Riad Seif

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Riad Seif
رياض سيف
Vice President of the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces
Incumbent
Assumed office
12 November 2012
Serving with Suhair al-Atassi
President Moaz al-Khatib
Preceded by Office established
Personal details
Born (1946-11-25) 25 November 1946 (age 67)
Nationality Syrian
Occupation Vice-president of the National Coalition
Former Member of Syrian Parliament
Businessman
Religion Sunni Islam

Riad Seif (Arabic: رياض سيف‎; born 25 November 1946)[1] is a Syrian political dissident and prominent businessman who founded and lead the Forum for National Dialogue.[2] Seif was elected to the Parliament of Syria in 1994 as an independent and again in 1998. For several years he owned an Adidas franchise in Damascus.[3]

Career[edit]

According to Seif, his career in industry started with "a workshop for manufacturing shirts in 1963." In 1993, he began "building the New Adidas Company in 1993 ... the first of its kind in Syria", after acquiring a franchise for Syria from the Adidas Corporation.[4]

Following the death of Syrian leader Hafez al Assad in June 2000, Seif assembled "leading [Syrian] intellectuals and independent voices" to discuss "how to open up Syria's ... political system." The group - which met every Wednesday evening, in Seif's living room and was later dubbed the Forum for National Dialogue - "debated human rights, pluralism, press and academic freedoms, and how to build a civil society," and was the first of several forums that "marked the onset" of the Damascus Spring.[5] In January 2001, Seif announced his intention to create a new political party to compete with the ruling Ba'th Party. Around this time he also questioned the monopoly on the new cellular telephone system granted to the family of Hafez al Assad's wife Anissa Makhlouf. Calling the deal `a big scandal that would cost Syria, an underdeveloped country, millions and millions of dollars`, Seif `spoke against it loudly in parliament and forced them to investigate it.`[6] After a major meeting of the Forum for National Dialogue on 5 September 2001 which several hundred people attended, Seif was arrested.[7] Charged with "defying the state and trying to change the constitution by illegal means," he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and released in January 2006.[8] Since then Seif has told journalists that he and his family have been threatened by Syrian Mukhabarat[disambiguation needed] demanding that he not talk to diplomats or any other foreigners, and that his businesses have been forced into bankruptcy. `It started when they cut off supplies for my factories.`

Amnesty International reports that since his release from prison he "has been subjected to various forms of harassment and ill-treatment," including the refusal to allow him to leave the country in late August 2007 for treatment of his prostate cancer, "which has advanced to a stage where it is liable to start spreading to other parts of his body without specialist treatment, which is only available outside Syria."[9]

He was again arrested in early 2008 and imprisoned for trying to "overthrow the government", in reference to his work as a leader in the Damascus Declaration. He was then incarcerated in Adra Prison together with other leaders of the Damascus Declarations.

He was arrested on 6 May 2011 in Damascus.[10] On 11 November 2012, he was elected co-vice-president of the new opposition government.

Awards[edit]

  • "Menschenrechtspreis der Stadt Weimar" (Translation: "Human Rights Award of the City of Weimar"), Germany 2003[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Menschenrechtspreis der Stadt Weimar 2003 (German)
  2. ^ URGENT ACTION, Syria: Prisoner of conscience, Riad Seif
  3. ^ Wright, Dreams and Shadows, 2008, p. 218
  4. ^ Former MP Riad Seif's Experience in Parliament, April 21, 2007
  5. ^ Wright, Dreams and Shadows, 2008, p.224
  6. ^ Wright, Dreams and Shadows, 2008, p.227
  7. ^ Syria: Prisoner of conscience, Riad Seif
  8. ^ Wright, Dreams and Shadows, 2008, p.228-30
  9. ^ Urgent action. Syria: Medical Concern: Riad Seif
  10. ^ Activists: 6 killed in Syria by security forces