Syrian opposition council: Save us from 'war'

Syrian opposition groups meeting in Turkey plotted the creation of a National Council to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Story highlights

  • Some activists were denied entry to the meeting
  • An activist was arrested and released
  • The council cites a "massacre" in al-Rastan
  • The Syrian government says it is stopping "armed terrorist groups"
A new alignment of Syrian opposition groups, the Syrian National Council, announced Sunday that it will "represent the Syrian revolution" inside and outside of the country in an effort to end the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"In answering the calls of the youth of the revolution, the national council asks international bodies and organizations to take responsibility and work to protect the Syrian people from the war declared on them," the group said in a statement read in Arabic at an opposition meeting in Istanbul.
"The forces who signed this statement declare the establishment of the Syrian National Council as a framework for the unity of the opposition and the peaceful revolution," the group said in the statement, read by Burhan Ghalioun, an activist and opposition figure.
The council "will work on mobilizing all groups of the Syrian people and provide all kinds of necessary support to advance the revolution and achieve the goals of our people that include the toppling of the current regime, including the head of the regime, and building a democratic, multi-party system in a civilian state that provides equality to all its citizens, without any kind of discrimination," the statement said.
The Local Coordination Committees, which organizes and documents protests against the Syrian regime, said groups including the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, the Revolution Forces, the Public Council for Revolution Forces and the Superior Council of the Revolution have all joined it in the opposition government.
The idea takes a page from the success of Libya's National Transitional Council.
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"This is the council that's going to be looked upon as the nucleus of a government in the transitional period," said Yaser Tabbara, a Syrian-American lawyer who participated in Sunday's meeting. He said the council would include a "presidential commission" comprising 29 members and an executive committee of 7 people.
Different exiled political groups have announced the creation of a number of other "national councils" in recent months. Each group claims to represent the uprising in Syria, which first erupted in the southern border city of Daraa last February. There are signs that the opposition inside and outside of Syria, which has been splintered for years, is still struggling for cohesion.
Tempers flared Sunday when some activists were denied entry into the conference room where the meeting was held.
"They invited us at the beginning to unify the opposition," said Faraj al Faraj, a tribal leader from central Syria who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia. "But when we wanted to go into the hall they said it was forbidden, you can't go in. You need a card... then we shouted a lot and they called the police. And the police arrested me and took me out."
Faraj said Turkish police eventually released him.
Sunday evening, participants in the meeting were in talks trying to resolve the argument that led to a walkout by some of Faraj's supporters.
"It was a logistical issue that developed out of control into a situation. It has been contained since," said Tabbara.
The statement read by Ghalioun said the council was forming "in response to the demand of the Syrian people and after presenting big efforts to unify the opposition forces along with the heroic struggle of the Syrian people in facing war and daily massacres -- the latest being the massacre of al-Rastan."
The LCC said 27 people were killed in al-Rastan on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
Syria's military said seven army and law enforcement personnel were killed Friday while confronting "armed terrorist groups who had terrified citizens in al-Rastan, crippled life in the city ... and killed civilians."
Syria's state-run news agency SANA reported Sunday that "stability and calm have been restored in al-Rastan and life in the city has returned to normal."