How surprise gesture secured Sabra's victory

Despite his loss in first round, an act of generosity from an unlikely quarter helped George Sabra became SNC leader.

by

    In order to become the head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), any candidate has to first be elected into a 41-member secretariat, and next onto an executive committee of 11 members, who then vote for a leader. 

    George Sabra failed in the first stage, missing by one vote the chance to join the secretariat, so, you might wonder, how has he just become leader of the SNC?

    Many blamed Sabra's initial defeat on the closed-list system, which has benefited the well-organised Islamists [who won a third of the seats] and put the loose, secular coalitions at a disadvantage.

    Sabra's loss not only disappointed people inside the council, but also many ordinary Syrians opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

    Sabra, for many, is not just a member of an opposition bloc. He is also a struggler. A long-time opponent of Assad rule, he was jailed for eight years and detained twice after the uprising erupted in March last year.

    Since Sabra is a Christian, the SNC tried to work around the bylaws and offer him a seat in the secretariat as part of a minority groups' quota.

    But Sabra, a secular leftist from the Damascus suburbs, refused to accept this opportunity.

    "He is not a politician, or an academic. He is a revolutionary. He doesn't speak in abstract. His tone conveys our anger and pain. He is our voice," said Faraj Hammoud Faraj, an SNC member and part of the Higher Council for the Syrian Revolution (HCSR), an activist network based in Syria.

    The HCSR, which works in both relief efforts and supporting Syria's rebels, has been accused of being an intolerant hardline Islamist group, Faraj says.

    But the night before elections, the HCSR made a move that could change this perception.

    The group, which won three seats in the SNC secretariat, decided to invite Sabra to join their group, take the seat of one of its members and represent it.

    "When Wasel al-Shamali offered him his seat, George Sabra cried," Faraj says. "We all cried."

    The rest is history.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR



    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.