Abdulrahman Mustafa has become acting president of the Syrian National Coalition (Etilaf) after President Riad Seif had to resign for health issues. Mustafa was the president of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, which he has represented in the SNC since 2014. Mustafa was a businessman and did not have any political career before the revolution.
Mustafa was the child of a middle class Turkmen family from Jarablus, Aleppo. He studied at Aleppo University, majoring in economics, and worked in the field of business and financial management for 24 years. His business grew and expanded to Turkey, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria.
The Turkmens are a Turkic ethnic group that have lived in Syria, mainly concentrated in the north, in the Turkmen Mountain area in Lattakia close to the Turkish border, as well as in Aleppo, Idleb, Homs, Tartus and the Damascus region. The Turkmen population, however, is small. Most estimates give the figure of 500,000 in Syria.
Like many other communities under the the Assad regime, the Turkmens were banned from publishing or writing in Turkish. The government did not recognize them or other ethnic groups as minorities, preferring to stress the unity of the Arab nation. Supported by Turkey, a staunch foe of President Bashar al-Assad, they took up arms against the regime soon after the start of the uprising in 2011.
The Syrian revolution
At the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Mustafa put an end to his business career, which began in 1988, and returned to Syria to participate in the revolution.
In 2012, he played an active role in the organization of the Turkmens within the Syrian revolution, focusing more on the involvement of the Syrian Turkmens in the province of Aleppo. In this context, he was a founding member of the Syrian Turkmen Platform, which is considered the first institutional success achieved by Turkmens in Syria in 2012.
In 2013, he co-founded the Syrian Turkmen Assembly. He was elected vice-president of the assembly at the first meeting, which was held with the participation of Turkmen delegates from all Syrian regions.
At the second meeting of the assembly held in May 2014, Mustafa was elected by the delegates as president of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, which is considered as the legitimate representative of the Turkmens of Syria.
Mustafa stepped down as president in 2016 and was succeeded by Mohamad Wajeeh Jumaa. Mustafa, however, was elected member of Assembly Council, which leads the political activities of the assembly at all local, regional and international levels.
The Syrian Turkmen Assembly is a coalition of Syrian Turkmen political parties and groups representing Syrian Turkmens in the Syrian National Council and the Syrian National Coalition. It was established in December 2012 under the name Syrian Turkmen Platform to reconcile the two major Turkmen parties, the Syria Turkmen Bloc and the Syrian Democratic Turkmen Movement. The military wing of the assembly is the Syrian Turkmen Brigades, and it is against the partition of Syria after the collapse of the Baath government and protecting the Turkmen settlements and regions from Syrian regime, Islamic State (ISIS) and the YPG, while participating in various offensives and sieges and also carrying out attacks on strategical positions for Turkmens and Turkey.
The assembly has been officially representing Syrian Turkmens in the ongoing Geneva peace talks on Syria as an official diplomatic part of the Syrian opposition with Turkmen delegates
Mustafa has represented the Syrian Turkmens since 2014. On March 9, opposition Syrian National Coalition President Riad Seif stepped down due to health reasons. As his deputy, Mustafa replaced him as acting president until an election for the new chief is held. The step has not pleased the Syrian Kurds in the coalition, as there has always been tension between the two communities. Mustafa has supported the Turkish military operation in Afrin, a province with a Kurdish majority.
In his first address, Mustafa said that “continuing confronting despotism and occupation will remain the Syrian choice.” He blamed the states that back the Syrian people for halting support to the Free Syrian Army and for failing to protect the civilians in Syria.
Mustafa also plays a vial role in the process of “Freedom and Dignity Struggle”, which was launched to establish and guarantee the political and cultural rights of Turkmens.