More than two years after the conflict in Syria began, dissecting the growing number of opposition groups to president Bashar al-Assad remains complex, deeply divided and confusing.

While they are united in their goal to overthrow Assad, political allegiance, geography, influence of foreign backers and visions for the future continue to divide the groups.

With so many groups adding their names to those opposing the current regime, take a look at some of the most prominent.

August 22, 2011: George Sabra: Istanbul Syrian National Coalition

A coalition of opposition groups formed in October 2011 to offer an alternative to the Syrian government. The SNC is the largest alliance of opposition groups and has always been a strong advocate of foreign intervention in Syria.

After the Arab Spring broke out, the SNC was created in Istanbul with the intention of representing the concerns and demands of Syrian people.

Their membership includes members of the exiled Syrian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood and also has the support of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation, Kurdish dissidents and groups associated with promoting demonstrations and protests.

The council was plagued by accusations of corruption in the early months of 2012 with some members suggesting it "had not got far enough in trying to arm the rebels".

In November 2012, the SNC unified with several opposition groups to form the Syrian National Coalition at which it holds 22 out of 60 seats.

It has opened embassies in some countries and has been recognised by the Arab League.

November 11, 2012: Ahmad Jarba: Istanbul/Cairo

After its formation at a meeting in Doha in November 2012, the National Coalition said that it was working "to aid and support the revolutionary forces struggling to overthrow the Assad regime and to transition Syria towards a democratic and pluralistic civil state".

It added: "The coalition also plays an important role in liaising between the needs of the Syrian people and the international community".

The group consists of a 63-member body including individual representatives from each of the major cities in Syria and the SNC - now largely ineffective - though holds 22 seats as mentioned.

The Coalition's objective is to unite revolutionary political factions under on leadership and to ensure that the infighting and sectarian divisions which plagued the SNC are avoided at all costs.

The Coalition aims to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian people, while it coordinates military efforts with the Free Syrian Army, plans for the transitional period, and engages in diplomatic effort internationally.

Classified as Syria's largest ethnic minority, making up more than 10 per cent of Syria's population, Syria's Kurdish community had suffered and were deprived of most of their civil rights under Assad's Baathist rule in Syria.

Therefore, since the early days of the uprising against the Assad regime, Syrian Kurds have largely had an ambiguous stance on the revolution, showing no favour to either side and had largely sought to keep the fighting out of their region.

But relations between the Syrian opposition and Kurds have been uneasy since the first year of the uprising. This is due to the latter's insistence on achieving "political decentralisation" in a post-Assad Syria.

To date, Kurdish groups, led by the Kurdish National Council (KNC) - an umbrella opposition group of fifteen Kurdish parties opposed to the Assad regime - have continued to insist they would not back the armed opposition unless Kurds are recognised as distinct people with their own cultural and linguistic rights, as well as granted political decentralisation, rather than "administrative decentralisation" following Assad's demise.

Such demands, however, have been rejected by Syrian opposition.

Kurdish demands for a constitutional recognition of their rights, coupled with recent moves by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has collaborated both with the Syrian regime and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - a violently anti-Turkish group - to place several Kurdish cities across North-eastern Syria under de-facto autonomy, have led to deep-seated divisions between it and the Syrian opposition.

Such actions have also led the head of the military council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, to vow in a recent video statement to destroy it.

To complicate matters further, deep-seated divisions remain evident within Kurdish parties themselves over whether they should join the Western-backed Syrian opposition and over unilateral declaration of self-rule.

The principle proponent for self-rule, the PYD, has been heavily criticised by the KNC.

1928: Cairo: Mohammed Badie

For Syria's banned Muslim Brotherhood, the uprising against the Assad regime provides a long-sought opportunity to stage a comeback after decades spent in exile.

The group was brutally crushed in 1982 after a violent uprising against Assad's father, the late Hafez Al-Assad, which culminated in the Hama massacre that ended with most of the brotherhood's leadership being killed or imprisoned.

Amid the chaos of the current revolt, the group quickly emerged as one of the best organised opposition groups, gaining significant support within the Sunni majority.

Bolstering its bid to stage a comeback, the Muslim Brotherhood has sought to play an active role on the ground by providing assistance to the military brigades which share its ideologies.

However, the Brotherhood faces fierce competition from better equipped hard-line Salafi fighters and Al Qaeda extremists who have emerged as a major force among the ranks of the rebels.

The Brotherhood is also up against widespread accusations that it seeks to impose its will on the rest of the opposition, mainly the Syrian National Coalition umbrella bloc.

Its long-time spokesman, Zuhair Salem, resigned reportedly over disagreements with the group's leadership.

The Brotherhood now faces an uphill battle to try to rebuild its base with the young revolutionaries, many who view its leadership as aging and out of touch after years away from the country.

Colonel Reyad Mousa Al Al'as'ad: Victory or Death Syrian National Coalition

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is the largest of a number of groups within the Syrian armed forces. It was formed in August 2011 by army deserters that were based in Turkey.

As it was established, the group laid out its aims saying it wanted to "work hand in hand with the people to achieve freedom and dignity, topple the regime, protect the revolution and the country's resources and stand up to the irresponsible military machine which is protecting the regime".

The FSA coordinated with the SNC in December 2011 and later supported the Syria National Coalition.

The group also merged with the Free Officers Movement in 2011 to become the main opposition army group. The group claims to have over 100,000 members, although foreign intelligence suggests the realistic number is closer to 10,000.

The majority of members are Sunni Arabs but the group also includes battalions made up of Kurds, Turkmen, Palestinians and Druze.

It receives financial, materiel, and limited lethal support from Western and Arab states through the SNC.

The FSA describes itself as being the only military force that has assumed responsibility for removing the Assad regime.

"This FSA is the cornerstone of the future Syrian army that consists of all Syrians regardless of their religion, sectarian or ethnic origin, belief, or inclination, and regardless of their different traditions and cultures.

"It is an army for all, whose purpose and only reason of existence is to defend and protect Syria and the Syrians."

: December 21 2012: Abu Abdullah al Hamawi: Jabhat Al Nusra, Free Syrian Army

Established on December 21, 2012, the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF) has risen in prominence to become a key opponent to the Syrian regime and is also one of the most powerful Salafi opponents and best armed groups in the entire Syrian opposition.

The organisation, known for its leading battles against the Assad regime and its humanitarian activities within Syria, coordinates its activities with all Syrian opposition forces, including the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat Al Nusra.

On an ideological level, the Syrian Islamic Front's stance is similar to that of Jabhat Al Nusra in that it insists on the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria ruled by sharia law.

However, according to its political charter, published on its website in January 2013, while the organisation rejects the Western notion of democracy, it permits the use of a voting system to elect political leaders.

Furthermore, SIF's leading faction, Ahrar Al Sham, emphasises that its campaign is for Syria, not for a global jihad.

: January 23 2012 Abu Mohammad al-Goran

Created in January 2012, Jabhat Al Nusra is one of the strongest organisations in Syria.

Jabhat Al Nusra insists on a future Syria becoming an Islamic state under sharia law, and has openly pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The group, also known as Al Nusra Front, is believed to comprise between 6,000 and 10,000 fighters.

However, the organisation's foreign volunteers far outnumber Syrian recruits.

Al Nusra has direct links with Al Qaida in Iraq, which has supplied it with weapons, recruits and equipment. In April 2013, Al Nusra publicly declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda.

Al Nusra is well-armed and has a history of suicide attacks and indiscriminate bombings in Syria.

The group is also considered a fiercely sectarian Sunni group in opposition to Syria's Alawite group which is made up of Shiite Muslims.

While Al Nusra shares the FSA's vision of a Syria without Assad, the FSA tends to distance itself from the group because of its ideology.

: 2011: Damascus: Hassan Abdel Azim

Opposing the SNC belief that Syria needs foreign military intervention, the National Co-ordination Committee (NCC) is pushing for a united and democratic Syria and is generally categorised as a left-wing political group.

It wants to see an end to a military presence on the streets, the end of attack on peaceful protests, and the release of political prisoners.

It is the only group to have called for an attempt at opening dialogue with the government.

It rejected the opportunity to join the Syria National Coalition.

: March 2011 Syria: Razan Zaitouneh, Suhair al-Atassi

This is the group being referred to when the media writes about "opposition activists". The group is a former member of the Syria National Coalition.

Members backgrounds, religious and political views vary.

: 2011: Istanbul

Another coalition group comprising of those who organise the protests and activities around Syria. It is considered similar to the LCC but has no links to the Syria National Coalition.

The group has a closer affiliation to the armed fight.

 

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