Since March, Syrians have taken to the streets calling for an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and a transition to democracy. However, the Syrian opposition has struggled to establish a unified leadership. The United States Institute of Peace hosted the first public discussion in the U.S. with founding members of the Syrian National Council, including opposition figures who are among the leadership of the SNC Council.

Since March, Syrians have taken to the streets calling for an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and a transition to democracy. The Syrian government has responded with massive force, killing some 3,000 Syrians and arresting tens of thousands more. Despite government repression, the Syrian uprising has given rise to an active and increasingly capable opposition movement, both inside Syria and among Syrians living abroad.

However, the Syrian opposition has struggled to establish a unified leadership. Now, following an intensive process of negotiations among diverse opposition groups, a Syrian National Council (SNC) has been established to represent the Syrian opposition. The formation of the SNC is an important and positive step in the opposition’s development. Yet significant challenges must still be overcome for the SNC to secure international recognition, broaden its support within Syria, and acquire the legitimacy it will need to establish itself as a viable alternative to the Assad regime.

To discuss these concerns, the United States Institute of Peace hosted the first public discussion in the U.S. with founding members of the Syrian National Council, including opposition figures who are among the leadership of the SNC Council. A prominent Syrian dissident and leader of the uprising who is a resident inside of Syria participated in the discussion.

Speakers

  • Ausama Monajed
    A member of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and executive director of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre in London. Mr. Monajed has been involved in the coordination between protest organizers across Syria, providing logistical support on the ground and managing a network of volunteers abroad to monitor developments, collect information and footage, and feed international and regional media with latest updates. Mr. Monajed previously served as the director of Barada Television, the Syrian opposition TV channel.
  • Murhaf Jouejati, Ph.D.
    A member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Dr. Jouejati is professor of middle east studies at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. Dr. Jouejati is also a professorial lecturer in political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, as well as a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.
  • Najib Ghadbian, Ph.D.
    A Syrian academic and member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Professor Ghadbian is associate professor of political science and middle east studies at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of several books and articles in English and Arabic. His Arabic book, “The Second Assad Regime: Bashar of Lost Opportunities,” was published in 2006. Dr. Ghadbian was a signatory to the Damascus Declaration and is currently active within the Syrian opposition abroad.
  • Ms. Dima Moussa
    A Syrian-born attorney and member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Ms. Mousa has been affiliated with the Human Rights Law Institute of DePaul University, focusing on Arab women's rights. She has also volunteered with an organization that assisted Iraqi refugees in adjusting to life in the United States. In recent months, Ms. Moussa has been active in the Syrian-American community, serving as a media spokesperson for a key grassroots movements in Syria, in addition to independently working with activists inside and outside Syria. Ms. Moussa is fluent in Arabic and English, in addition to speaking Assyrian.
  • Steven Heydemann, Ph.D. Moderator
    Senior Adviser, Middle East Initiatives
    U.S. Institute of Peace

Explore Further

Related Academy Courses

Related Publications

Event Extra: Syria’s Brutal Civil War and the Elusive Quest for Justice

Event Extra: Syria’s Brutal Civil War and the Elusive Quest for Justice

Monday, November 21, 2022

By: Adam Gallagher

In 2016, the U.N. General Assembly established the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), after vetoes in the U.N. Security Council prevented referral of the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. IIIM Head Catherine Marchi-Uhel discusses the obstacles to this work, the progress made to date and what lessons it can provide for delivering accountability and justice in other conflicts.

Type: Podcast

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

ISIS is a Problem of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

ISIS is a Problem of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Thursday, July 28, 2022

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

More than three years after its military defeat in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is a downgraded threat thanks to the collective efforts of the U.S.-led global coalition that coalesced to defeat it along with Iraqi and Syrian partners. While the extremist group’s capacity has been drastically reduced and millions of people have returned home, ISIS has managed to continue attacks year after year despite no longer holding territory. Meanwhile, some of the most difficult human legacies — the challenges facing the people the ISIS conflict left behind — are still with us, with no end in sight.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

Putin and Erdogan in Iran to Discuss Syria’s Future, Ukraine War

Putin and Erdogan in Iran to Discuss Syria’s Future, Ukraine War

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

By: John Drennan;  Sarhang Hamasaeed;  Mona Yacoubian

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are gathering in Tehran, with Ankara’s threat of a new incursion into northern Syria likely to top the agenda. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has both domestic and strategic reasons for the move, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi want to maintain the status quo in Syria, where both their countries have expended significant resources to prop up the Assad regime. Russia’s war on Ukraine will also feature prominently at the trilateral summit. Iran has offered to provide Moscow with drones and Putin and Erdogan are reportedly set to discuss restarting Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGlobal Policy

Could Syria Have Been Saved by a U.S. Effort to Bring It to Peace with Israel?

Could Syria Have Been Saved by a U.S. Effort to Bring It to Peace with Israel?

Thursday, July 14, 2022

By: Adam Gallagher

Over a decade into Syria’s civil war, it’s hard to fathom the country at peace and integrated with the international community. The Assad regime’s brutal oppression of protests in March 2011 sparked more than 10 years of violence, conflict and tragedy in the country. But in the weeks before, there was quiet hope that a clandestine U.S. effort could broker a land-for-peace deal between Israel and Syria. For Syria, such a peace agreement would have resulted in the lifting of U.S. sanctions and financial assistance, trade and investment from the international community, giving Syrians hope for a better future.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

View All Publications