ISTANBUL – The man chosen to head the Syrian opposition’s new interim government is a Syrian-born American citizen who has spent decades in the United States working for technology companies and advocating for various Muslim causes.
Members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition elected Ghassan Hitto in a vote early Tuesday to head an administration they hope will provide an alternative to President Bashar Assad’s regime and help coordinate the fight against his forces.
“The new government will work from the starting point of complete national sovereignty and the unity of the Syrian land and people, which can only by achieved through continued determination to topple Bashar Assad, his regime and all its pillars,” he said in a speech in Istanbul.
Much remains unknown about the body that Hitto will lead, including how many ministers it will have and if it will receive enough support to project its authority inside Syria, where it is supposed to set up operations.
Hitto’s many years abroad and fluent English could facilitate his efforts to win international support for his government. He called on the international community on Tuesday to grant his government Syria’s seats at the Arab League and the United Nations.
Hitto was born in Syria’s capital of Damascus in 1963 and moved to the United States as a young man, where he earned double bachelors’ degrees from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University, according to the coalition.
He worked for IT companies and advocated for a number of Muslim causes. After 9/11, he helped found the Muslim Legal Fund of America, which provides legal support to Arabs, Muslims and Asians.