coalition took place in Syria on 16 November 2012.
However, the Coalition does not include representation from groups such as the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change or several radical Islamic militia and some components of the Syrian Liberation Army (a loose coalition of localized forces fighting against the Syrian government in the Idlib province) who early on withdrew from the coalition.
In response to a video published online on the 19 November 2012 showing members of the al-Nusra Front and 13 other armed groups voicing their rejection of the National Coalition, the head of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, stated that "these groups represent a number of military factions on the ground and reflect their position, but not all military forces in Aleppo agree with this. The (Aleppo) military council has announced its support for the National Coalition and is collaborating with [it]." Other members of the groups also distanced themselves from the announcement.
The formation of the new coalition has generally been well received by the international communities who have praised it as a positive step towards a more united front.
On 12 November the member states of the Gulf recognized the coalition as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people, ceasing recognition of the government led by Bashar al-Assad. They were followed shortly afterwards by the Arab League (with the exception of Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon) who recognized the coalition as "the legitimate representative and main interlocutor with the Arab League" but stopped short of giving the group full recognition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.
Also in November 2012 France, Turkey, Spain and the UK recognized the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and, in France’s case, as the "future interim government of democratic Syria". The United States in turn issued a press statement on 11 November 2012 congratulating representatives for forming the coalition but stopped short of recognizing the Coalition as a “government in exile” despite having spearheaded efforts to unite the opposition. Shortly thereafter, on 11 December, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, recognized the coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people, and 100 countries followed on the day after at the Friends of Syria Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco.
The stated aims of the National Coalition include:
• Removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime and "its symbols and pillars of support";
• Dismantling of the Syrian security services
• Unifying and supporting the Free Syrian Army;
• Rejecting dialogue and negotiation with the al-Assad government, and "holding accountable those responsible for killing Syrians, destroying [Syria], and displacing [Syrians].