|Clockwise from top: Ghassan Hitto, an illustration of kudos, and his son Obaida in Deir Ezzor|
Hours after his election as the first prime minister of an interim Syrian government, Ghassan Hitto went on air to address the beleaguered Syria people, saying his administration:
- Firmly and unequivocally rules out dialogue with the Assad regime.
- Has “one principal target, which is to bring down the regime by all means and build the New Syria.”
- Shall kick-start its work from “inside the liberated areas’
- Shall cooperate closely with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Higher Military Council and revolutionary forces and endeavor to secure them the military support they need. Together they shall strive to safeguard strategic sites and assets, protect state institutions and take full control of border crossings
- Shall demand that all humanitarian aid for Syria be channeled through border crossings it controls
- Shall urge the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes in the areas under its jurisdiction
- Shall uphold all human rights, freedoms and civil liberties and formally foreswear racial, religious, sectarian, gender and ethnic discrimination…
- Shall invite the international community to extend all assistance possible to the Syrian people
- Shall request the 130-odd countries that recognized the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people to formally recognize the Interim Government as the legitimate representative of revolutionary Syria
- Shall demand that all Syrian regime assets frozen or seized by the international community be remitted to the Syrian people through their legitimate representatives
- Appreciates the political, material and moral aid already extended to the Syrian revolution by such countries as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States.
Information technology executive Ghassan Hitto is a naturalized Syrian-born American citizen of Kurdish origin.
He is a 1963 native of Damascus who moved to the United States in 1983.
Last November, the 50-year-old relocated from Wayne in northeast Texas to Turkey to help co-ordinate aid to rebel-held areas.
Hitto, a board member of the Syrian American Council, was already involved in humanitarian aid work stateside, establishing the Shaam Relief Foundation in 2011, and helping organize fundraisers, including a "Walk for Children of Syria Day."
Hitto received 35 votes of 48 ballots cast overnight by members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, eclipsing other nominees, including Osama Kadi, who I wrongly thought (in an earlier post) would be the man to beat at the meeting in Istanbul.
“A near consensus emerged on Hitto. He is a practical man with management experience and is open to debate. He promised to consult widely before naming ministers and only appoint those with a long experience,” Mohammad Qaddah, the coalition’s representative from Deraa, told Reuters.
Hitto’s first task will be to form his interim government, which will oversee the areas captured from government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer sciences from Indiana's Purdue University in 1989, and a master’s in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1994.
He is a founding member of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a U.S. public cause charity established in 2001 to support legal cases impacting civil rights and liberties in America.
Hitto and his wife, Suzanne, an American schoolteacher, have four children, including Obaida, 25, all born in the United States.
Obaida a former high school football player, deferred his plans for law school and sneaked into Syria last year to assist the rebels by making videos and spreading information on the Internet to help their cause.
“Eighty-five percent of the civilian population has left the city,” Obaida said in a Skype interview with The New York Times last September from Deir Ezzor, where he was later injured by mortar shrapnel. “If people only saw what was really happening to the people here they might do the same thing I did.”