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Terrorism & Security

Syrian ruling party members defect en masse

More than 200 Baath Party members announced their resignation Wednesday in the largest expression of dissent since the party came to power in 1963.

By Correspondent / April 28, 2011

In this image made on a mobile phone, people walk past pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday.

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More than 200 members of Syria's ruling Baath Party resigned Wednesday in protest of the violent crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

Although the bulk of the resignations came from low-level party officials of little importance individually, the mass resignation is significant because the Baath Party has ruled Syria since 1963 with almost no dissent. It counts about 10 percent of Syrians (about 2 million people) as members, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While the Syrian government classifies itself as a parliamentary republic, according to the US State Department it is in reality "an authoritarian regime" led by the Assad family and Baath party, virtually uninterrupted and uncontested for decades. A defection like this was "unthinkable" before the antigovernment protests that erupted in March, according to the Telegraph.

Baath officials in Deraa announced their resignation in a statement Wednesday, according to the BBC:

"In view of the negative stance taken by the leadership of the Arab Socialist Baath Party towards the events in Syria and in Deraa, and after the death of hundreds and the wounding of thousands at the hands of the various security forces, we submit our collective resignation."

As of Thursday, more than 400 people had been killed since protests erupted, according to figures from various human rights organizations in Syria. In a separate statement, 30 Baath party members in the coastal town of Banias announced their resignation, the Wall Street Journal reported:

"Considering the breakdown of values and emblems that we were instilled with by the party and which were destroyed at the hand of the security forces … we announce our withdrawal from the party without regret," a letter by 30 party members from Banias said. The letter described the indiscriminate use of live ammunition and pervasive home raids in their city.

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