Syrian rights group says death toll exceeds 1,000

May 24, 2011 - 10:00 AM

BEIRUT (AP) - The death toll from Syria's crackdown on a nine-week uprising has exceeded 1,000, a prominent human rights group said Tuesday, as the country's opposition called for fresh protests and clearer goals.

Amar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, told The Associated Press that the opposition was planning a conference in Turkey to find a common voice for its anti-government movement.

Qurabi said his group has documented the names of 1,062 people who have died since the uprising erupted in mid-March.

Syria, one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East, has for years crushed any sign of public dissent, banning political parties and throwing critics of the regime in jail. The lack of an established opposition has been one of the weaknesses of the Syrian uprising, which erupted in mid-March.

Opposing President Bashar Assad's regime is the only common thread running through the various parts of the movement, including human rights activists, economic liberals and religious opponents of Assad's Alawite Muslim minority rule.

Qurabi said preparations were under way for the opposition conference, which will include opposition figures, writers, journalists and activists.

Some 250 participants are so far set to attend the meeting, planned for the end of May or early June, Qurabi said.

"The idea is to ... show that the opposition can put aside ideological differences and unify under the banner of freedom," he said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad appears determined to crush the revolt, which is challenging his family's 40-year-old dynasty.

The harsh crackdown has triggered international outrage and U.S. and European sanctions, including an EU assets freeze and a visa ban on Assad and nine members of his regime.

Syrian activists called for a fresh wave of protests in eastern and northern Syria for Wednesday, in solidarity with the southern town of Daraa, a center of protests that has been under siege by the Syrian military for the past five weeks.