Middle East

Profile: Syrian National Council head Abdulbaset Sayda

Abdulbaset Sayda
Image caption Mr Sayda has called on Russia and China to "stand by the Syrian people"

Kurdish academic Abdulbaset Sayda has been named the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) following the resignation of Burhan Ghalioun on 17 May.

Mr Sayda, who was elected unopposed, is viewed as a consensus candidate, who is best placed to unite the various political factions which comprise the council.

His election has also been viewed as a gesture towards Syria's Kurdish population who have been wary of the Sunni Arab-dominated opposition movement.

'The Kurdish question'

Mr Sayda has downplayed the significance of his ethnicity to his new role, arguing that his selection to run the SNC was "clear evidence that the Syrians have reached a high level of maturity that puts citizenship as a priority, and have overcome the sectarian fanaticism and divisions that the regime might try to nurture in order to reach the stage of civil war."

He has taken criticism from some Kurdish groups in the past for marginalising their interests within the SNC in favour of those of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

In an interview with the Kurd Net website, he argued that the MB "are a part of society. One cannot simply ignore them and exclude them from the process", while stressing that answering the "Kurdish question" would win the Syrian opposition support from millions of Kurds in the region.

In April 2012, he pledged the SNC's readiness to recognise the Kurds as a nation within Syria after the fall of the Assad regime.


As a founder member of the SNC, Mr Sayda has played a key role in the political movement against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

At a news conference to announce the council's formation on 2 October 2011, he emphasised the importance of unifying all opposition forces against what he called the "despotic regime that no longer belongs to this age or to humanity".

In November 2008 he represented the SNC in a meeting with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in a bid "to formulate a joint action plan" against the Assad regime.

In an interview with Al Jazeera in February 2012, Mr Sayda acknowledged that in the early days of the uprising, the opposition were amenable to Bashar Assad spearheading a process of political reform, but that the actions of the regime had since made this impossible.

He described the newly-drafted Syrian constitution as "worthless", adding: "even if this regime brings the Swedish constitution, it will offer the Syrians nothing".

Mr Sayda has said that military intervention in Syria should only be conducted with UN Security Council approval. He has pledged the SNC's support for the Kofi Annan peace plan, but said the UN should do more to ensure that the Assad regime sticks to it.

He has called upon Russia and China to "reconsider their calculations" on the Syrian issue and "stand by the Syrian people".

In February 2012 he told Al Jazeera that contacts between the SNC and Russia were severed after Moscow vetoed the Security Council draft resolution on Syria the previous October.

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