Riad al-Turk is a veteran opposition activist and leading figure in the Syrian Democratic People’s Party, which is a member of the Syrian National Council.
Born in Homs in 1930, al-Turk started his political activism while in law school, and joined the Syrian Communist Party in 1952. He suffered imprisonment and torture on several occasions, and left the country after the Baath Party came to power in 1963, returning in 1965. He disagreed with the decision of the Syrian Communist Party in 1972 to join the National Progressive Front, a coalition of organizations allied with the ruling Arab Socialist Baath Party, breaking away a year later to form the splinter Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau).
The new party immediately moved into opposition, and as government repression intensified al-Turk was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1980. Only two years after his release in 1998 he was again imprisoned for his prominent role in the Damascus Spring. Al-Turk stepped down as secretary general of the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau) in 2005, at which point it renamed itself the Democratic People's Party. He was also a main signatory of the Damascus Declaration for National Democratic Change in the same year.