Syria defections go on as tension soars

Syria defections go on as tension soars

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Syria defections go on as tension soars

Syrian dissidents Salah Eldin Bilal (L), Imad Ghalioun (second from L) and Bekir Atacan (R) are seen talking with Daily News reporter İpek Yezdani in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

A Syrian defector has called for international intervention to stop Damascus’ crackdown amid government condemnation of an Arab League call for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

“The situation in Syria is terrible right now – I will show documents that prove the killings of the civilians and torture conducted by the Syrian forces to a U.N. committee today in a meeting in Cairo,” Imad Ghalioun, a member of the Syrian Parliament and a former member of the pro-regime “National Vow Movement,” told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “This regime has to be stopped by force, this is the only way to stop the killings of the civilians.”

Syria yesterday declared an Arab League call for al-Assad to step down in favor of a unity government as a “conspiracy,” Reuters reported.

Responding to a new league plan unveiled in Cairo on Jan. 22, an official Syrian source said, “Syria rejects the decisions of the Arab League ministerial council and considers them a violation of its national sovereignty and flagrant interference in its internal affairs.”

Meanwhile, members of the Syrian opposition from different opposition groups, including Ghalioun, Kurdish-Syrian Salah Eldin Bilal and Turkmen-Syrian Bekir Atacan, have called for “international intervention that will be in the interests of the Syrian people.”

Ghalioun defected to Turkey last month.

Kurdish groups want autonomy
Eldin Bilal, a Kurdish opposition member who escaped from the Syrian regime 15 years ago and has been living in Germany since then, said there were many Kurdish groups who were opposed to the regime but also some allied to the regime.

“There are nine groups in the Kurdish National Council formed in Arbil and most of them want to determine their own future – they mainly want to have autonomy in the future,” Eldin Bilal told the Daily News.

Atacan, who had to leave Syria 30 years ago, said Turkmens had not been officially recognized as a “minority” by either the Syrian regime or by the Syrian National Council, the biggest Syrian opposition umbrella group.

“There are more than 3 million Turkmens in Syria, but when we wanted to join the Syrian National Council, they rejected us. They said they don’t recognize us as a minority, just like the Syrian regime did not for many years,” Atacan told the Daily News.

Saudi Arabia withdrew its monitors from an Arab League observer mission Jan. 22, accusing Damascus of defying an earlier Arab peace plan.

EU foreign ministers also tightened sanctions against Syria yesterday, added 22 people and eight entities to a list of banned people and groups and said Assad’s repression was unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese general who heads the league’s mission said violence had dipped in the past month, contradicting accounts by Syrian activists who said hundreds of people had been killed.
“After the arrival of the mission, the intensity of violence began to decrease,” Mohammed al-Dabi told a news conference at the Cairo-based Arab League.