Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood unveils new political charter
Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood unveils new political charter

As Syrian opposition groups come under increasing criticism, the country's Muslim Brotherhood has unveiled a new political charter in Istanbul.

The document provides details of the religious group's vision of a post-Assad Syria.

In its charter, the Brotherhood pledges to "endorse a civil constitution that protects the rights of individuals and groups". It is seeking to establish a republic with a parliamentary system ahead of a democratic state.

It also calls on the state to guarantee equality between men and women, as well as to protect human rights such as "dignity, equality, freedom of speech and religion, political participation and social justice".

The group pledges "to abolish segregation and torture, and [to] protect individual freedoms in both the private and the public spheres".

It further underlines its commitment to fight terrorism and says that pro-regime and opposition fighters arrested in the unfolding conflict have a right to "just trials under an independent and transparent judiciary system" once the uprising draws to a close.

The charter's emphasis on a secular state is aimed at Syria's minority groups and upper middle class, which currently supports the Assad regime.

TheMuslim Brotherhood is the largestopposition movement in Syria. It has already been subjected to a state-led crackdown on its members under Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez, who ruled the country from 1971 to 2000.

Ten of thousands of civilians were killed by the regime during a massacre in the city of Hama in 1982 after residents were accused of harbouring armed members of the Brotherhood.

The government, which is predominantly ruled byShia Alawites, has sought to depict the reform movement as a group of Islamist fundamentalist Sunnis.

The group remains popular in Syria and observers say it is especially influential among members of the Syrian National Council, a coalition of oppositon groups.

After the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the election of a parliament with a majority of Islamist parties led to fears that the Arab Spring revolutions had been hijacked by a religious groups.

The Syrian branch has hit back by insisting that it wants to unify the Syrian opposition without seeking to control the country.

"The regime is trying to show that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to control Syria alone," Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfa, head of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, said in Istanbul.

"We want a democratic Syria and we do not want to control the country alone."

A Friends of Syria conference is scheduled to take place on 1 April in Istanbul. Shaqfa said Syrian opposition groups would meet to ensure that "90 percent of the opposition parties will be united by 1 April, under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council".

The new political effort comes as Western powers remain reluctant to provide opposition groups with arms, saying aid should instead take non-lethal forms.

Human Rights Watch also published a report warning that atrocities were being committed by both the Assad regime and some of the rebels fighting against the Syrian forces.