The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) followed its visit to Lebanon with another to Turkey, where the MB delegation (which also included a representative of the Syrian Human Rights Committee) met with representatives of civil society groups, political parties, and academics (Arabic. Levant News, 5/8/06).
The delegation participated in a sit-in (organized by a Turkish human rights organization) in front of the Syrian embassy and gave a talk and answered questions about the situation in Syria, namely "random arrests, missing people, refugees forced out of their homes, travel bans, Kurdish suffering, absence of public freedoms, and mock trials before the State Security Court."
The delegation then held a lengthy and widely covered press conference in Istanbul. It also visited with a number of Turkish human rights organizations and agreed with them to "support the human rights of the Syrian people."
They then met with heads of various Turkish parties and MPs at the Turkish Parliament. Reportedly, the Turks were shocked at the level of deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria having thought that Bashar Asad had brought about real change. They also rejected the regime's official PR campaign in light of its repression and abuse of human rights at home.
According to MB sources, some Turkish MPs promised to bring up the matter in Parliament, stressing "the need to condition the relation with the Syrian regime on its respect for the rights of the Syrian people and for democracy." Also, a Turkish human rights organization, Mazlum Dar, sent a letter to the Syrian embassy inquiring about the status of human rights in Syria, including the matter of Law 49 (which bans membership in the MB), but the embassy did not reply.
Ammar Abdulhamid dubbed the visit "quite a significant event," and commented on it in a recent post on his blog:
What is the significance of this event? Well, it comes as a prelude to the May 20th meeting of the National Salvation Front in Brussels, when the final formation of the Front will be decided and its basic mission unveiled. Even though no government in exile will be officially formed at this stage, the NSF is bound to behave as such in many ways, as its leaders plan to embark on a massive diplomatic effort to explain their cause to the world in the following months.
Indeed, Salah Ayyash, a member of the NSF, told reporters "we in the Salvation Front support the meetings that the delegation of the Syrian MB held with political and religious figures in neighboring states, as the group has a right to meet with various parties and explain its political vision as it relates to Syria and the region, and they will one day participate in the independent government in the new Syria." (Arabic. UPI via "Free Syria," 5/13/06).
Asked about why the meetings were confined to the MB, Ayyash responded, "the NSF has put forth its political program but has not yet formed committees and we hope that in the upcoming meeting we will form the political committee that will be responsible for contacting Arab players."
Ayyash also revealed that the NSF is looking at reaching the Syrian people through media outlets. He also said that the NSF is looking to open offices in various countries in the region, including Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in order to be closer to the Syrian people. This matter will be presented once the Front's committees are formed and they start discussion with the various Arab states.
"The political committee which will be formed in the next meeting will initiate contacts to explain the point of view of the NSF on the process of change in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people under the current regime in Damascus," the Paris-based Ayyash said.