Syrian politician defects to join rivals

A MEMBER of Syria’s parliament has left the country to join the opposition against President Bashar Assad’s regime, saying the Syrian people are suffering sweeping human rights violations.

Imad Ghalioun, who represents the central city of Homs, told Al-Arabiya TV that the city, which has been one of the most restive in the uprising against Assad’s rule since March, was a disaster after months of being a focus of the regime’s fierce crackdown.

“The Syrian people are living their worst period,” Ghalioun said from Egypt.

“The people of Homs are under siege and the city is disaster-stricken. There is no electricity, piles of garbage fill the streets ... The sounds of shelling all night terrify children.”

He said there were many legislators who support the uprising but have not said so publicly.

Thousands of people have been killed in the government’s crackdown on a 10-month-old uprising, which has turned increasingly militarised in recent months with a growing risk of civil war. The UN says about 400 people have been killed in the past three weeks, on top of an earlier estimate of more than 5,000 killed since March.

At the weekend, The UN chief demanded that Assad stop killing his own people and said the “old order” of one-man rule and family dynasties was over in the Middle East. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, delivering the keynote address at a conference in Beirut on democracy in the Arab world, said the revolutions of the Arab Spring showed people would no longer accept tyranny.

“Today, I say again to President (Bashar) Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. Stop killing your people,” said Ban.

It was his toughest speech against the continued survival of authoritarian regimes in the face of the growing international clamor for democracy.

Syria agreed last month to an Arab League plan that called for a halt to the crackdown, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry such as tanks from cities, the release of all political prisoners, and allowing in foreign journalists and human rights workers.

About 200 Arab League observers are working in Syria to verify whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent.

So far they appear to have made little impact.

The leader of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was quoted on Sunday as saying that Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop the deadly crackdown — the first statements by an Arab leader calling for the deployment of troops inside Syria.

An Arab League official said yesterday that Qatar had not made any proposals to the League to send troops. The official cautioned that the only Arab nation that could have potentially sent troops to Syria would have been Egypt, but the Egyptian military was tied down by turmoil in its country.

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