Turkey-based Syrian opposition elects secular president
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - The Turkey-based Syrian opposition body has elected political Syrian dissident Riad Seif as its new president, the group's media office said on Saturday.
The body known as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces stated Seif, a prominent Syrian businessman and secular human rights advocate, won 58 out of 102 votes in the 33rd meeting of the Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly held in their headquarters in Istanbul on Friday.
Seif was previously elected as one of the two vice presidents for the Syrian National Coalition. He is now the sixth president of the Coalition.
Seif was previously a Member of Parliament, elected to the Parliament of Syria in 1994 and again in 1998, serving under both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez before him.
He is also the founder of the _Forum for National Dialogue_ to promote political debate and freedom following the death of Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad in 2000.
According to the Coalition's website, Seif was imprisoned by the Syrian regime twice, once for five years and released in 2006 and then for two years and a half, finally released in 2010.
"In 2000, Seif questioned the monopoly on the new cellular telephone system granted to the family of Hafez al Assad's wife," the coalition website said.
In 2001, the British-based human rights group Amnesty International reported Seif was arrested on 6 September 2001, one day after hosting a political seminar at his house in the outskirts of Damascus.
"Amnesty International considers Riad Seif to be a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his opinions and peaceful opposition activities," the report said.
Seif served as vice president to the Syrian National Coalition, which was formed on November 11, 2012.
In this new position, he will replace current president Anas Abdah, who was elected in 2016.
The former president Abdah visited Kurdistan Region in December 2016 and in a press conference after a meeting with President Masoud Barzani said, "President Barzani has always been a sincere friend and of a great support for the Syrian people since the beginning of the Revolution."
Editing by G. H. Renaud