Anti-Syrian regime activists from different countries meet in Istanbul
Anti-Syrian regime activists from different countries meet in Istanbul. Some 200 youth activists who oppose Syria's regime have opened a four-day meeting in Istanbul, hoping to improve coordination among the groups working to topple President Bashar al-Assad. © Mustafa Ozer - AFP
Anti-Syrian regime activists from different countries meet in Istanbul
AFP
Last updated: July 27, 2011

Syrians convene in Turkey to discuss regime change

Some 200 youth activists who oppose Syria's regime opened a four-day meeting in Istanbul Wednesday, hoping to improve coordination among the groups working to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The group that includes Syrians living in the country, as well as in the United States, Europe and Saudi Arabia, are united in "trying to bring together the new Syria," said Banah Ghadbian, a 17-year-old Syrian-American.

"The objective is basically to get the activists together, put together a strategy for coordination," said Moaaz al-Sibaai, an organiser of the event. The meeting at a hotel in an Istanbul suburb opened with participants singing the Syrian national anthem, followed a video clip set to rap music that denounced the "lies" spread by the Damascus regime.

Imaddin Rachid, a leader of the Syrian protest movement, urged the young activists "to build a civil society that transcends ideological, religious and ethnic divides."

Anti-regime activists will learn how to use technology to communicate safely and, if necessary, anonymously, particularly with protesters living in Syria, Sibaai said.

Roughly 80 percent of those at the meeting live outside the country.

Instruction in how to accurately document human rights abuses and lobby international rights groups is also on the docket.

Because foreign media have largely been banned from reporting inside Syria, many news organisations have relied on estimates from domestic rights groups to provide tallies of protesters killed, injured or arrested by the regime.

While the activists want to improve tactics to combat a government that has proved willing to brutalise its opponents, Ghadbian said its equally important to be ready for the day the regime falls.

"We are trying to train ourselves and be prepared for what happens after the revolution," Ghadbian, a native of the US state Arkansas said.

"I want to go back but I don't want to be part of the paranoia and the fear the regime has put its ordinary civilians under. My objective is to go back to a free Syria and live there," he said.

Assad's forces have killed at least 1,486 civilians since the anti-regime uprising began in mid-March, according to rights groups.

Some organisations say at least 12,000 people have been detained but it is unclear how many are still being held and how many have been released.

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