BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria opposition head demands women prisoners freed

Syrian women carry their shopping after rebel fighters took over their village of Aljanodiya, northwestern Idlib province, following fighting against pro-Syrian regime forces, on January 30, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/AAMIR QURESHI)

BEIRUT: Opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib demanded all women held in Syrian prisons be freed by Sunday, or the regime will lose its chance for dialogue, in an interview with BBC Arabic.

"These things cannot wait until judgment day. The demand that the women are released means that if there is one single woman still in prison in Syria on Sunday, I consider that the regime has rejected my initiative," the National Coalition leader said.

"I don't want to discuss the horrific reports about the torture of women. But I say to the youngest soldier up to the highest commander, that he who lays his hands on the women will receive (a punishment) he has never had before."

In the interview aired on Wednesday, Khatib also addressed political negotiations for the resolution of the nearly two year conflict and the role of regional powerhouse Iran.

"Regrettably, it is the Iranians who call the shots in Syria, and they rejected my proposal to include Faruq al-Sharaa as a party in the negotiations," he said.

"I insisted on Faruq al-Sharaa because this is a sincere man who truly wants to get Syria out of this debacle. I am Syrian and I reject Iranian interference in determining the place to conduct these talks."

Vice President Sharaa said in December that neither his government nor the rebels fighting to overthrow it can win a decisive victory. He has been touted by Turkey as a suitable pick to lead a transitional government.

Khatib defended his decision to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi during a security conference in Munich, Germany at the weekend.

He said he used the occasion to express "very clearly the outrage of the Syrian people toward the way Iran has dealt with the Syrian crisis... We do not want the conflict to be turned into a regional Sunni-Shiite conflict.

"Despite all they have done, we say that if this regime can be reasonable, just for once, and comprehend the need to end the suffering of the people and leave, we declare our willingness to negotiate their departure.

"The revolution will continue, but we remain open to political negotiation for the departure of the regime," said Khatib.

 

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