Syrian security forces killed at least 10 protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad as dissidents created a council to coordinate efforts to end his 11-year rule.
The killings occurred yesterday in the central governorate of Homs, the northern province of Idlib and the southern area of Daraa, where the uprising against Assad began in March, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone today. Government agents carried out raids on homes overnight and into the early morning, arresting many in the suburbs of the capital Damascus, he said.
The crackdown came as some fragmented opposition groups formed the Syrian National Council, which they said will be the sole representative of Syrians seeking a regime change. The council includes the head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political party banned in the country, as well as Kurdish groups, Burhan Ghalioun, a member of the council, told reporters in Istanbul yesterday.
“The council is not representative of all Syrians and one could say this is an attempt to capitalize and manipulate the feelings of those inside Syria who are against the regime,” Merhi said.
Ghalioun, a political sociologist at Paris’s Sorbonne University, invited other groups to join the council and said Assad’s crackdown threatens Syria with civil war.
Syria’s opposition is following the path taken by Libya’s rebels, who formed a National Transitional Council that became the main governing authority in the North African country in late August after rebels seized Tripoli, the capital, and ended Muammar Qaddafi’s four-decade rule.
The Syrian protests are part of the wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that unseated governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Assad’s crackdown has left more than 3,600 civilians dead since the unrest began in March, according to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria. About 30,000 people have been detained and 13,000 are still being held, according to Qurabi and Merhi.
There have been intensive clashes in the past week between state forces and soldiers who have defected, mainly in the central governorate of Homs, according to activists as well as witnesses and protesters interviewed by Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera news networks.
The defectors have left Rastan, near Homs, where the clashes occurred, and the Syrian army is now in control of the area, Merhi said.