3. The calamity of the activists of human rights and the civil society
4. Forced Exiles and the Dossier of Law 49/1980
A. Arrests and Trials
B. Travel Documents
C. The Missing in the Syrian Prisons
First: Arbitrary Arrest
Third: Release Cases
Fourth: Death during Compulsory Military Service
6. Random and Arbitrary Arrests
7. Death in prisons under torture
8. The Sednaya Military Prison
9. Targeting the establishments of the civil and charitable society
10. Those Banned from Travel
11. The Media
The Syrian Human Rights Committee has tried to observe some of the fundamental aspects of human rights in Syria, particularly the human right to live free from arbitrary detention and degrading treatment. However, the Syrian Authority, which has imposed a state of emergency on the country for the last 47 years unjustifiably, is still suppressing freedoms and choking the freedom of peaceful expression of opinion in all its forms.
The Syrian Authority has targeted distinctively this year human rights activists and detained two of their prominent figures for no evident legal crime. It has manipulated its competence to deprive one of them of membership in the Bar Association and intends to severely punish both of them to deter others and discourage the two activists from defending human rights. Meanwhile it is planning to arrest the founding members of a third human rights organisation. It has failed to disclose the fate of one of the activists who was detained by it and whose term of imprisonment has terminated without his being released. The security forces have continued usurping the ordinary jurisdiction and sentencing some activists through it, while referring others to Exceptional and Military Courts.
The Authority has still been targeting the arbitrary exiles who have been suffering for more than three decades. It has arrested many of the returnees among them and subjected them to trials in accordance with Law 49/1980, which sentences them to death just because of blood relationship. Despite the serious efforts of Muslim Brotherhood Movement to find an appropriate means to solve the problems of the exiled, the missing, the detained and Law 49/1980, the Authority has ignored the Movement’s announcement to suspend its opposing activities and disregarded all the initiatives and intermediaries to terminate the suffering of tens of thousands of Syrian citizens who are experiencing horrible situations in exile and Diaspora.
Moreover, the Syrian Authority has launched an aggressive campaign this year against the Kurds. It has arrested hundreds of them on the pretext of their affiliation to Kurdish parties demanding Kurdish rights of various types. It did not hesitate to arrest and try those celebrating the Newroz Celebration or those interested in the Kurdish language, culture and arts. The State Security Court sentenced the Kurdish detainees to severe penalties, accusing them of attempting to detach part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign country, provoking racial and sectarian tendencies and weakening the national sentiment. There increased the number of the Kurdish soldiers who were killed in their military units during doing their compulsory military service, either by shooting them or in vague accidents that arouse the suspicion of their being intentional.
Random and arbitrary arrests continued allegedly because of religious or political affiliation or for expressing points of view. Meanwhile, Islamists continued to be targeted regardless of their tendencies. It has been noticed that this year a campaign was launched against those who have a relationship with the Communist Lobour Party.
There continued the process of delivering the corpses of citizens that had been arrested and died because of the cruel and fast torture characterizing the Syrian security forces and rewarding them with reputation abroad and encouraging investment, on the one hand, and intimidating and terrorizing the citizens, on the other hand. Related to this point is the strict concealment, by the Authority, of the Sednaya massacre that took place one and a half years ago and resulted in the death of a large number of prisoners, Islamists in particular.
Civil society, human rights and charitable establishments were subjected to severe restrictions and their activists were arrested and treated badly, and many establishments were denied licences.
Meanwhile, the media in all its forms, written, audio-visual and the Internet continued to be monopolised by the authority, excepting a few non-political media that are obliged to revolve in the orbit of the Authority. Anyone not strictly complying will be blocked and prevented in addition to being imprisoned and fined. The number of blocked websites in Syria increased to rise to 244, so that Syria has been described as the state with the most blocked websites in the world.
The calamity of the activists of human rights and the civil society
The Syrian Human Rights Committee has learned from a source The Syrian Authority intensified its campaign against the activists of human rights, targeting the most active and effective among them and not affecting only the persons but surpassing them to the human rights structure which it never acknowledged since its start.
Here are summarised the most conspicuous violations committed by the Authority in this field:
First: The State Security Intelligence arrested in Damascus the lawyer Muhannad al-Hasani (Damascus-1966), President of the Syrian Human Rights Organisation (“Sawasiya”) on 28/7/2999 in the wake of attending the sessions of the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and writing down and publishing its proceedings. Notwithstanding the prior permission granted by the Head of the Court to al-Hasani, that did not please some of powerful personalities in the Government and thus wanted to bring back the Court to its semi-secret sessions out of which only little would be released. It was inevitable to silence al-Hasani by accusing him of ready-made and well-tailored charges. After al-Hasani was arrested the following measures were taken against him:
He was put in custody and imprisoned and on 30/7/2009 was sent to Damascus Criminal Court, which, in its turn, interrogated him and accused him of the charges transferred from the security offices summed up in degrading the state, weakening the national sentiment and disseminating false news that demoralise the nation. Then the security bodies instructed the Bar Association, which lacks free will, to take measures against him. The Bar Association then referred him to a disciplinary council and filed an ethical lawsuit against him. The chairman of the Syrian Bar Association, Muhammad Walid al-Tish on 4/8/2008 reactivated the ethical lawsuit and referred him to the disciplinary council that was held on 11/8/2009. The disciplinary council, whose security conscience was awakened by remote control, claimed that Muhannad al-Hasani headed a non-licensed human rights organisation and without the consent of the Bar Association and that the organisation practiced its activities in a way that defamed Syria and disseminated or exaggerated false news that degraded and defamed the State , besides his attending the sessions of the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in Damascus and recording the proceedings of the sessions without his being an authorised lawyer or an agent in any lawsuit. The Bar Association regarded al-Hasani’s acts as a violation of the law and statute of attorneyship and a discredit to the dignity, honor, traditions and status of the profession, and a professional error. Therefore, it, in its turn, reactivated the lawsuit against him in pursuant to the provisions of organizing the profession of attorneyship, and at the session of Damascus Bar Association on 10/8/2009 it decided to terminally delete the name of the lawyer Muhannad al-Hasani from the lawyers’ list while he is still detained in Damascus Central Prison in Adra waiting for the procedures of his trial before the Criminal Court.
Second: A political security patrol kidnapped the lawyer Haitham al-Maleh (Damascus—1931) on 4/8/2009 upon his departure from his office in Damascus because of his announcements on corruption, which he released to the dissident Barada TV Channel, which broadcasts its programs from Europe. He was then referred on 9/10/2009 to the Military Intelligence branch in al-Qaboon, where he was interrogated and then referred to the military judiciary on 21/10/2009 to be interrogated by the single military judge in Damascus, who ordered that he be detained in Damascus Central Prison in Adra waiting for the decision of the military prosecution to reactivate the lawsuit against him for spreading false information that could debilitate the morale of the nation and for humiliating public personalities. The lawyer Haitham al-Maleh is still in prison waiting for the development of his trial before the single military judge in Damascus. It is worth noting that the lawyer Haitham al-Maleh is regarded as one of great lawyers and legal figures in Syria and was the president of the Human Rights Association in Syria for two successive periods. He was detained during the regime of the late President Hafidh al-Asad for six years from 1980 to 986 because of his stance from the deteriorated status of human rights in the country and his support of reform. He is the author of many books, studies and legal analysis and he is an authentic reference in his field of specialisation.
Third: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour in Syria refused to register human rights organisations that started to appear in 2001 and were keen to have legal existence. An obvious example is the keenness of the National Human Rights Organisation in Syria and its insistence to secure a legal license. Due to its pressing demand for a license during the past years and the refusal of the Ministry to publicise the organisation, the Chairman of the Administrative Court in Damascus postponed on 24/2/2009 looking into the lawsuit filed by the National Human Rights Organisation against the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour to cancel its resolution to refuse publicizing the organisation on 14/4/2009 to complete the investigation. On 13/7/2009 the Ministry of Social Affairs and Lobour filed a lawsuit against the founding members of the Organisation. On 27/10/2009 the Administrative Court held a session to deal with the lawsuit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Lobour concerning the refusal of the license and postponed the case to another session on 8/12/2009. The problem is still fluctuating between the Ministry demand to imprison the founding members and the insistence of the Organisation to obtain the license.
The Ministry refused licensing all the human Rights Organisations that had applied for a license, such as the society of Human Rights in Syria and the Syrian Human Rights Organisation. Though the Authority made allowances for the existence of these organisations and their activists during the past years, it started the current year to target their entities and members and accuse them of the guilt of demoralizing the nation and intimidating it and spreading false information.
Fourth: The year 2009 witnessed the arrest of numerous human rights activists and presenting them to exceptional courts because of their activities in defending human rights in Syria. On 11/1/2009, the activist Nasir Daqquri (al-Hasakah 1962), who resides in ‘Amuda, was arrested because of his activity in public affairs. The activist and author Hammam Hasan Haddad (1980) was arrested on 27/1/2009.
Muhyi al-Deen ‘Iso, the member of the Board of Trustees of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights, was arrested at an Internet café in Homs on 18/2/2009 to be released later. The activist Ahamd al-Hajji (Araqqah – 1963) was arrested on 25/3/2009 for writing an article where he criticised some inconvenient practices in the educational directorate in Araqqah. He was sentenced to five days’ imprisonment on 22/4/2009.
The military prosecution reactivated a lawsuit against the lawyer and human rights activist Khalil Ma’tooq on 11/4/2009 for his insistence to sue the security personnel who had shot and killed his nephew Sami Ma’tooq, the human rights activist, and his friend Jony Sulaiman in al-Mushairifa village near Homs on 14/10/2008.
The detained activist Dr Walid al-Bunni (Damascus-1964), member of Damascus Declaration was brought before the Military Criminal Court on charges, forged by a criminal prisoner cooperating with the prison administration, of spreading false information that could debilitate the morale of the nation. Three hearings later the Court declared his innocence of the charges against him.
Damascus Criminal Court sentenced the activist and author Habeeb Salih (Banyas-1947), who had been arrested for six times, to three years’ imprisonment for the accusation of weakening national sentiment and spreading false information that could debilitate the morale of the nation in the wake of writing articles on the Internet.
On 19/5/2009 the civil society activist and reformist author Michael Kilo was released after serving three years’ imprisonment because of having signed on Beirut-Damascus Declaration.
Fifth: The Syrian Authority prevented scores of human rights defenders from travelling abroad this year. Refer to chapter of Those Banned from Travel.
Forced Exiles and the Dossier of Law 49/1980
In 2008, Syrian Authorities resumed a campaign of arrests it had Tens of thousands of persons arbitrarily exiled from their homeland are still living in the neighboring countries, the Arabian Gulf States, Yemen and European countries. Most of them are suffering from bad living circumstances because of their being compelled to live outside their own country and because of the circumstances surrounding their residences that result in worse consequences.
Despite the declaration of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement of suspending its opposing activities in the early days of this year (2009)—and it is till committed to suspending them, to spare its fundamental efforts for supporting the population of Gaza in the wake of the Israeli assault against it—and despite the news leaked by sources close to the Syrian Authority that there was a project under consideration to revoke Law 49/1980, which sentences any member in the Movement to death, besides the media reported intermediaries to approximate between the Authority’s viewpoints and the Brotherhood Movement’s, in particular through the Turkish Government, which has good relationships with both sides, the result, unexpectedly, has been no more than very extreme declarations by the Syrian Minister of Endowments, in which he launched all kinds of accusations and attributes.
It is believed that the interview on the BBC with the Syrian Minister of Endowments, which was irrelevant, was intended to convey the response of the Authority in Syria to the generous initiative of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. It was hoped that the Syrian Authority would suggest appropriate solutions to persistent issues, such as the issue of Law 49/1980, and consequently the issues of the exiled and missing, and stopping random arrests and trials by the exceptional Supreme State Security Court (SSSC). However, the final analysis shows that the Authority by the end of the year 2009 had been practicing its traditional strict policy without any modification or change.
A. Arrests and Trials:
The suffering of the exiled Syrians continued in all aspects this year; the Authority Apparatuses arrested those who returned home and subjected them to interrogation and trials in accordance with Law 49/1980.
Following are some of the cases authenticated by the Syrian Human Rights Committee: Radwan Muhammad Hassoon (Homs-1956) was arrested in the middle of December, 2008 on his arrival at the Syrian border checkpoint coming from Jordan, where he and his family have been living since the early eighties, and nothing has been known about him ever since.
Usama Ali Mar’i al-Sheedon (Idlib-1983) was arrested on 11/3/2009 on arriving at the Syrian borders coming from Jordan with his mother intending to register his birth event in the Civil Status Office, for he was born outside Syria as an orphan. Nothing had been known about him till he was released on 26/10/2009.
In October, 2008 the truck driver Mahmood Khalaf al-Nasir was arrested and driven to Damascus and nothing has been known about him ever since.
On 26/6/2009 Abdullah Isma’il al-Zain was arrested at the Syrian border checkpoint upon his coming from Jordan on his way to Syria and was led to an unknown region, and his place of detention has not been known since that date.
On 28/3/2009 the youth Muhammad Yasir Aswad (Aleppo-1983) disappeared from his workplace in Amman, Jordan, to be discovered two days later in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He was summoned several times by the Military Intelligence in the city. On the ninth of April, 2009 he was summoned and never returned and nothing had been heard of him till he was released on 5/8/2009, when he was driven from prison to serve the compulsory military term.
As to Bassam Zakiyyah, he was arrested on 17/11/2008 while visiting his country, Syria, coming from Qatar, where he was living with his family; he was then released on 3/2/2009 to be prevented from travel to join his family.
The Syrian Human Rights Committee tried hard to get information about 13 detention cases among the exiles’ children who returned to Syria in 2009, but it could not authenticate these cases because the detainees’ families, being worried about the fate of their children, abstained from submitting the required information.
The cases of trying the exiles according Law 49/1980 we had access to were limited in number, for their disclosure was impeded by returning to practicing the partial prohibition of attending the hearings of the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), particularly after the arrest of the Lawyer Muhannad al-Hasani, who used to authenticate such trials. Among the cases we have had access to are the following:
The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in Damascus passed on 15/3/2009 death sentence pursuant to Law 49/1980 against Dr Fadi Farooq ‘Isa (Hama-1978) to be reduced later for abating factors to 12 years’ imprisonment with hard labour and deprivation of all civil rights, interdiction and fining.
Simultaneously Dr Anas Dhiya’ al-Deen Jammas was being tried by the same court. Despite dropping the public right lawsuit pursuant to the resolution of setting the lawsuit aside issued by the Minister of Interior one year ago on 26/5/2008, he is still in prison and subjected to trial.
On 29/3/2009 Muhammad Fawzi Yusuf, the Syrian holding the German nationality was being tried by the Supreme State Security Court in accordance with Law 49/1980, and nothing is known about the development of his trial thereafter.
On 21/4/2009 Ali Khalid Ahmad bin Muhammad (Arraqqah-1975) was sentenced, in accordance with Law 49/1980, to 12 years’ imprisonment with hard labour, interdiction and deprivation of all civil rights.
On 14/5/2009 Saffuh al-As’ad al-Bakri (Dayr-Azzawr) was sentenced, in accordance with Law 49/1980, to 12 years’ imprisonment with hard labour, interdiction and deprivation of all civil rights.
On 13/12/2009 ‘Umar Hayyan al-Razzuq (Hama-1985) and another youth from Hama—whose name the Committee could not know—to 12 years’ imprisonment with hard labour, interdiction and deprivation of all civil rights.
B. Travel Documents
The Syrian Human Rights Committee authenticated in 2009 a lot of information indicating that some of the Syrian embassies prevent the exiled Syrians from enjoying their legal rights to obtain passports in their location of residence, particularly in Yemen, the Sudan, Jordan and Iraq.
The Syrian Authority continued utterly preventing all exiles from obtaining passports. The exiles have experienced paramount difficulties. The Authority, however, for regional and international causes, had to grant a large number of them passports from the Syrian embassies abroad, though for a third of the normally granted period, i.e., for two years only, pursuant to an order issued by the office of the Minister of interior on 17/3/2004. Nonetheless, matters worsened once again later. Many Syrian exiles reportedly say that this year the officials of the Syrian embassies confiscated their passports when they submitted them for renewal or extension after the termination of their terms and did not renew them or grant new passports. It has become undeniable that anyone reaching the age of fourteen without having been registered in the registers of the Civil Status Office shall not be registered at or through the Syrian embassies, and shall not be granted a passport. The persons belonging to this age category shall be required to travel to Syria to amend their situations. When they travel they are arrested and many of them are tried according to Law 49/1980, despite their young age and not affiliating to any movement, in order to influence their relatives. Many examples of such cases have been cited.
A lot has been reported this year about the mistreatment Syrian citizens received at the embassies of their country, keeping in mind that the Syrian Authority had in a previous period appointed new personnel in the Syrian embassies, particularly in those countries accommodating a large number of exiles, and most of those newly appointed had security background.
C. The Missing in the Syrian Prisons:
In 2009 the Syrian Human Rights Committee resumed its unrelenting efforts to search for the fate of those missing in the Syrian prisons, who are 17000 in number, under tremendous difficulties it encountered in its efforts. The Committee tried earnestly to urge the Syrian Authority to reveal their fates and settle the problem in a way that would preserve the solidarity and cohesion of the Syrian society. But the Syrian Authority is still imposing, on its part, a ban on talking about this matter, and anyone talking about it would be subjected to arrest and severe punishment. Meanwhile the Committee is experiencing great difficulties to persuade the relatives, companions and acquaintances of the missing to highlight this very significant issue, for some of them are extremely terrified by the Authority’s oppression, while the acquaintances and friends of the missing exiles outside Syria have been overwhelmed by laziness, indifference and repudiation.
the Syrian Human Rights Committee thinks that the Authority most probably has killed this large number of detainees regarded as belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, let alone those who have lost their life while being tortured or because of the spread of fatal diseases in their dungeons, or because of malnutrition or senility The Committee has interviewed hundreds of those that were released from Syrian prisons and obtained horrifying information indicating continuous massacres and executions that continued for numerous years, in particular in Tadmur (Palmyra) Prison in the desert out of sight, up till a short time before the death of the late President Hafidh al-Asad. This was assured by the ex-Defense Minister Mustafah Tlas in one of his interviews with one of the Western weeklies in 2004.
The Syrian Human Rights Committee confirms in this report that an issue of this magnitude cannot be ignored, especially when one knows that thousands of families have been waiting for an authentic official piece of information about the fate of a father, a son or a brother, and wish that his corpse could be contained in a special grave, and thereby many social and private issues could be settled.
First: Arbitrary Arrest
Arbitrary arrest among the Kurds because of their activities and sometimes no activities is going on around the clock, particularly in locations where there is dense population in North and North-Eastern Syria and the Capital, as well. The Syrian Kurdish and local human rights bodies have observed this year tens of arrests. Following are some of the most conspicuous cases:
On 10/2/2009 the Syrian Authorities arrested Mustafah Jum’ah Bakr (1948), the leading figure in the Kurdish Azadi party and detained him in Palestine Branch for Military Interrogation.
The political security in al-Qamishli arrested the engineer Darweesh Ghalib (al-Qamishli-1945) because of his cultural interest in the Kurdish language.
At almost the same date the youth Kadar Sa’ad was arrested at his workplace in al-Qamishli and transferred to Damascus. On 18/1/2009 the arrest of both the agricultural engineer Fawwaz Kanu (al-Hasakah-1966) and the Lobouratory technician Zaki Isma’il (al-Qamishli-1977) occurred because of printing certificates that were awarded to graduates of a session in Kurdish.
On 22/1/2009 five Kurdish youngsters were arrested. They were Khalid Jum’ah (12 years), Shaheen Ibrahim ‘Abi (13 years), ‘Azeez Jameel ‘Abi (13 years), Dilkhaz Muhammad (15 Years) and Sardar Abdul-Raheem (14 years).
On 28/2/2009 twenty-one Kurdish activists were arrested in al-Hasakah, al-Dirbasiyyah, al-Qahtaniyyah and al-Qamishli for standing silent for one hour simultaneously in protest to decree No.49 of 2008, which deprives the Kurds of the right to own property in their regions.
The political security in al-Hasakah arrested Jihad ‘Aliko on 2/3/2009 because of participating on 28/2/2009 in a peaceful protest against decree No.49 of.2008.
On 9/3/2009 Nasr al-Deen Barhak, the member of the Political Bureau of the Kurdish Democratic Party was arrested by the political security in al-Hasakah.
On 6/3/2009 the student Kawa Deeko (Ifrin-1990) was arrested along with the university students Abul-Rahman Mustafa, Dara Ibrahim, Reezan Muhammad, Sifeen Ibrahim, Roze Ibrahim and Muammad Sa’eed. All of them were later released save Kawa Deeko
A group of children in al-Malikiyyah were arrested on 20/3/2009 and were subjected to severe battering to prevent them from celebrating Newroz festival.
Anwar Ali Nasu (Amuda-1962) was arrested by the Military Security on 30/3/2009 and at the same time both Fawwaz Muhyddin and Ahmad Keeki were arrested.
On 31/3/2009 the Syrian Security Authorities arrested Yusuf Ferman from Amuda. The Kurdish writer Faruq Hajji Mustafa (‘Ain al-‘Arab-1968) was arrested on 5/4/2009 by the political security in Aleppo.
On 9/4/2009 Kanu Bubu Iyyanah (Ra’s al-‘Ain-1984) was arrested because of Kurdish artistic works. The physician Abdul-Qadir Mahmood was arrested by the political security on the street in the city of al-Qamishli.
Hawazin Nawwaf Basheer (al-Qamishli-1985) disappeared on 5/5/2009 through a political security patrol in al-Qamishli. On 1/5/2009 Abdul-Jaleel Shaikhmus al-Jalal (Khaznah/ al-Qamishli) was arrested.
Jakar Khween Shaikhu (Ifrin/Aleppo-1981) was arrested at al-Shaikh Maqsud Neighborhood in Aleppo to disappear in the prison. The leading member in Yekiti Party, Shams al-Deen Hammu (Ifrin- 1958) was arrested by the political security branch in Aleppo on 29/7/2009.
On 9/8/2009 Muhammad Musa, the Secretary of the Kurdish Leftist Party was arrested to serve his sentence after being convicted by the single military judge in al-Qamishli. He had been arrested on 19/7/2008 to be released on 5/10/2008 so that he might be tried while free.
On 11/9 Mahmood Zubair Mahmood (al-Qamishli) was arrested for carrying a flyer issued by the Kurdish Democratic Party.
The Kurdish female activist Manal Ibrahim was arrested on 21/10/2009.
The Military Security arrested the Kurdish activist Muhammad Salih Khalil (Ifrin-1953) at his village in Ifrin.
On 27/11/2009 Hasan Abdul-Kareem and Ramadan Haji Hasan, who was in his seventies and the child Juan Abdul-Salam (10 years) were arrested at al-Malikiyyah town to be delivered to the Political Security Branch in al-Hasakah.
On 12/12/2009 the lawyer Mustafa Isma’il (‘Ain al-‘Arab-1973) was arrested by the Air forces Security because of his media activities.
Meanwhile a political security patrol arrested three of the members of the Political Committee of Yekiti Party. They were Hasan Salih, Ma’roof Ahmad Mulla and Ahmad Mustafa. They had been summoned to the office of al-Qamishli District’s governor to be arrested there.
This year tens of detained Kurds have been tried because of their peaceful sit in, celebrating the Newroz festival or their cultural interest in the Kurdish language and Kurdish arts, or because of their political activities and their interest in public affairs.
On 15/1/2009 the single military judge in Damascus held a hearing session to try 24 Kurdish citizens at the wake of a peaceful demonstration in which they participated in al-Qamishli on 2/11/2009. The citizens subjected to the trial were Fu’ad Aliko, Hasan Ibrahim Salih, Faris Khalil ‘Anz, Ghamdan Muhammad Salih ‘Uthman, Badrkhan Ibrahim Ahmad, Marawn Hameed ‘Uthman, Mahmood Shaikhmus Shaikho, Shyar Ali Khalil, Bilal Husain Hasna Salih, Muhiyddeen Shaikhmus Husain, Abul-Rahman Sulaiman Rammo, Shaikhmus ‘Abdu Husain and others.
On 28/1/2009 the first session was held by Damascus Criminal Court to try the engineer Mish’al al-Tammu, the spokesman of the Kurdish Future Current in Syria, where the charges against him were recited. Al-Tammu pleaded innocent of the charges he was accused of before the Court sentenced him on 11/5/2009 to three and a half years’ imprisonment for allegedly weakening national sentiment and debilitating the morale of the nation.
On 5/2/2009 Salah Yunis was referred to the military judiciary in al-Qamishli for interrogation. (He had been arrested on 31/10/2008.)
On 10/2/2009 some leading figures from the Kurdish Azadi Party were interrogated by the First investigating judge in Damascus. Then Mustafa Jum’a, Bakr, Sa’doon Mahmood Shaikho and Muhammad Sa’eed al-‘Umar were charged with weakening the national sentiment and provoking racial and sectarian tendencies and establishing a society with the aim of changing the economic and political structure of the State. Another session was held to try them on 28/6/2009 and every one of them was sentenced to three years in prison on 15/11/2009.
On 25/3/2009 the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) sentenced Muhammad Khalil Abu Zaid to five years in prison for allegedly trying to detach part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign country.
On 30/3/2009 twenty-four Syrian Kurdish citizens were brought before the single Military Judge in the city of al-Qamishli on the occasion of the Newroz Celebration of 2009. They were arrested by the Political Security and the police on 20/3/2009. They are: Abdul-Kareem Hameed al-Hamad, Salar Barzan Abdul-Rahman, Iwan Aziz Abdullah, Harnad Husain Salih, Dalkhaz Zain-al-Abideen Muhammad, Abdul-Kareem Muhammad Abdu, S’ood Farhan Bru, Dalkhwas Muhammad Darweesh, Rashshu Muhammad Shareef Mirkhan, Rasheed Ramadan ‘Uthman, Riyad Muammad Ahmad, Sulaiman Abdul-Majeed Usu, Bandwar Bahri Shaikhi, Swar Bahri Shaikhi, Dahham Hasan Shaikhi, Ayman Salih Al-Muahmood, Riyad Kamal Hoban, along with the youngsters: Juan Jalal Sa’eed, Malik Farhan Shaikho, Madlum Abdul-Kareen Kafi, Naijarfan Abdul-Salm Ahmad, Rodar Abdul-Salm Ahmad, Shbal ‘Umar Darweesh and Isma’il Bakr Isma’il.
On 29/3/2009 the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) sentenced some of the members of the Kurdish Azadi Party to the following: Five years in prison for Abdul-Kadir Ahamd Seedo (1974) and Jihad Salih Abdu (1967), and four years in prison for Husain bin Husain Muhammad (1980) and Salih Muhammad Abdu (1977) on the charge of trying to detach part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign country.
On 5/4/2009 the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) issued severe judgments against the Kurdish citizens: ‘Adnan Ali Hasi (‘Ain al-‘Arab), ‘Izzat Abdul-Hannan Huru (Ifrin), Hasan Khalil Seedo (Ifrin, Hasan Saleem Muhammad (al-Malikiyyah), and Waheed Rasheed Huru (Ifrin). The sentence terms ranged between 7 and 8 years in prison, in addition to deprivation of the civil rights of the detainees since 23/5/2009.
On 14/4/2009 the same court issued judgments sentencing for five years’ imprisonment Zainab Huru and Lateefah Murad for allegedly belonging to a secret society as they affiliated to the Kurdish Democratic Union and for trying to detach part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign country. It also sentenced to six years in prison Salah Mistu, Noori Mustafa Husain and Rashad Ibrahim Binyaf, and to six years’ imprisonment Muhammad Habash Rashshu and Ibrahim Shaikh ‘Alwash for the same charges.
On 14/4/2009 the single Military Judge in Damascus issued a judgment sentencing for one year in prison, to be reduced to 8 months later, Fu’ad A’lliko, the secretary of Yekiti Party for the misdemeanor of belonging to a secret society of international nature, and to 13 months’ imprisonment Hasan Salih, the member of the Political Committee of Yekiti Party for the misdemeanor of belonging to a secret society of international nature and for encouraging riot and provoking racial and sectarian tendencies.
The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), after convicting them of the misdemeanor of belonging to a secret society of international nature and for encouraging riot and provoking racial and sectarian tendencies, sentenced to 8 years in prison Kamiran Khalil Muhammad and ‘Inayat Abdul-Aziz Khana, and to six years’ imprisonment Mustafa Rasheed Zalfu.
On 5/10/2009 the single Military Judge in al-Qamishli sentenced to three months’ imprisonment the Kurdish youth Kaifkhish Adnan Yaseen for allegedly provoking racial and sectarian tendencies upon finding with him a necklace inscribed with the Kurdish banner. On 21/10/2009 the same judge sentenced to 8 months in prison Ibrahim Buru, the member of the Political Committee of Yekiti Party.
The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) held a session on 20/10/2009 to try the Kurdish youths: Shukri Khalid ‘Umar (1988), Jaikar Shaikho (1989) Safqan Rasheed Khallu (1990), Rahseed Rasheed Khallu (1958) and Nasir Ahmad Mahmood (1987).
On 21/10/2009 the single Military Judge in al-Qamishli sentenced to 8 months in prison Ibrahim Barru, the member of the Political Committee of Yekiti Party.
On 18/11/2009 the Criminal Court sentenced to 8 months in prison the dissident Kurds: Nasir Ahmad Muhammad, Ra’id Fawwaz, Sa’ad Shaikhmus and Abul-Rahman Mustafa Muhammad for the misdemeanor of belonging to a secret society and trying to detach part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign country.
Third: Release Cases:
On 20/2/2009 the veterinarian Hasan ‘Abdi Saif al-Deen (al-Qamishili), who had been arrested on 17/2/2009, was released.
Nasr al-Deen Barhak, Faisal Sabri Na’mu and Fanar Jameel were released on 19/4/2009 to be tried while free, and then they were sentenced to three months’ imprisonment on 9/8/2009 by the single Military Judge in al-Qamishli.
In al-Qamishli some minors were released on bail of 5000 Syrian liras for each of Juan Jalal Sa’eed (1994), Malik Farhan Shaikho (1992), Naijarfan Abdul-Salm Ahmad (1991), Madlum Abdul-Kareen Kafi (1991), Shbal ‘Umar Darweesh (1993) and Rodar Abdul-Salm Ahmad to be tried while they were free, while Isma’il Bakr Isma’il (1992) remained in prison because no bail was available. All of them had been arrested on 20/3/2009 on the occasion of the Newroz Celebration.
On 22/5/2009 there were released 35 Kurds out of 120 who had been arrested at the neighborhoods of al-Ashrafiyyah and Shaikh Maqsud in Aleppo. Among them were Mustafa, Muhammad Mustafa and Husain bin Mustafa.
On 2/6/2009 the leading figure in Yekiti Party, the engineer Muhammad Sulaiman Usu, was released to be tried while free. He was one of those who had been arrested on the occasion of the Newroz Celebration.
The Kurdish journalist writer Farooq Haji Mustafa (‘Ain al-‘Arab-1968) was released and sent free to the Public Prosecution.
The following detainees were also set free: Jihad ‘Ala’ al-Deen Husain, Reebar Noor al-Deen Ibrahim Kallu, Farmo Sa’id Sa’doon, ‘Abd al-Quddoos Abdul-Latif Husain and Amjad Abdul-Rahman ‘Uthman.
Fourth: Death during Compulsory Military Service:
The events of death among the Kurdish recruits during the Compulsory Military Service recurred. Kurdish sources believe that the recurrence of death on many occasions could not be a coincidence, for some of the victims died because of being subjected to torture while others were directly shot in fatal positions, and some others died in vague hidden events. Kurdish activists believe that the commanders of the military battalions and the field commanders are behind these death events because of the ethnicity of these recruits, keeping in mind that this type of death began recurring after the events of 13 March, 2004.
1. Muhammad Shaikh Muhammad (23/10/2004)
2. Muhammad Weeso Musa (29/2/2008)
3. Idris Mahmood Musa (29/2/2008)
4. Firhad Ali Saif Khan (3/7/2008)
5. Shyar Yusuf (7/4/2008)
6. Swar Tammu (21/12/2008)
7. ‘Akeed Nawwaf Hasan (27/12/2008)
8. Ibrahim Rif’at Jaweesh (27/12/2008)
9. Muhammad Bakr Shaikh Dada (13/1/2009)
10. Barazan Mahmood ‘Umar (13/4/2008)
11. Luqman Sami Husain (5/2008)
12. Qasim Hamid (11/6/2004)
13. Barakhdan Khalid Hammu (19/1/2009)
14. Firas Badri Habeeb (9/10/2004)
Random and Arbitrary Arrests
Random and Arbitrary Arrests represent one of the conspicuous features of the Syrian everyday life since the coupe of March 8, 1963. Arrests increase when the Authority wants to market a certain project or to face an initiative launched by one of the components of the society. The present year has witnessed a large number of random and arbitrary arrests, of which little information reaches the citizens or human rights groups. Such arrests are carried out secretly by the security apparatuses so that even the detainee’s family is ignorant of his arrest and the location of his custody. The suffering of the family continues long and so does the suffering of the detainee who is afflicted with bad and degrading treatment and torture. Moreover, many of the detainees are unaware of the causes of their detention which are often scandalous reports forged by numerous informants found everywhere.
This year Islamists have continued to be the main target of arbitrary arrest, besides human rights and general affairs activists for whom we have allocated special sections. What has been remarkable this year is that some figures and members that have some relationship with the Communist Lobour Party have been targeted, while the Security Apparatuses continued arresting whoever dares to practice his right of expressing his opinion.
Human Rights bodies have reported arrests in the city of Ar-Raqqah in January, 2009 for the detainees’ Islamic background. The arrests were the lot of Muhammad al-Matar, Abdullah Abbood, Ahmad al-Midhan, Saif al-Deen al-Hmood and Abdul-Ghani al-Rawi, all of whom are officials in the State’s Departments.
Early this year there were arrested the pharmacist Mahmood Walid al-Shihabi, the engineer Mahmood ‘Imad al-Shihabi, the university student Nizar Ghalib al-Shihabi, the teacher Khalid Abdullah ‘Aiyyash, along with Yusuf al-Jubooli, who died because of torture and whose corpse was delivered to his relatives, who were prohibited to even take a last look upon it. On 4/2/2009 it was known that three months had elapsed after the arrest of Battal al-Muslim (Dayr-Azzowr-1949), the Imam of a mosque in the village of Abu al-Hasan, and Salih Shahud (Dayr-Azzowr-1973) and neither the cause of their arrest, nor the location of their detention was known. Tahir Muhammad Abdul-Kadir (Aleppo-1966) was arrested at his home on 23/2/2009 by a patrol of Military Intelligence because one of his relatives abroad had contacted him. About two months later he was released.
On 15/11/2009 Yusuf Abdullah al-Deeb (Dayr-Azzowr-1965), the member of the Islamic Democratic Current was arrested and he is still detained.
On 17/7//2009 it was learned that Salamah Mujahid (Aleppo) had been kidnapped a few months before on the street in the evening while he was returning from an Internet café because of his Islamic background.
Maryam Khalis and Yasir Ahmad, both of British nationality studying Arabic in Damascus, were arrested on the pretext of what is allegedly called combating terrorism. They were detained in the Palestine Branch to be released three months later on 7/6/2009.
On 24/2/2009 the youth Ahmad Sa’dallah Mathboot (1989) disappeared upon leaving Damascus for Jiblah and nothing is known about his fate although some witnesses confirm that he is detained in the station of one of the security apparatuses. Asad Khayyat (a Syrian holding the Austrian nationality) was arrested in Damascus International Airport on 1/5/2009 and then was set free.
In May, 2009 there was arrested at the Governorate of al-Suwaida’ Farooq Abid Sa’ab from the village of ‘Araja/Shaba, while in August, 2009 Hamid Hasan was arrested at the village of al-Junainah/Shaba. Both detainees are poor labourers and neither the cause of their arrest nor the location of their detention is known.
The university student Reem Nakhlah (Damascus-1981) was arrested on 2/8/2009 in the wake of a discussion with her colleagues wherein she expressed her opinion. Some weeks after her arrest she was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital before her release on 27/6/2009.
The teacher Akram Mustafa ‘Alwani (Hama-1951) was arrested at his workplace in the Department of the Education in Arraqqa on 28/5/2009 although he is one of the old educators in the city and known for his good manners and merits.
Khalid Abdullah al-‘Idan (Hama-1971) disappeared and some months after his disappearance it was known that he was detained at one of the security apparatuses in Damascus on 29/6/2009.
The university student Waseem Zaki Ghawi (Homs-1983) was arrested on 22/7/2009 after repeated summons to the Branch of Military Intelligence
Two groups were arrested at Dar’a Province without any information about the cause of their arrest. On 9/3/2009 there were arrested Muhammad al-Himsi, Bassam Hilal and Ihsooni al-‘Abd from the village of Ghabaghib, and then on 29/3/2009 there were arrested Mahir Karman, Shadi ‘Abbood and Jibra’il al-Samrah.
On 16/8/2009 Burhan ‘Abid Tammi and Idrees Ta’moosh, both belonging to the Communist Party were arrested at Ra’s al-‘Ain district for collecting signatures to amend decree No 49/2008.
Hasan Ali al-Khaleeli was arrested in August for unknown causes.
Ruwaidah Hmood was arrested in place of her dissident husband who was in Britain to be released later.
The Islamic scholar Abdul-Rahman Kooki was arrested on 20/10/2009 upon his return from Qatar after participating in the Opposite Direction Program where the issue of the veil and the resolution of al-Azhar Shaikh to ban it were discussed. He was then referred to the Criminal Court on 17/11/2009 on the guilt of degrading the State and the demeanor of defaming the President of the Republic and provoking sectarian and factional tendencies. His trial is still going on.
On 21/5/2009 five previously detained persons were arrested because of their affiliation to the Communist Party. They are ‘Abbas ‘ Abbas (al-Salamiyyah-1945), Hasan Zahrah (al-Salamiyyah-1946), Tawfiq ‘Imran (al-Saboorah-1950), Ghassan Hasan (Maseef-1967) and Ahmad al-Neehawi (al-Ghab-1963). The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) interrogated them on 19/11/2009 and 16/12/2009 and the charges against them are still unknown and it is unknown whether any judgments have been issued against them.
Death in prisons under torture
The dogma of the security authority in Syria adopts the infliction of fast and violent torture on the detainees to elicit the greatest amount of information as soon as possible, which has made it well-known and led to continuous security cooperation with the American Intelligence apparatuses that referred to it dissidents that were subjected to the severest types of torture. Another reason, which is not less important, is the widespread practice of torture in the Syrian and investigation stations and prisons and its lasting for many years just for the sake of taking avenge on and humiliating the detainee and making him feel he is a real enemy that must be insulted and got rid of. Maybe the novel “al-Qawqa’ah” by the author Mustafa Khaleefah, which has been published recently, is regarded as a quality addition to show the practice of torture for the sake of torture and for the sake of taking avenge and humiliating and out of sadism of the security apparatuses that educate their elements according to these principles.
Every year the security apparatuses add new innovated tools and means for physical, spiritual and psychological torture to use against helpless detainees and prisoners of conscience. In our previous annual reports we have mentioned many such devices and means.
Reportedly, the detainee Muhammad Ameen al-Shawwah (Dayr-Azzowr) the Mathematics teacher, who was arrested in August, 2008, was delivered to his family as a motionless corpse on 10/1/2009.
The corpse of Yusuf Jabooli (Aleppo-1974), who was arrested on 27/12/2007, was delivered to his family one week after his arrest, and they were not allowed to open the wooden coffin where he was kept, and were prohibited to declare his death or call upon people to perform the funeral prayer for him. They were escorted by a patrol from the Intelligence Forces till he was buried. He was a graduate of Shari’ah and a government civil servant.
It has been known that the military prosecution sent on 5/9/2009 the death certificate of the detainee Khoshnaf Sulaiman stating that he had died on 31/3/2003 without any further details, and that of the pharmacist Sulaiman, who had been detained since September, 1998 after his arrival from Russia, for belonging to the Kurdish Labour Party. He was then transferred to Sednaya and his family visited him and he was certainly alive in 2005, which indicates that he had died lately because of torture or homicide.
The Sednaya Military Prison
In the wake of the painful events the prison witnessed and the horrible massacre on 5/7/2009 that claimed the life of tens of prisoners therein, the Authorities prohibited all types of contact with the prison and cancelled the visits of the relatives and did not respond to the enquiries about the safety of its inmates. They imposed a state of complete secrecy about the prison. Such state continued for about one year before resuming the permission for visiting some of the detainees to the exclusion of some others late in July, 2009.
Reports from inside the prison stated that some detainees were referred to Damascus to appear before The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and the military Courts, while some others have been still waiting for their vague fates since their arrest several years ago, for some of them. It is believed that about two thousand prisoners are detained at present in Sednaya Prison, most of whom are Islamists arrested because of their intellectual or religious affiliations, or from among those whose sentiments the Authorities had manipulated to sent them to Iraq. When they came back they were arrested and some of them appeared before The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and some others are still waiting.
There are still great inquiries as to what happened in the prison during the horrible massacre about which no details were leaked about its information and the number of those that lost their life therein, for there are strict orders warning those allowed visiting the prison against just mentioning the subject; otherwise they would receive the severest penalty.
Thus the fate of a number of detainees is still unknown. Some of them have finished serving their sentence but have not been released and their relatives do not know anything about them. Prominent among them is the human rights activist Nizar Rastanawi, who finished his imprisonment sentence (four years in Sednaya) in April, 2009.
The relatives of some of the inmates of Sednaya Prison are said to have reported the severe suffering they experienced on visiting their detained children, for they were subjected to cruel search and treatment that is not free from insults, curses and provocation, so that many of the inmates had to raise a complaint to the prison’s director requesting that their relatives should not visit them to spare them and themselves the consequences of the bad behavior of the guards. It is said that the prison director promised to respond to their petition and ordered that some measures be reduced and the letters addressed to the relatives on these occasions be facilitated.
It is noteworthy that the Syrian Authorities refuse to improve the state of the prisons and allow local, Arab or international human rights groups to visit them and have a look at them. They have not answered any of the enquiries addressed to them.
Targeting the establishments of the civil and charitable society
The Syrian Authority always tightly controls and overpowers the establishments of the civil and charitable society. It sometimes resorts to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Lobour to prevent licensing some of them, thereby openly violating the Societies Law; at other times it restores to dismissing some of the members of the administration and the founding members and replaces them by others who have such affiliations and characteristics as approved by the Authority.
These actions, which violate the rights of the citizens, have weakened the efforts for improving the performance of the societies and produced a parasitic group that is benefited but not benefiting.
Somewhere else in the report we discussed the refusal of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour to licence and publicise many human rights organisations, particularly the National Human Rights Organisation in Syria, whose publicity issue was this year the point of discussion.
In the city of Homs the Ministry agreed to licence the Consumer Protection Association three years after submitting an application meeting all the required conditions. Nevertheless, the consent was linked with expelling a number of the members of the Founding Administrative Board and the Founding Members, in accordance with a narrow-minded perspective and in violation of the citizens’ rights.
Informed sources have reported that the Authority decided to close the Centre of Islamic Studies, which is owned and run by the member of the Parliament, the Representative Muhammad Habash, who enjoys close ties with some security apparatuses.
The Authority targeted Shaikh Salah Kiftaru , the Director of Mujama’ Abu al-Noor, and the son of the late Mufti of the Republic a few months after deposing him from the presidency of al-Ansar Society as a result of scandalous information. But the security authorities that arrested him on 29/6/2009 referred him to Damascus Criminal Court and accused him of establishing illegal relationships with foreign agencies, practicing a profession without a licence and embezzling public funds.
In the second tenth of September, 2009 the Military Intelligence in the city of Aleppo summoned 19 personalities from among the dignitaries of Aleppo society and the activists in the field of charitable and voluntary work that has been licensed since long to treat them with all sorts of pressure and interrogation and then turned to searching their houses and confiscating some books. Among them were the physician Ibrahim al-Tayih, the dentist Mahmood ‘Azeeza, the engineer Talal Shabariq, the pharmacist Sa’ad Wafa’i, the teacher ‘Azzam Khanchi, the businessman Waddah Bwadqachi and others.
In December, 2009 there was declared the foundation of the Syrian Pulpit for non-Governmental Organisations consisting of eight human rights organisation inside Syria. This declaration disappeared soon and it was clear that security influences impeded its establishment.
As for the elections of the professional, scientific and labour unions, violations are prevalent to satisfy the security authorities. It has been reported as a simple example that during the elections of the branch of the Bar Association in Aleppo the list of the candidates of the National Advanced Front was placed next to the vacant electoral forms, while this was not permissible for the other lists. This was an obvious violation, and the First Lawyer did not take any measures despite verbal protests.
Those Banned from Travel
The measures taken by the Syrian Authorities restrict the travel of Syrian citizens and their movement abroad. Minors who are under the age of compulsory military service are not allowed to travel except for very limited cases and on strict conditions and sureties. This applies to officials in the State departments, for they are required to secure the consent of their departments first. As to the travel of the military, it is almost impossible. Previously-detained persons are banned from travel except after a specific period, and most of the Syrian citizens cannot obtain passports because of the security authorities’ refusal for reasons they do not disclose. Many of them may have to wait for several years to obtain a passport. Very often they resort to the means of appealing to an intermediary or bribing to get such documents to be able to travel.
The lists of the people banned from travel are categorised into groups of thousands of those banned from travel according to the background of their activity in public affairs or classified as dissidents or banned from travel as a pre-emptive measure.
In contrast, there are tens of thousands of Syrian forced exiles who are prevented from entering the country save to be taken to prison, and the subject has been discussed in a separate section.
Moreover, the security authorities resort to punishing and harassing the dissidents and activists in general affairs by preventing them from travel or withdrawing or not renewing their passports. The lists of those banned from travel got longer and longer so that they are updated periodically to accommodate new names. Consequently, a lot of vital deeds and activities are impeded.
Following are some examples of banning human rights activists from travelling which The Syrian Human Rights Committee has accessed this year:
Abdul-Kareem al-Rayhani, the president of the Syrian league for the Defence of Human Rights was banned from travelling abroad on 18/2/2009 pursuant to a warrant issued by a security authority.
On 20/2/2009 the security Authorities refused to permit the lawyer Aktham Nu’aisah, the Chairman of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Freedoms to travel to attend a conference concerning Palestine and Gaza.
The engineer Rasem Sayyid Sulaiman al-Atasi, the president of the Arab Human Rights Organisation in Syria was banned from travelling to Cairo to participate in the Preparatory Durban Review Conference on 27/3/2009. He was again prevented from travelling on 4/8/2009, for the security authorities refused to let him travel to Jordan to participate in the activities of the 14th National Asiatic Pacific Conference for Human Rights.
On 14/4/2009 the security authorities prevented Najeeb Dadam, the member of the Administrative Board of the Human Rights Society in Syria from leaving the country to participate in the activities of the twentieth session of the Arab National Conference in Khartoum.
The security authorities prevented the lawyer Abdul-Raheem Ghammaza, the secretary of the National Human Rights Organisation in Syria from travelling to the State of Kuwait to carry on his work as an agent of one of the Kuwaiti establishments.
On 3/7/2009 the activist and leading figure in the Democratic Socialist Union Party, Muhammad Marwan Ghazi, was returned from Damascus International Airport when he was on his way to perform ‘Umrah without giving any reasons.
On 11/7/2009 Tayseer Ibrahim al-Masalmah, the member of the Arab Human Rights Organisation was unexpectedly notified of the resolution of banning him from travelling at the land borders when he was on his way to Jordan to attend the wedding party of one of his relatives.
The security authorities insisted on banning the lawyer Mahmood Mar’i, the Vice Chairman of the Arab Human Rights Organisation in Syria, from travelling abroad to attend a conference on 4/8/2009.
On 13/10/2009 the writer and activist Ma’qal Zuhoor ‘Adiy was unexpectedly told that there were instructions preventing him from travelling unjustifiably upon applying for renewing his passport.
On 15/10/2009 Nada Lu’ai al-Atasi, the member of the Arab Human Rights Organisation, was unexpectedly notified of a security notice issued on the same day she was getting prepared to perform Hajj preventing her from travelling.
On 4/11/2009 it was learned that Rushdi al-Shaikh Rasheed, the member of the Administrative Board of the Human Rights Society in Syria, and Bassam Khudayyir, the supporter of the Organisation were unjustifiably informed of the resolution of banning them from travelling.
On 1/12/2009 the Kurdish lawyer Radeef Mustafa was prevented from travelling to Cairo to participate in a regional workshop for defending human rights, noting that the ban was imposed on him during the last two years.
The Syrian Authorities still completely control mass media in all its forms: the written, the audio-visual and the Internet. Despite their giving up a little bit of having complete possession of all means of mass media through allowing a limited number of TV channels or non-political independent newspapers and magazines to appear, their view of media remains to be a means to serve the Authority and explain its policy and avoid criticizing it. Any medium deviating a little from the unique official view would be blocked, deprived of the license, or prevented from practicing the profession, besides the security pursuit and deterring penalty measures.
The Syrian Authorities still monopolise the news through their sole official agency (SANA), and they monopolise offering and withdrawing licenses without any legal criterion to decide that. The Minister is authorised to do all this for he is absolutely entitled to take the measures he deems appropriate in his opinion. The Authorities also monopolise the distribution of printed materials through the General Establishment for the Distribution of Printed Materials, while they monopolise advertising through the Arab Establishment for Advertising. The Internet is monopolised through the General Establishment for Communications and the Information Society. Generally speaking, there is no law to regulate the right to access information.
Some of the examples detected during this year include the arrest of the writer and journalist Hammam Hasan Haddad (Hama-1980) on 27/1/2009 after summoning him to one of Damascus security branches. He is a writer in many newspapers and websites. He had been arrested several times before. The female journalist Lava Ahamad Khalif experienced severe harassments and was frequently summoned to the Damascus security branches in January and banned from traveling because of her press writings.
The Kurdish Journalist Farooq Hajji Mustafa was arrested on 5/4/2009 because of his writings to be set free on 17/6/2009.
The Palestinian journalist Hilmi Musa, the Editor of the Israeli Affairs in the Lebanese newspaper “al-Safeer” was arrested during his participation in a political forum in Damascu on 5/7/2009 in Dar-al-Nadwa (al-Nadwa Auditorium) before he was released on 9/7/2009 as a result of Intermediary Intervention.
The student in the College of Science, Waseem Zaki Ghawi, was arrested by the Military Intelligence in Homs on 28/4/2009.
On 26/7/2009 the Iraqi journalist Salam Shamma’ was arrested to be set free later.
The lawyer Haitham al-Maleh was arrested on 14/10/2009 because of participating in an interview with Barada TV, which broadcasts from Europe.
Shaikh Abul-Rahman Kooki was arrested on 20/10/2009 for participating in the Opposite Direction Program in Qatar.
The journalist Ma’an ‘Aqil (Jibla-1966) was arrested at his workplace in the official al-Thawrah newspaper and was fired from his job within 28 hours.
On 12/12/2009 the Kurdish journalist Mustafa Isma’il (‘Ain al-‘Arab-1973) was arrested because of his written and visual works in some TV channels, particularly Rose TV Channel.
The Journalist writer Habeeb Nadeem Salih (Banyas-1974) was arrested and sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment on 15/3/2009 because of some articles on the internet.
On 13/9/2009 the clerk Kareen Antuwan ‘Arabchi (Damascus-1989) was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment because of his writings and participations on the Internet. However, he has been detained in Sednaya Prison since 6/7/2009.
The writer and journalist Michel Kilo was released three years after his arrest on 19/5/2009 because of signing Beirut-Damascus Declaration and because of his reformist writings.
The Program of ‘Alama Fariqa”, which was broadcast on the Syrian TV was halted on the order of the Information Minister because Dr Ahamad Abdul-Aziz talked about his experience with the governmental work and the fatal mistakes committed by many people because of bad planning and performance.
The display of an interview conducted with the representative Sulaiman Haddad, Head of the Syrian parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, was banned on the order of the Minister of Information in August, 2009
The Bureau of al-Mashriq Channel in Damascus was closed on 29/7/2009 and the employees were ordered to leave it instantly, while the director of the Bureau, Jameel Summaq and the production director, Muhammad Rami al-Jundi, were called upon to visit the security authorities. Fifteen media workers in the Bureau were referred to security interrogation. It is noteworthy that al- Mashriq Channel is licensed by the United Arab Emirates and it broadcasts its programs from Dubai Media City.
The bureau of the journalist Mazin Darweesh in Damascus was closed and sealed with red wax on 13/9/2009.
The distribution of issue No. 49 of al-Shababeek Magazine (July issue) was banned on the verbal order of the Minster of Information, and it was the third issue to be banned.
The distribution of issues 55 and 56 of the economic weekly newspaper “al-Khabar” was banned on a verbal resolution by the Ministry of Information.
The distribution of issue No. 1382 of the Lebanese newspaper “al-Safeer” was banned on 29/8/2009. The distribution of issues No. 97 and 98 of the Lebanese newspaper “al-Akhbar” was banned and then the distribution of the issue of 10/10/2009 was banned.
The distribution of issues No. 138/139 of the weekly magazine “Buq’at Daw'” was banned on 29/9/2009 pursuant to verbal orders by the Ministry of Information.
The distribution of the magazines “al-Azminah” and “al-Bahithoon”, which are published by Dar al-Sharq Liltiba’ah wa al-Tawzee’ (Al- Sharq House for Publishing and Distribution” in Damascus was banned for unknown reasons.
The website “‘Aks al-Sair” experienced a lot of harassment and many lawsuits were raised against its director and correspondents because of the investigations conducted by the web against the corruption overwhelming the Syrian Governorates.
Syria has been described as the country with the largest number of blocked websites. The number of blocked websites for the Syrian browser increased in 2009. The latest websites to be blocked were that of the Syrian Human Rights Organisation, Skies Website (‘Uyoon Sameer Qaseer) and the website of the Arab Human Rights Organisation in Syria. The blocked websites became 244 in number by the end of 2009 and most of them are concerned with public affairs, human rights, civil society and the Syrian political parties.
16 Feb 10
Syrian Human Rights Committee
© Syrian Human Rights Committee (UK)