Syria’s fractured opposition elected a National Salvation Council to present a united challenge to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule as he intensified a military campaign to crush an uprising. The opposition meeting in Istanbul took place on Saturday, a day after the biggest demonstrations so far in Syria’s four-month uprising, during which at least 32 civilians were killed, including 23 in the capital Damascus.
“We shall work towards reaching out toward other opposition groups to lead the country toward the democratic vision we have,” opposition figure Haitham al-Maleh said, after the one-day meeting.
Despite disputes over whether to form a government-in-waiting or wait to see how the uprising unfolds, the meeting concluded with the election of a 25-member National Salvation Council composed of Islamists, liberals and independents. Of the about 350 people who attended the opposition congress, many were Syrian exiles who had left the country years earlier.
The meeting had hoped to join members of the opposition inside Syria via a video link to a conference in Damascus, but that was called off after Syrian security forces targeted the venue as part of Friday’s crackdown in the capital. The council was scheduled to meet yesterday to appoint an 11-member committee.
Syrian forces killed one protester and wounded five on Saturday when they opened fire at demonstrators in the eastern border town of Albu Kamal near Iraq’s Sunni heartland. The official state news agency said “armed terrorist groups” killed three security personnel on Saturday in Albu Kamal.
Human rights campaigners said Syrian forces killed at least three other civilians on Saturday when they fired at funerals for protesters killed the day before.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visiting Turkey, said Assad’s repression was “troubling.”
“The brutality has to stop,” she said in a televised interview with a group of young Turkish people at an Istanbul coffee shop on Saturday.
At a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Clinton said: “Now Syria’s future is up to the Syrian people, but of course the efforts by the opposition to come together to organize and to articulate an agenda are an important part of political reform.”
“Assad said he was going to have multiparty groups in parliament ... I hope Syria has opposition parties and that Syria has opposition parties that raise their voice,” Davutoglu said.
Human rights campaigners say more than 12,000 Syrians have been arrested during the uprising. Witnesses said militiamen loyal to Assad attacked with sticks 28 actors and writers on Saturday as they left the Palace of Justice in Damascus, where a judge freed them after their arrest this week for staging a demonstration demanding political freedoms.
Activists said discontent is growing within the mostly Sunni rank and file of the army as the crackdown orchestrated by Assad from Syria’s minority Alawite sect continues.
An exiled dissident at the Istanbul meeting called on Syrians to wage a campaign of civil disobedience to try to force 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,” opposition figure Wael al Hafez said at the meeting.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”