News / Middle East

    Syrian Opposition Group Elects New Leader, More Deaths Reported

    The new president of the Syrian National Council Abdelbaset Seida (R) talks with former President Burhan Ghalioun before a news conference in Istanbul, June 10, 2012.
    The new president of the Syrian National Council Abdelbaset Seida (R) talks with former President Burhan Ghalioun before a news conference in Istanbul, June 10, 2012.
    VOA News
    Syria's main exiled opposition group has elected a Kurdish academic to try to unify the movement after months of infighting, and activists report at least 19 more deaths in government shelling and clashes across the country.

    Senior members of the opposition Syrian National Council chose Abdulbaset Sieda to be the group's new leader at a meeting in Istanbul that lasted from late Saturday until early Sunday.

    The new SNC president urged Syrians around the world to act in solidarity with citizens in the country and encouraged members of Syria's armed forces to defect from their posts.

    "They [the people of Syria] are still resisting the massacres and the crimes committed by the Syrian regime," he said. "I'm calling upon all the Syrian expatriate community to organize sit-ins before their Syrian embassies. I would also call for the international observers to go to Homs. The SNC is allocating $3 million in an urgent manner as a fund for the Syrian people who are suffering and areas which are in destruction. We also call for all those in positions of responsibility in the armed forces and the government to defect from the regime."

    Sieda's call for the United Nations to send monitors to Homs came as other Syrian activists reported more violence there on Sunday.

    More deaths reported

    The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that fighting and shelling killed at least 12 people in Homs province.  The Observatory later reported the death of a rebel fighter during a rebel bombing of a local authority building in the town of Qusayr.  Casualties inside the building are still unknown.

    Fighting elsewhere killed two soldiers in Daraa, a civilian in Idlib and two armed civilians near Aleppo. The Observatory chief also said a lawyer was killed Sunday in Damascus, where U.N. observers were dispatched to investigate reports of intense fighting from the day before.

    Syrian activists say at least 96 people, mostly civilians, were killed in violence on Saturday across Syria.  The Observatory said at least 20 died when pro-government forces bombarded the southern town of Daraa, where a pro-democracy uprising began 15 months ago.

    A consensus figure

    The new opposition council president is in his mid-50s and lives in exile in Sweden. Other SNC members including Abdel Hamid al-Attassi described Sieda as a consensus figure.

    "He is an academician. He is also well-known, a moderate man," he said. "We shouldn't claim that he has Islamic tendencies or secular tendencies. He has been approved and accepted by everyone."

    Sieda replaces Burhan Ghalioun, who agreed to 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 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.

    Sieda's election as SNC chief may help the opposition council to boost its support among Syrian Kurds, who make up about 10 percent of the country's population and have largely stayed on the sidelines of the anti-Assad revolt. Many Syrian Kurds fear they would continue to suffer discrimination if the majority Sunni-led opposition overthrows Mr. Assad's minority Alawite-led government.

    Israel condemns violence

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Syria of massacring its own civilians with help from Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, both allies of the Assad government.

    "It is a sleight carried out not only by the Syrian government, it is being helped by Iran and Hezbollah, and the world must today see the focused axis of evil: Iran-Syria-Hezbollah. The face of this axis of evil has been exposed in its full ugliness,'' he said.

    Earlier, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz accused the Syrian government of committing "genocide" and called for international military intervention. In an interview on Israeli radio Sunday, he said world powers have failed to take action and criticized Russia for selling weapons to Assad, a longtime ally of Moscow.

    Russian diplomacy

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that Moscow would support Assad's departure from power if the Syrian people agree on it. It was not clear if Lavrov's comment marked a softening of Russia's support for the Syrian president. Russia has repeatedly blocked Western and Arab efforts to impose U.N. sanctions on his government.

    Speaking at a Moscow news conference, Lavrov reiterated Russia's rejection of any foreign military intervention in the Syrian conflict. He also repeated his call for nations supporting and opposing Assad to join an international conference to salvage a Syria peace plan drafted by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

    Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Michael from: USA
    June 11, 2012 9:47 AM
    Yes, but when the leadership out in exile encourages the armed forces to defect from their posts, it could be accused of wishful thinking, which is consistent with your principle of the lamb being afraid in the presence of the lion (even when no one is there to witness it)

    by: Citizen of the World from: Everywhere
    June 11, 2012 8:44 AM
    The world needs to stop and understand the false religious ideologies and then act. In The Plot to Overthrow by mohammad goldstein he bluntly tells the world who a Jew IS and what a Muslim really IS; Obama has a copy, you can get it for nuttin on the net it will blow your political mind about Americas role and is laced with “inside” truth about Washington. Once we know the real foundation of Muslim theology then the world will act decisively.

    by: Billington
    June 10, 2012 8:41 PM
    Syria does anything at all the US and UK respond like schoolyard bullies. China does and commits few billion humans rights atrocities and harassments and the US and UK along with the west are too scared to utter a breath.

    Syria is innocent and is set up by the British BBC, just Google "BBC use fake photographs in Homs massacre" for propaganda purposes to foment war

    This shows China is getting preferential treatment because it is another bully, bullies like each other!.

    So in other news Chinese police torture over thousands of civilians and mass murder political activists, and Hillary Clinton sits idly by and is afraid to say anything. North and South Koreans are killing cats and dogs in the thousands in street markets for all to see. Jong Ils dictator in North Korea puts family of mother and children in gas oven as human experiment, mother and children hold each other in their final moments and die. No one says anything.

    Unfair US and UK do something about stuff that matters, like cruel totalitarian regimes, not Syria. If Assad is deposed, only a worse dictator will replace him.

    by: Anonymous from: America
    June 10, 2012 1:03 PM
    Now that the Syrian opposition has coalesced around a leader can appeal to a large segment of Syria’s diverse communities and Russia has decided that the Assad Regime is doomed to fail, it is now take the appropriate action to begin the transition to the beginnings of a democratic Syria. First there must be a total transportation embargo on Syria in which nothing is allowed into Syria. Second, all global insurance policies on all Syrian entities and any entity that tries to violate Syria’s transportation embargo will be permanently suspended. Third, set a date that the Assad Regime will be declared War Criminals. This designation will occur unless all leadership members of the Assad Regime take exile from Syria before this date.

    by: John smith from: Arizona
    June 10, 2012 12:25 PM
    I have been listening to John McCain on State of the Union regarding Syria and the more I listen to McCain the more I wish he had gone to the Peace College rather than the War College.

    by: SyriaLive
    June 10, 2012 11:38 AM
    Live from Daraa Syria 11:37AM EST 06/10/2012, gunfire in residential housing as Syrian military attempts more raids:
    http://bambuser.com/v/2732418

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.