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Syrian opposition figurehead Michel Kilo dies in exile aged-81 after battle with coronavirus Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Syrian opposition figurehead Michel Kilo dies in exile aged-81 after battle with coronavirus

Michel Kilo was a giant of the Syrian opposition [LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2021

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Michel Kilo, a figurehead of the Syrian opposition, lost his life on Monday after releasing a final message to his people.
Exiled Syrian opposition activist Michel Kilo died in Paris on Monday, aged 81, having contracted Covid-19.

Reports of Kilo's death circulated on Monday after the opposition figurehead had battled the virus in a Paris hospital for two weeks.

Hospitalised, he penned a message to Syrians asking his compatriots to "ignore antagonistic and vindictive mentalities" telling them to unite.

This call to action was carried by The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, on 9 April, which was described as his last "political will".

Kilo was a leading Christian opposition figure, a writer, and a long-standing critic of the Assad regime.

He was engaged in the political struggle for democracy in Syria for over half a century.

Opposition figure Nasr Hariri issued a statement reported on Kilo's death.

"Michel was an intellectual and patriotic powerhouse and his dream was to see a free and democratic Syria," he said, according to AFP.

"God willing, the Syrian people will carry on this dream and see it through."

Read more: A Revolution to Restore the State, by Michel Kilo

Born in the coastal city of Latakia in 1940, Kilo studied journalism in Egypt and Germany.

Kilo worked in the ministry of culture's translation department until 1966, with his political work beginning in the 1970s during the Baathist regime.

He began opposing the authoritarian regime of President Hafez Al-Assad, who is also the father of its current leader, Bashar.

This included critiquing Hafez's National Progressive Front before the Arab Writers Union in 1979.

The front seemed to offer political representation to voices outside Al-Assad's Baath Party, but in reality only served in consolidating the regime's rule.

Kilo was then arrested in the early 1980s for opposing the trial of Muslim Brotherhood members, earning him two years in prison.

Upon his release, Kilo moved to France but returned to Syria in 1991. He was again handed a three-year sentence for signing the Damascus Declaration in 2005 and the Beirut-Damascus Declaration in 2006.

These were collective opposition statements that slammed the Assad regime.

After the uprisings against the Syrian regime began in 2011, Kilo gave his full support to the revolution placing a target on his back.

He fled to Cairo in 2012, where he helped found the Syrian Democratic Forum.

After working on other formalised political efforts, he moved to Paris where he concentrated on writing for Arabic-language newspapers.

He penned a weekly column for Al-Araby Al-Jadeed until his death, analysing what happened during the Syrian civil war and calling on his people to keep up the fight.

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