SNC opposition chief reassures minorities in post-Assad Syria

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Syrian National Coalition (SNC) chief Ahmad Jarba on Sunday sent comforting messages to ethnic minorities, saying they would be the “main fabric” of the country following the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

“When the regime collapses, Syria’s minorities will be part of the main fabric of Syria and part of the main components that make up the country,” Jarba told pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

“The regime plays the card of making minorities in the country panic. They are made to believe that the opposition is a group of extremists who want to hijack the country and kill others.”

Among other minorities, Jarba said Turkmen representatives and Alawites were part of the coalition, although not as many Alawites are involved as Jarba would hope for.

“Before the revolution, an opposition member who is not Alawite would be imprisoned for five years while the opposition member who is an Alawite would be imprisoned for ten years - that is double. And now, (the regime) executes any Alawite defector it finds.

"There's no mercy for Alawites if they are with the revolution, and no mercy for their families either. We have had expanded relations with Alawites ever since we were in Syria before the revolution. We ate at their houses, and they ate at ours.”

Jarba also said the ongoing battle against the opposition is being led by the Syrian regime’s allies, including Iran and Hezbollah.

The SNC chief stated that the regime allies were the “real rulers” or Syria, not Bashar al-Assad.

Assad “no longer runs Syria,” he said. “The real rulers of Syria are the Iranian (elite) Revolutionary Guard... with the participation of (Lebanese Shiite) Hezbollah fighters.”

The Assad Baathist regime backers also include Houthi insurgents from Yemen.

Jarba said that supplying the Free Syrian Army with sophisticated weaponry would “change the course of the revolution,” despite Western fears that the arms could land in the hands of extremists.

The SNC leader also said that Syrian opposition fighters have seized control of “at least half” of the country, 29 months into an uprising against Assad.

Assad is “a killer and a criminal, and... he has collapsed,” the opposition chief said, reiterating the opposition’s insistence that any settlement must exclude Assad. He said that the next few months will be decisive.

The opposition leader also demanded that Assad be “punished for the war crimes he has committed against the Syrian people.”

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in mid-March 2011, said the U.N. in a statement.

Jarba was born in the city of Qamshili in 1969. He is a member of the Shammar tribe, one of the most prominent tribes in eastern Syria and holds a bachelor of law from Beirut Arab University.

He has always been an oppositional figure to the Syrian regime. He has never been affiliated to the Baath Party and his family were never part of parliaments during the Baath reign. But his family were involved in parliamentarian and political activity before this period. His family was represented in parliament from 1954 until 1963. The Arab Baath Socialist Party has persecuted his family ever since it attained power in 1963.

Jarba was detained in 1996 by the Syrian regime in the general intelligence division, and he was released in 1998 and no trial was held. After that, he moved to Damascus and practiced his political work.

He was shortly detained on March 27, 2011, at the beginning of the Syrian revolution in the internal security branch linked to the state security apparatus. After that, he went to Lebanon where he stayed for three months and where he was active in aid work. Then he returned to Syria but left again on August 19, 2012.

Jarba is one of the founders of the Syrian National Council. He's also a founding member of the national coalition of the Syrian revolution and opposition parties.

Jarba became head of the Syrian National Coalition after winning over his competitor, Mustafa al-Sabbagh, during the second round of elections.

The Syrian National Coalition was established in November 2011 in Doha, as part of an effort to unite the Syrian opposition with the aim of toppling Assad’s regime.

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