Middle East

Profile: Ahmad Jarba, Syrian opposition leader

Ahmad Jarba
Image caption Ahmad Jarba has been a leading advocate of arming the opposition

Ahmad Jarba, the new head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, is an influential tribal figure who has close links to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Jarba, a Sunni Muslim, was born in 1969 in the north-eastern Syrian city of Qamishli, in Hassakeh province. The province is home to Arabs and Kurds.

He is a member of the Shammar tribe, one of the most prominent tribes in eastern Syria. The Shammar also has a presence in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Saudi ties

Mr Jarba was politically active in the 1990s and was imprisoned between 1996 and 1998 for opposing President Hafez al-Assad.

He was jailed again in March 2011, at the start of the current uprising, for supporting pro-democracy protests. Mr Jarba left for neighbouring Lebanon that August, after his release.

He has subsequently spent time in Saudi Arabia and is believed to maintain close ties with the Gulf kingdom's leadership. Saudi Arabia is a leading source of support for the Syrian opposition.

Mr Jarba has played a vital role in bridging the gap between tribes in eastern Syria and the opposition.

He is close to the faction of Syrian secular dissident Michel Kilo, who has sought to gain the support of minority groups in the face of a possible Islamist takeover.

Mr Jarba was a member of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), before joining the coalition.

He suspended his membership of the National Coalition in March 2013, following its appointment of Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of the organisation's interim government. Mr Jarba went on to help administer rebel-held areas.

According to the National Coalition's Facebook page, Mr Jarba "has been supporting the Syrian revolution, providing medical and military aid, since the beginning of the revolution". He has also been a "key figure in establishing political diplomacy", it says.

In recent months, Mr Jarba has been a leading advocate of providing arms to the opposition forces.

Although he often wears a Western-style suit and tie, some of Mr Jarba's official photographs show him wearing the traditional robe worn by Arab tribesmen.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.