The Supreme Council for the Leadership of the Syrian Revolution (SCLSR) is one of the main grassroots opposition networks in Syria. The SCLSR seeks to provide political representation for the uprising as well as logistical and financial support to the armed rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime.
Suliman Khaled Alhiraki: president of the SCLSR; member of the Revolutionary Command Council in Hama; member of the General Secretariat of the Syrian National Council (SNC)
George Sabra: member of the SCLSR; chairman of the SNC
Yasser Najjar: member of the Revolutionary Command Council in Aleppo and the SNC’s Revolutionary Movement bloc
Mohamad Said Salam: member of the Revolutionary Command Council in Damascus and the SNC’s Revolutionary Movement bloc
Daoud al-Suliman: member of the Revolutionary Command Council in the Idlib province
Waselal-Shamali: member of the Revolutionary Command Council in Homs and the General Secretariat of the SNC
Jamal al-Ward: member of the General Secretariat of the SNC
The SCLSR was founded on September 4, 2011. It brings together 40 Revolutionary Councils from every major town and city across Syria. The most important of these are in areas affected by heavy fighting such as Homs, Idlib, Hama, Damascus, Aleppo, andDeir Ez-Zor. Revolutionary Command Councils oversee the activities of the local Revolutionary Councils in every major province. Each Revolutionary Command Council has two representatives—usually inside Syria—in the SCLSR, which is organized into the following bureaus: services, media, relief, logistics, and political.
The SCLSR initially focused on peaceful revolutionary work -- organizing demonstrations against the regime and disseminating information about the uprising. Its leading members are urban middle class academics, professionals, and religious figures, whereas media activists or journalists are comparatively more prominent in other grassroots networks. Consequently, the SCLSR lacks the well-organized media effort of other organizations and has had less visibility.
There was a marked shift in the SCLSR’s activity by the end of 2011in response to the upsurge in fighting and the intensification of the regime’s crackdown. Since then the group has come to focus, almost exclusively, on providing financial and logistical support to the armed rebellion. The SCLSR has not taken up arms, but its growing militarization prompted Rima Fuleihan, a journalist and activist who was one of the network’s founding members, to leave it.
Currently, the Revolutionary Councils and Revolutionary Command Councils of the SCLSR distribute money and weapons and provide other logistical support to the battalions and military councils of the Free Syrian Army as well as to other rebel groups. Funding is mostly provided by Syrian businessmen abroad, and weapons come directly from the governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Thanks to its active involvement in the military uprising, the SCLSR is probably one of the best-funded grassroots organizations inside Syria.
In the province of Idlib, the SCLSR contributed to the establishment of the local military council, which is backed by the Free Syrian Army, and the Daraa al-Shamal(Shield of the North) brigade. In other parts of Syria, however, the SCLSR is known to cooperate with independent Salafi militant groups that call for Islamic rule, such as the al-Ansar Brigade in Homs and the Liwa al-Islam in Douma.
Although the SCLSR declares itself to be a secular organization, a number of its members have academic backgrounds in Islamic studies, theology, and sharia. Leading members Abdul Salam Muhammad al-Shuqairi and MutieelButein, for example, are mosque preachers who graduated from al-Azhar University in Cairo. The fact that the SCLSR supports Salafi rebels and jihadists could be interpreted as a further indication of Islamist leanings, but this could also be a pragmatic choice motivated by the preferences of conservative Gulf-based donors or, perhaps, a sign of the blurred distinction between Free Syrian Army and independent rebel brigades.
Political Platform and Policy Toward the Crisis
The SCLSR’s primary stated goal is to topple the regime and liberate Syria in order to establish a democratic state based on justice, freedom, and equality. It does not, however, have a well-defined political agenda nor a party affiliation or ideology. While this may be a deliberate choice that allows adaptation to changing circumstances and avoids alienating any form of domestic or foreign support, it may also be an indication of a short-term approach and lack of vision.
At the time of its establishment, the SCLSR was opposed to external military intervention and the arming of the opposition. It now considers foreign intervention and support—especially from Arab states—as necessary to overthrow the regime.
The SCLSR was one of the founding members of the SNC in October 2011. Out of all the grassroots civilian networks in Syria, the SCLSR is the strongest and best represented within the council. On November 7, 2012, at least four SCLSR members were elected to the new General Secretariat of the SNC. The SCLSR was also instrumental in the election of George Sabra, a leading memberof the Democratic People’s Party, as the new SNC chairman after SCLSR delegate Wasel al-Shamali relinquished his seat on the General Secretariat to Sabra. On November 11, the SCLSR announced that Sabra had joined the group.