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Syria opposition calls for civil disobedience drive

Simultaneous conference in Damascus cancelled after 14 killed

Image Credit: EPA
Syrian opposition members attend a National Salvation Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday. They called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to step down, and made plans to bring about a peaceful transition of power and develop a more unified position for the opposition.
Gulf News

Dubai: A Syrian opposition figure Saturday urged his countrymen to launch a civil disobedience campaign to force President Bashar Al Assad from power.

"I'm for anything that unifies the Syrian people and helps our people inside, and unifies our ranks in confronting this illegitimate, repressive regime that has usurped power and human rights," Wael Al Hafez told an opposition meeting in Istanbul.

"We want to raise the intensity of the peaceful confrontation by civil disobedience and to choke the regime economically and paralyse the state with the least damage."

About 450 opposition figures representing a wide range of political forces in Syria, met in Turkey for what they called the National Salvation Conference to try to unite behind the goal of ending 41 years of Al Assad family rule.

The meeting, chaired by Haitham Al Maleh, a lawyer who was also a political prisoner for 13 years, decided to cancel a parallel conference in the Al Qaboon district near Damascus because of what the opposition called a massacre committed against the organisers.

"Security forces killed 14 people who were assigned to secure the premises for the meeting in Qaboon," said Mesha'al Timmo, Kurdish leader and opposition figure based in Damascus.

"To meet in Damascus at this point of time seems not realistic because the regime is not ready yet to hear any voice other the ones operating under the umbrella of the dictatorship," Timmo told the Istanbul conference on an internet connection via Skype.

Timmo told the conference that he was authorising the Istanbul meeting to take decisions that would help the brave men and women in Syria to continue their peaceful uprising against the regime. The organisers dismissed a plan to elect a 75-member council and a shadow government to govern the country once the regime collapses.

Meanwhile, TV star May Skaf and three of her colleagues started a sit-in at a coffee shop in front of the Ministry of Justice from where the four were released yesterday. Skaf, who spoke to Gulf News from the Al Sharyani Coffee Shop said she will not leave the area until her 24 colleagues still in custody are released.

Also visiting Turkey, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday's protests in Syria were the largest yet, and Al Assad's repression was "troubling".