International

Demand freedom for Syrian dissidents

Ammar Abdulhamid, who blogs bravely and eloquently from Damascus, is asking people outside the country to contact Syrian embassies and demand the release of eight dissidents— members of Syria’s only active political forum– arrested last week.

Ammar has often come across as fatalistic and hopeless about the political situation in his country (which may have protected him so far), but this latest crackdown seems to have motivated him:

It was bound to happen sooner or later I guess. Even my wife Khawla for all her fears of security crackdowns, is urging me to do it. The time for taking a loud public stand has come.

Khawla thinks of it in preemptive terms as well as sympathetic ones. That is, we might be victims of the ongoing crackdown soon anyway, so might as well start fighting now. On the other hand, one of the Atassy 8, namely Suheir Atasssy has an 11-year old son. Khawla was his age when security agents took her parents away and stayed with her and her brothers and a sister for a week in the hope of catching some of the alleged cell members who might drop for a visit.

A week later her mother was released, but her father was never released and has reportedly died under torture in 1981. Khawla can see these days coming, and rather than run away, she wants to pout up a better fight than she could have done back in those dreary days.
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So, let the fight begin.

At one point a couple of months ago, when I was going through that period of interrogations and travel ban, some of my fellow bloggers offered to flood the Syrian Embassy in DC with emails on my behalf, now I urge them to do it on behalf of the Atassy 8 and all the other prisoners of conscience in Syria. On the even of the Baath Conference, the President, and other elements in the regime, are trying to play it tough. I think we should do so as well.

This regime needs to be isolated like never before. While dissidents need to be empowered. We are the source of legitimacy and credibility of any regime, without us, without an active and vibrant dissent movement, no regime in the region should have any credibility whatsoever.

As for the international community, no country or government in the world who claims to be democratic and to be in support of democratization and human rights in our region or anywhere in the world, could maintain its credibility if it gives up on any of us, regardless of our political affiliations, so long as we are committed to basic principles of democracy and civil liberties.

The Syrian Embassy in London has no email address listed, but you can fax them at 020 7235 4621.

You can contact the Syrian Embassy in Washington at syrembas@syrembassy.net or fax them at (202) 232-4357.

Update: The eight dissidents have been released. (Via Colt.)

Further update: Ammar writes:

International and internal pressures seem to have paid off. As such, and rather than coming as a demonstration of strength, as it was intended to be, the entire move came as a further demonstration of the Regime’s weakness, confusion and lack of resolve.

Mr. Ali Abdallah, however, the leftist activist that had read the Muslim Brotherhood statement in the Forum is still under arrest and will reportedly be tried under Law 49 outlawing the Brotherhood and prescribing the death penalty against those who collaborate with it. The same fate seems to await the lawyer and human rights activist, Muhammad Raadoun.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the government arrested another well-known lawyer and activist, one Habib Salih. No reason was given for the arrest. Also, the official spokesman for the Atassy Forum, Mr. Habib Issa, jailed two years ago, is still in jail and is not expected to be released anytime soon. So are the MPs Riyad Seif and Mamoun Homsi. The same applies to scores of Kurdish, Islamist and secularist activists that have been arrested over the last few months and years. The promise that the President made less than a year ago to end the file of political detainees still goes unfulfilled, and still witnesses unexplained reversals.

So it’s important not to let up the pressure on the Damascus regime– no matter how much they try to portray their repression of dissent as a fight against Islamic extremism.

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