It is with profound sorrow and deep sadness that the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) announces the passing of the esteemed veteran politician and activist, Riyad al-Turk. Mr. al-Turk departed this life on Monday in the city of Paris after a struggle with illness. The SOC extends its heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased, his friends, and admirers, as well as to the entire Syrian community.

Born in 1930 in Homs, the late Riyad bin Muhammad Ali al-Turk endured a remarkable life shaped by resilience and unwavering commitment to justice. Raised in an orphanage run by the Islamic Charitable Society, he faced imprisonment in 1952 on charges related to his affiliation with the Communist Party. Undeterred by adversity, he earned a law degree in 1958, only to be imprisoned once again for over a year between 1958 and 1961.

In the face of Hafez al-Assad’s coup and the ensuing authoritarian regime, al-Turk steadfastly opposed the oppressive forces and refused to succumb to their control. Consequently, the regime sought to eliminate him from the Syrian political landscape. Arrested on November 28, 1980, al-Turk remained in custody until May 30, 1998. Following the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000, he was rearrested due to an interview on Al Jazeera in which he boldly declared, “The dictator is dead.”

Known as “the Mandela of Syria,” al-Turk spent two decades of his life incarcerated, yet never wavered in his opposition to the regime’s oppressive tactics. He tirelessly advocated for the release of political prisoners, the abolition of emergency laws, the promotion of political pluralism, and an end to the Al-Baath party’s dominance in the country. When the Syrian revolution commenced in 2011, al-Turk emerged as a beacon of inspiration, urging the youth to persevere on the path to freedom from tyranny and dictatorship.

In an article at the outset of the revolution, the late al-Turk boldly asserted, “All I know today is that Syria will not remain the kingdom of silence, fear will not remain confined to the chest of Syrians, and the homeland will not remain a big prison. Yes, God is Syria’s protector because it will survive thanks to its people. Tyranny will eventually disappear, whether soon or over time.”

The passing of Al-Turk leaves an indelible void in the hearts of those who knew him, and his life story will forever serve as an inspiration for the people of Syria in their pursuit of liberation and independence.

May God Almighty have mercy on this great man, and may he rest in peace.