Burhan Ghalioun

Last updated
Burhan Ghalioun
برهان غليون
Ghalioun Burhan.jpg
President of the Syrian National Council
In office
29 August 2011 10 June 2012
Deputy Haitham al-Maleh
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Abdulbaset Sieda
Personal details
Born (1945-02-11) 11 February 1945 (age 73)
Homs, Syria
Alma mater Damascus University

Burhan Ghalioun (Arabic: برهان غليون) (born 11 February 1945 in Homs, Syria), is a French Syrian professor of sociology at the Université de Paris III Sorbonne University in Paris, [1] and the first chairman of the Syrian opposition Transitional National Council (SNC). He was named chairman on 29 August 2011. [2] His chairmanship was criticized for his perceived closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, his early reluctance to arm opposition forces, and what opponents called the autocratic nature of his leadership. [3] On 17 May 2012, feeling he had become an increasingly divisive figure for the council, Ghalioun resigned. [4]

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle

The New Sorbonne University is a public university in Paris, France.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.


Early career

Born in Homs in 1945, Ghalioun is a Sunni Muslim. [4] He studied sociology and philosophy at the University of Damascus. In 1969, he moved to Paris, where he received a PhD in social science from the University of Paris VIII and another in humanities from Sorbonne University. In the late 1970s, he made a name as an opponent of President Hafez Assad by publishing a pamphlet titled "A Manifesto for Democracy". [5] Drawing on the tradition of the European Enlightenment, the pamphlet made the case that Arab states had become the enemies of their societies, and that democratic reform was needed to take back state power. [6]

Sorbonne University university in Paris

Sorbonne University is a public research university in Paris, France, established by the merger in 2018 of Paris-Sorbonne University, Pierre et Marie Curie University, and other smaller institutions. The date 1257 on its emblem refers to the historical University of Paris, whose Collège de Sorbonne was founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon, and eventually became the current Faculty of Humanities of Sorbonne University.

Though the pamphlet gave Ghalioun a reputation as a leading opposition figure, he avoided party politics throughout the 1980s. However, he remained a public critic of the Assad government and a supporter of the Palestinian cause. [6] In 1983, he was one of the founders of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, and he also led the Syrian Cultural and Social Forum, an organization of anti-Assad Syrian expatriates. [6]

Arab Organization for Human Rights organization

The Arab Organization for Human Rights is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that works on human rights issues in the Arab World. It was founded with a resolution agreed on in Hammamet, Tunisia, in 1983.

Role in Damascus Spring

According to Al Jazeera, in 2000 During the rule of current Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, Syria saw what some considered a period of greater "political openness" termed by some the "Damascus Spring". Ghalioun, from his home in Paris, began to visit Syria more frequently for the next 12 months, and became more active in Syrian politics. [5] [6] In 2011, he discussed a lecture with Jadaliyya: "The Ba'th authority was shocked that over 700 people attended my lecture, news of which spread by word of mouth with no advertisement or organization. They lost their minds; how could all these people come with no organization? Because when they host a lecture, maybe three people show up who are not Ba'thist, and they are there because of personal interests. This scared them, it made them feel there was a strong, deep wave that may become stronger, more developed, possibly to the point of no return. They decided this was a dangerous tidal wave, and they must oppress the Damascus Spring at any price. And that's what happened: arresting participants, closing the forums, tracking the intellectuals." [7]

Jadaliyya ("dialectic") is a free ezine founded in 2010. It features English, Arabic, French, and Spanish-language content by academics, journalists, activists, and artists from and/or on the Middle East and is produced by the Arab Studies Institute (ASI).

He soon after decided that the new "political openness" had come to an end later in 2001 and chose to stay in France, now his home country of 32 years, to concentrate on his academic work. [5]

In 2005, Ghalioun returned to political activity in the period of the Damascus Declaration. He argued that Syrian opposition groups should avoid alliances with Western governments against the government, but rather work from within. [6]

The Damascus Declaration was a statement of unity by Syrian opposition figures issued in October 2005. It criticized the Syrian government as "authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish," and called for "peaceful, gradual," reform "founded on accord, and based on dialogue and recognition of the other."

Role in 2011–12 Syrian uprising

When Syria saw the first popular protests in March 2011 as part of the broader Arab Spring, Ghalioun immediately supported the protesters in the media. He also began working to bring together opposition groups. [5]

Following the Antalya Conference for Change in Syria in early June 2011, Ghalioun criticized the event as "serving foreign agendas," which prompted one of the organizers, Abdulrazak Eid, to accuse Ghalioun of attempting to appease the regime. [8]

In August 2011, the Syrian National Council (SNC) was established as an umbrella group to unify the many factions opposed to Assad's government. Ghalioun was named its head [6] and was viewed as a leader who could work with both Western governments and Syrian Islamists. [9] However, his leadership was criticized from the start by some fellow opposition members, who felt he was "not up to the job". [3] Others stated that he was too close to the Muslim Brotherhood and was attempting to monopolize power. [4] Ghalioun initially opposed the militarization of the opposition, preferring to work to a negotiated solution to the crisis. [9]

He was named for an additional three-month term in February 2012, a decision which caused several member organizations to resign from the council in protest. [5] On May 15, his term was renewed for another three months. In an attempt to heal growing divisions in the SNC, Ghalioun announced for the first time his support for providing weapons to the Free Syrian Army. [9] When the Local Co-ordination Committees threatened to leave the SNC, however, Ghalioun resigned two days later, stating that he did not wish to be "the candidate of division". His resignation was welcomed by some SNC members but criticized by others, who felt that resigning immediately following his re-election gave the SNC a further appearance of being in disarray. [3] On 10 June, he was replaced by Kurdish activist Abdulbaset Sieda. [10]

Ghalioun visited Syria on 19 June, crossing into the north of the country from Turkey and traveling incognito. [11] He met with rebels and activists, and stated that he concluded from his visit that Assad had "lost control on the ground". [12] The visit was his first since the beginning of the uprising. [13]

Political views

Ghalioun has generally avoided association with political movements such as Nasserism, Islamism, or communism. He sees democracy as "a panacea for the Arab world" and a "historical necessity", arguing that Arab governments have failed to build successful nation states out of their nationalist movements, and that opposition to those governments must center on demands for democratic reforms. [6]

In 2011, he stated his belief that given the Assad administration's persistent repressive policies and its "refusal to reach an understanding with its people", Syrians have only two options. They can either unite and cooperate to bring about "a pluralist, civil, democratic order in which all Syrian citizens are equal", or there will be "a certain slide into violence, anarchy, and destruction". [6] He also stated that if the SNC took over Syria it would end the military relationship to Iran and cut off arms supplies to Hezbollah and Hamas. [14]

Related Research Articles

Abdul Halim Khaddam Syrian leader

Abdul Halim Khaddam is a Syrian politician who was Vice President of Syria from 1984 to 2005. He was long known as a loyalist of Hafez Assad, and held a strong position within the Syrian government until he resigned his positions and fled the country in 2005 in protest against certain policies of Hafez's son and successor, Bashar Assad.

Ali Farzat Syrian cartoonist

Ali Farzat or Ali Ferzat is a Syrian political cartoonist. He has published more than 15,000 caricatures in Syrian, Arab and international newspapers. He serves as the head of the Arab Cartoonists' Association. In 2011 he received Sakharov Prize for peace. Farzat was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012.

Adel Safar is a Syrian politician and academic, who served as Prime Minister of Syria from 14 April 2011 to 23 June 2012. His government was dissolved by Bashar al-Assad as a result of the Syrian parliamentary election in 2012. He was Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform from 2003 to 2011.

Wael Nader Al-Halqi is a Syrian politician who was Prime Minister of Syria from 2012 to 2016. Previously he was Minister of Health from 2011 to 2012. He was appointed as Prime Minister on 9 August 2012.

International reactions to the Syrian Civil War ranged from support for the government to calls for the government to dissolve. The Arab league, United Nations and Western governments in 2011 quickly condemned the Syrian government's response to the protests which later evolved into the Syrian Civil War as overly heavy-handed and violent. Many Middle Eastern governments initially expressed support for the government and its "security measures", but as the death toll mounted, especially in Hama, they switched to a more balanced approach, criticizing violence from both government and protesters. Russia and China vetoed two attempts at United Nations Security Council sanctions against the Syrian government.

Syrian National Council organization

The Syrian National Council, sometimes known as the Syrian National Transitional Council or the National Council of Syria, is a Syrian opposition coalition, based in Istanbul, Turkey, formed in August 2011 during the Syrian civil uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (September–December 2011)

The following is a timeline of the Syrian uprising from September to December 2011. This period saw the uprising take on many of the characteristics of a civil war, according to several outside observers, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, as armed elements became better organized and began carrying out successful attacks in retaliation for the ongoing crackdown by the Syrian government on demonstrators and defectors.

Abdulrazak Eid Intellectual, Author, Leading reformer

Abdulrazak Eid, Abdul razzak Eid, Abdul razaq Eid, Abdel razzak Eid, Abdul razzaq Eid, or Abd al Razzaq 'Id is a Syrian writer and thinker and one of Syria's leading reformers. He helped to found the Committees of Civil Society in Syria, drafted the Statement of 1000 and helped to draft the Damascus Declaration. Because of his opposition writings and political actions, he was arrested many times in Syria, banned from working and traveling, kidnapped by the Syrian intelligence forces, and was threatened with being assassinated. He fled Syria in 2008 for exile in Europe where he was elected president of the National Council of Damascus Declaration in exile.

Siege of Homs siege

The Siege of Homs was a military confrontation between the Syrian military and the Syrian opposition in the city of Homs as a part of the Syrian Civil War. The siege lasted three years from May 2011 to May 2014, and resulted in an opposition withdrawal from the city.

National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change organization

The National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCC), or National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), is a Syrian bloc chaired by Hassan Abdel Azim consisting of 13 left-wing political parties and "independent political and youth activists". It has been defined by Reuters as the internal opposition's main umbrella group. The NCC initially had several Kurdish political parties as members, but all except for the Democratic Union Party left in October 2011 to join the Kurdish National Council. Some opposition activists have accused the NCC of being a "front organization" for Bashar al-Assad's government and some of its members of being ex-government insiders.

International recognition of the Syrian National Council

The Syrian National Council (SNC) is recognised by 7 UN members, the Republic of Kosovo and the European Union as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people in the midst of the Syrian Civil War, with three of those being permanent members of the Security Council. One country, Libya, recognises the SNC as the legitimate government of Syria.

Syrian opposition

The Syrian opposition is an umbrella term for the political structure represented by the Syrian National Coalition and associated anti-government Syrian groups with certain territorial control in the form of a proto-state as an alternative Syrian government, claiming to be the legitimate Syrian Arab Republic and also sometimes known just as the Republic of Syria. The Syrian opposition evolved since the beginning of the Syrian conflict from groups calling for the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria and who have opposed its Ba'athist government. Prior to the Syrian Civil War, the term "opposition" had been used to refer to traditional political actors, for example the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change; that is, groups and individuals who have had a history of dissidence against the Syrian state.

Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (January–April 2012)

The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from January to April 2012, during which time the spate of protests that began in January 2011 lasted into another calendar year. An Arab League monitoring mission ended in failure as Syrian troops and anti-government militants continued to do battle across the country and the Syrian government prevented foreign observers from touring active battlefields, including besieged opposition strongholds. A United Nations-backed ceasefire brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan met a similar fate, with unarmed UN peacekeepers' movements tightly controlled by the government and fighting.

This article details responses from Syrian government officials to widespread civil unrest which began in early 2011 and eventually unraveled into nationwide civil war.

Bassma Kodmani Syrian academic

Bassma Kodmani is a Syrian academic and former spokesperson of the Syrian National Council. She is the Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, a network of independent Arab research and policy institutes working to promote democracy in the Arab world.

Abdulbaset Sieda is a Kurdish-Syrian academic and politician. He is the former President of the Syrian National Council (SNC), succeeding Burhan Ghalioun in June 2012. He has written a number of books on the Kurds in Syria and his academic work specializes in ancient civilizations.

George Sabra president of the Syrian National Council

George Sabra is a member of the Syrian Democratic People's Party. He was elected president of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group in Syria, on 9 November 2012 and later was acting president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces from 22 April – 6 July 2013. He resigned from the National Coalition on 25 April 2018. Sabra is a Christian.

National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces coalition of opposition groups in the Syrian civil war

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, commonly named the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), is a coalition of opposition groups in the Syrian Civil War that was founded in Doha, Qatar, in November 2012. Former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Moaz al-Khatib, considered a moderate, was elected the president of the coalition, and resigned on 21 April 2013. Riad Seif and Suheir Atassi, both prominent democracy activists and the latter a secular human rights advocate, were elected vice presidents. The post of a third vice president will remain vacant for a Kurdish figure to be elected. Mustafa Sabbagh was elected as the coalition's secretary-general. The coalition has a council of 114 seats, though not all of them are filled.

Suheir Atassi Syrian politician

Suheir al-Atassi is the leading female secular activist in the Syrian opposition, and co-vice-president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces between November 2012 and December 2013. She has been called the "Lady of the Revolution" and is widely respected in secular and intellectual circles within the Syrian opposition structure. She had previously run the media wing of the banned Jamal Atassi Forum, which was named after her father, a founding member of the Ba'ath Party who later left and founded the Democratic Arab Socialist Union.

Antalya Conference for Change in Syria

The Conference for Change in Syria, or Antalya Opposition Conference, was a three-day conference of representatives of the Syrian opposition held from 31 May until 3 June 2011 in Antalya, Turkey. Since the early days of the Syrian civil uprising, it was the second of its kind, following the Istanbul Meeting for Syria that had taken place on 26 April 2011.


  1. "Burhan Ghalioun; The Guardian". RIA Novosti. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  2. "Sorbonne professor appointed head of Syrian opposition council". RIA Novosti. 29 August 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 "Syrian National Council head Burhan Ghalioun 'to resign'". BBC News. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 "Syria opposition rift widens with resignation of Burhan Ghalioun". The Guardian. Associated Press. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Profile: Syria's Burhan Ghalioun". Al Jazeera. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Basheer al-Baker (13 September 2011). "Burhan Ghalioun: Opposition from Exile or at Home?". Al Akhbar. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  7. Portraits of a People
  8. Basheer al-Baker (13 September 2011). "Burhan Ghalioun: Opposition from Exile or at Home?". Al Akhbar . Archived from the original on 24 October 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 Oliver Holmes (15 May 2012). "Facing dissent, Syrian exile leader changes tack". Reuters. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  10. "Profile: Syria's Abdulbaset Sieda". Al Jazeera. 10 June 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  11. Rana Khoury (28 June 2012). "Former SNC chief Ghalioun says his visit to Syria proves Assad 'lost control'". Al Arabiya. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  12. "Ex-opposition chief says he visited Syria briefly Tuesday". Google News. Agence France-Presse. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  13. Rima Marrouch (27 June 2012). "Opposition leader enters Syria in disguise, visits rebels". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  14. "Ghalioun: 'I will cut Damascus's relationship to Iran & end arms supplies to Hezbollah & Hamas!'". Arab News Blog. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2012.