London—The newly elected general supervisor of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Riyadh al-Shaqfa, has announced that the truce that had existed between the group and the Syrian regime was now officially at an end. The truce, he said, had been contingent upon the situation in the Gaza Strip.
“This war in Gaza is over now,” Shafqa told Al-Masry Al-Youm in his first press interview since his election as the group’s eighth general supervisor at the end of July. “Therefore, our opposition to the regime has been reinstated.”
In January 2009, the organisation announced its decision to suspend all activities directed against the Syrian regime following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead on the Gaza Strip. The Gaza strip is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Damascus is home to the Palestinian group’s political leader Khaled Mashal, and has traditionally been one of Hamas’ strongest allies in the region.
Shaqfa, 66, was a leading figure in the group's military wing during the bloody events of the 1980s. Analysts believe that his background suggests that the group will assume a more aggressive stance towards Syria’s 40-year-old Baathist regime. Farouq Tayfour, another senior military leader, was elected as his deputy.
“Violence is not our policy. The way of peace is our choice for political struggle,” Shafqa said, contending that the regime and not his organisation was responsible for the initiation of conflict.
Former Brotherhood spokesman Zoheir Salem said the elections which brought Shafqa to power over his predecessor Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni were held in a democratic atmosphere.
“Most group members were dismayed by Bayanouni’s stance,” he said, “And this was clearly expressed in these elections.”
Bayanouni, 72, was first elected to the group’s top position in 1996 and has long advocated for a moderate stance towards the regime especially since the ascent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s in 2000.
Political analyst Ayman Abdel Nour said that because the Syrian regime had not been drawiing attention to the group’s initiatives and ideologies over the last five years, it had been easier for extremists to make their way to the top positions.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood group was established in 1937. Ten years later, the group succeeded in winning three parliamentary seats. However in 1980, the Syrian government passed legislation condemning to death anyone who joined the organisation. In the same year, more than 1200 members were killed in the Tadmor military prison and In 1982, more than 30,000 people were killed when the city of Homa was bombarded by Syrian army artillery and aircraft in an attempt to put down a revolt by the Brotherhood.