CAIRO - A meeting of Syria's splintered opposition in Cairo on Tuesday descended into scuffles and fistfights that will dishearten Western leaders calling for unity against Bashar Assad.
A Syrian Kurdish group quit the meeting, sparking mayhem and cries of "scandal, scandal" from some delegates. Women wept as men traded blows, and staff of the hotel used for the meeting hurriedly removed tables and chairs as the scuffles spread.
"The Kurds withdrew because the conference rejected an item that says the Kurdish people must be recognized," said Abdel Aziz Othman of the National Kurdish Council. "This is unfair and we will no longer accept to be marginalized."
Sixteen months into an uprising against Assad, the failure to rally Syria's disparate religious and ethnic groups behind a united leadership will make it more difficult to secure international recognition.
"This is so sad. It will have a bad implications for all parties. It will make the Syrian opposition look bad and demoralize the protesters on the ground," said an opposition activist, 27-year-old Gawad al-Khatib.