On October 16, 2023, the Syrian regime stated that the Speaker of the People's Assembly, Hammouda Sabbagh, participated via video in the emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), at the invitation of the President of the Algerian People's National Assembly, Ibrahim Bougali, who is also the head of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC), to discuss the developments in the Palestinian territories and the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.
However, the regime's statement was deceptive. Hammouda Sabbagh's involvement was with the PUIC, not with the organization's main meetings. They're trying to imply that they've reclaimed their membership which had been on hold since 2012, much like how they got back into the Arab League this May, with meetings held in Jeddah.
In fact, the PUIC isn't really a part of the main organization. It's not one of its specialized branches, nor an offshoot, nor does it fall under its umbrella. It's its own separate thing. This Union is made up of 54 councils or parliaments from countries that are members of the organization. Interestingly, the main Organization of Islamic Cooperation only joined this Union as an observer back in 2001. The PUIC itself was set up on June 17, 1999, in Tehran, Iran, which they picked as its forever home.
The regime's membership in the PUIC continued, and it wasn't suspended following its suspension from the OIC. However, its attendance at conferences depended on its bilateral relations with the host countries. For instance, it was barred from attending conferences held in Sudan in 2013 and in Turkey in 2015 and 2021. On the other hand, it attended conferences in Iran in 2014 and 2018 and in Iraq in 2016. Based on these dynamics, it was invited to participate in the emergency conference in 2023 since Algeria, which has good relations with the regime, was chairing the current session of the Union.
In reality, the regime and its allies are still pushing to regain its membership in the OIC. After reclaiming its seat in the Arab League, Ramzan Abdulatipov, Russia's observer representative in the organization, called for the regime's reinstatement. He stated that Russia would support such a decision and would provide the necessary assistance if needed. However, despite more than 5 months passing since the decision to reintegrate the regime into the Arab League, the matter of its membership in the OIC has not yet been discussed.
On paper, there aren't significant obstacles regarding the regime's return to the organization's membership, especially after the normalization paths with both Arab countries and Turkey. However, the regime's behaviour and its lack of responsiveness to security, humanitarian, and political demands in these processes should arguably serve as some barrier to such a return, even if it's seen more as symbolic rather than having deep political implications. The OIC stance towards the Syrian opposition hasn't gone beyond welcoming the formation of the National Coalition, in contrast to recognizing it as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and granting it Syria's seat in the Arab League.
The real obstacle that should stand in the way of the regime's return is its recent stance on the Uighur Muslim issue in China, and the joint statement issued by the head of the regime and the Chinese president during their recent meeting in Hangzhou on September 22nd. This statement included the regime's steadfast support for China's policies regarding the Xinjiang region, home to the Uighur Muslims. The regime emphasized that issues related to their rights are not at all connected to human rights. Furthermore, it expressed its support for the violations committed against them under the guise of 'combating terrorism and eliminating extremism', while rejecting any interference in China's internal affairs, especially concerning matters related to Xinjiang.
In conclusion, the Syrian opposition at large, and the Syrian Islamic Council in particular, should address the OIC, informing them of the regime's stance on the Uighur Muslim issue. They should also highlight the regime's ongoing domestic violations of the rights of the Syrian people in general, and Muslims among them specifically. The organization should be urged to keep the regime outside of its membership.