Syrian opposition elects Kurd as its new leader

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Damascus: Amidst months of infighting in Syrian crisis and with no end in sight, main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, elected Kurdish activist Abdul Baset Sieda as its leader at a meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, a council statement said.
The Syrian National Council named Abdul Baset Sieda, a Syrian native has been living in Sweden, as its leader. The election of Sieda is widely viewed as an attempt to unite various ethnic factions.

Sieda replaces Burhan Ghalioun, who agreed step down last month under criticism of his leadership.

The SNC has been plagued by internal rivalries since it was formed last year to try to present a credible alternative to the autocratic government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ghalioun's critics complained that he gave Islamists too powerful a role in the SNC and did not do enough to coordinate with committees of youth activists organizing protests inside Syria.

So far, the political manoeuvring has done nothing to stymie daily reports of bloodshed on the ground.
Syrian activists said government forces killed at least 52 civilians on Saturday in the latest crackdowns on dissent. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the day's highest death toll was in Daraa, with 20 people killed in a pre-dawn bombardment of the southern town where a pro-democracy uprising began 15 months ago.

Kurdish members of the council have also had open disputes with the remainder of the body over the issue of Kurdish rights and whether a post-Assad Syria would be built around a federal structure similar to that in neighbouring Iraq.

Bassam Ishak, a member of the general secretariat, said Sida was elected to fulfil demands from within the council and from the opposition inside Syria as well as international powers to make the council more democratic.

Sida will work on convening a meeting of the whole council after a month, during which a new general secretariat and a new president could be elected, possibly making Sida a transitional leader, Ishak said.
(With agencies inputs)
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