DAY ONE

Two friends have given feedback on the second day of the Syrian Opposition meeting in Antalya.

Syria: Opposition Drafts Declaration in Antalya

Both were impressed by the constructive nature of the second day. George Washington was not born, they conceded, but hard decisions were made.

The Muslim Brothers and Islamists were under intense pressure to accept the notion of a secular government where religion and state would be separate. They resisted this most of the day but ultimately conceded at the eleventh hour. We do not have the statement or wording on this “secular” statement. But the MB accepted to not contest the separation of state and religion in the conference statement. I will publish as soon as I can get the wording of the conference statement.

According to some, Amr al-Azm (son of Sadiq) Amr Miqdad (presumably from the large Deraa family), and Muhammad al-Abdullah all played an important role in mediating and facilitating the discussion. They worked very hard to get the secular statement accepted.

The young guys were impressive. “Anyone in Damascus who doesn’t take these guys seriously is stupid,” my source explained. They are no where near where they should be, but for a first meeting this was impressive.” There were many arguments between the young, new leaders and the old, established leaders who have been in exile for decades. The young leaders had no patience for the committees and bureaucracy of the older generation. They are getting communication lines in place, developing networks between towns and did not have time for the endless haggling of the older generation.

About 70 Kurds showed up which surprised everyone. Also the number of tribal leaders was impressive. They were wearing heir dish dashers and kafiyyas.

“People have just had enough of being treated like shit. They want to be treated like real human beings – this was what it was all about,” one person explained. They have given up on talking with the regime. They don’t want the Assad family anymore.

Another important accomplishment was the establishment of an executive board and an election. They voted on a 31 member executive body, nine of whom will be full time. Two different lists of 31 people were presented, then they voted  on which of the two lists would be picked. There was a lot of argument about who would be on the lists. It looks like they have agree on the people.

When the National Salvation Front was constructed in 2006, ex-V.P. Abdal Halim Khaddam waltzed in and took charge without a proper election. It was not a democratic opposition. At the very least, this opposition effort is proceeding by some sort of democratic procedure and there are elections.

Another aspect of the meeting that people liked was that the organizers of the conference excluded Farid Ghadary, Abdal Halim Khaddam, and Rifaat al-Assad because they are too tainted.  The conference came out with a statement refusing foreign intervention and proclaiming the integrity and inviolability of Syria’s boarders. “Everything must be done to preserve Syria’s unity and territorial integrity,” their statement read.

“I want those people in Damascus to feel threatened,” said one friend. “This meeting is more impressive than anything the Baath has accomplished in the last 40 years. When have they ever had a real election? This is a start. There was a real young group of people working on the road to Damascus”

They issued a statement that Alawis should feel safe. No group would be targeted.

The Antalya group will start their own Facebook page tomorrow.

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