Suhair al-Atassi is a human rights activist, co-founder and former member of the Syrian Revolution General Commission, and one of two vice presidents of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
Al-Atassi has been politically active since the brief period of social and political debate in 2000–2001 known as the “Damascus Spring,” which followed the death of then President Hafez al-Assad. In 2001, she started the Jamal al-Atassi National Dialogue Forum, named after her father, a pan-Arab nationalist who had moved into opposition against Assad in 1973. The “spring” proved short-lived; the authorities banned the forum, suppressed its activities, and placed Suhair al-Atassi under arrest. She revived the Jamal al-Atassi Forum as an online group in 2009, using it to promote peaceful opposition and democracy in Syria.
Al-Atassi quickly became a particularly active leader of the 2011 uprising, embodying the secular democratic opposition. She was arrested in March after appearing on Al-Jazeera television to provide an eyewitness account of the protests. Along with human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, al-Atassi was active in the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, advocating civil disobedience against the regime. She also played an important role in founding and representing abroad the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a coalition of over 40 local revolutionary groups established in August.
On October 14, 2012, al-Atassi made a public appearance in the town of Tal al-Abyad in the al-Raqqa Province on the Syrian-Turkish border, which had been taken by the al-Farouq Brigade of the Free Syrian Army. She described her visit as a show of support for the Free Syrian Army and evidence that armed rebels are fighting for a civil state. Al-Atassi's posing for photographs in a military uniform reflected the close ties that have developed between the Syrian Revolution General Commission and the Free Syrian Army as well as the growing salience of armed opposition to the Assad regime.
On November 10, al-Atassi resigned from the Syrian Revolution General Commission. The following day she was elected vice president of the newly formed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
Suhair al-Atassi was born in Damascus in 1971 to a prominent family from Homs that has long been involved in national politics and has produced many senior army officers. Her father was a founding figure of the Baath Party and later head of the opposition Democratic Arab Socialist Union. His cousin Nureddin al-Atassi was president of Syria in 1966–1970 until being deposed by Hafez al-Assad. Al-Atassi studied French literature and education at the University of Damascus. After spending several months in hiding during the uprising, she moved to France in November 2011.