Recent remarks by Ayman al-Zawahiri, expressing the new al-Qaeda leader's desire to join the ranks of demonstrators against the Syrian regime, sparked indignation and condemnation among Syrian opposition figures.
In particular, youth opposition members rejected the transformation of their revolution into a violent or sectarian movement.
Al-Zawahiri declared his support for the "rebels of Syria" in a videotape posted on Islamist websites on Wednesday (July 27th) though it is thought to have been produced this past June.
In the seven-minute video, entitled "The Glory of the East Starts from Damascus", al-Zawahiri praised demonstrators in Syria and said to them, "With your bare chests you faced tank shells, artillery and helicopters."
In his message, al-Zawahiri regretted being unable, with other al-Qaeda fighters, "to join the Syrians demonstrating against the regime of President Bashar Assad."
"God knows that I and my brothers would be among you and with you and we would defend you with our lives, and we would protect you with our chests if the war in which we are fighting the new crusaders was not raging," he said.
However, only hours after the video was broadcast on the internet, one of the largest Syrian youth groups involved in the revolution issued a statement condemning al-Qaeda's flagrant interference in the affairs of the Syrian revolution, parts of which were read to Al-Shorfa by its Lebanon-based Co-ordinator-General, Omar Edelbi.
"The Local Co-ordinating Committees of Syria condemn the statement by the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and his intervention in the affairs of the Syrian revolution at a time when the Syrian regime is conducting a campaign of fierce repression targeting entire neighbourhoods in Damascus and all of its countryside, in addition to the occupation and siege of uprising cities," he said.
Edelbi described al-Zawahiri’s statement as "an attempt by him to suggest that al-Qaeda has a presence in Syria." He added, "This fact alone would incite international public opinion against the youth revolution in Syria, which could give the repressive regime in Syria an excuse and cover for escalating its security and criminal campaign against the free [people] of Syria."
He continued, "We condemn such comments, which bear no relation whatsoever to the revolution and its goals. It is our position and we will not abandon it."
Edelbi cited the Arab spring, which proved the ability of young people to peacefully topple regimes in both Tunisia and Egypt without al-Qaeda participation and its violent methods. "We insist on continuing the march of our revolution in the peaceful line that we have adopted since the beginning. Accordingly, we reject any attempts to turn it into a violent or sectarian movement."
Opposition youth activist Rami Nakhleh said that the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is absolutely unwelcome in their peaceful revolution.
"Our uprising and demonstrations are peaceful, and the methods of our struggle as well as our goals in this revolution are completely different from the methods and goals of al-Zawahiri and his organisation," Nakhleh told Al-Shorfa, "We are seeking, through our demonstrations and our revolution, to achieve democracy in its true sense, and with peaceful means."
He added, "There is no cause that joins us with al-Zawahiri."
According to political analyst and journalist Hazem al-Amin, al-Zawahiri's words are of no value.
"The attempt by the leader of al-Qaeda came too late, and he is seeking through what he said to ride the wave of the Arab street, which moved past al-Qaeda," al-Amin told Al-Shorfa.
"Al-Qaeda is currently experiencing a big dilemma, namely the Arab revolutions, which produced an alternative discourse to the discourse of crisis posed by al-Qaeda," he added. "The name of this discourse is the Arab spring, and it focuses on peaceful action removed from methods of violence, while al-Qaeda is outside of it."
Al-Amin said, "In the end, al-Zawahiri’s words are of no value and have no reverberations, even in the Syrian street itself."
He added that this talk is creating suspicion in the Syrian street toward al-Qaeda and its objective vis-à-vis the revolution, stressing that the speech "disrupts and hinders the peaceful revolution".