Beatings, Email Threats: Syrian Activists in US, Europe Targeted (video)
On Monday, Amnesty International released a report, The Long Reach of the Mukhabaraat (the name of the Syrian secret police), that describes at least 30 cases of direct and indirect intimidation of Syrian anti-regime activists in Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US.
- In August, 19-year-old Alaa Basatneh, who lives in Chicago and is one of the administrators of the anti-government Facebook page, Syrian Days of Rage, received threatening emails with the title “crazy man” from an account registered to “firstname.lastname@example.org”; the emails said that she would be made “an example” of, if she ever returned to Syria.
- After pianist Malek Jandali played a protest song he composed during anti-regime rallies outside the White House, his 66-year-old mother and 73-year-old father were severely beaten and told “If you don’t behave your son, we will behave you.” Jandali has now brought his parents to the US.
- A dissident who now lives in Germany said that his brother had been arrested, detained for a month and tortured by Syrian military intelligence.
- In May, another dissident who is now in Sweden said she had received a letter in Arabic using her maiden name that said “Keep quiet or neither you, nor your family in Syria is safe.” Her brother was arrested in Damascus shortly afterwards, had both of his hands broken and was forced to say that his family was disowning his sister.
Below is a video of pianist Jandali and his parents.
This past summer, the US State Department had already raised concerns about Syrian diplomatic staff photographing and filming protesters demonstrating in the US and summoned the Syrian ambassador to Washington.
Despite these threats and intimidation, Syrian activists based in the UK staged an “I am not afraid” rally on Tuesday morning outside the Syrian embassy and held up placards on which they had written their names and home towns.
Turkey Imposes Sanctions on Syria
Turkey has imposed sanctions on its former ally, Syria, in protest of the deaths of the estimated 2,700 killed in the past seven months of anti-government protests. Racip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, did not give specifics about the new sanctions; he has in the past hinted about a number of military and commercial measures.
“Oppressed, defenceless people are dying in serious numbers. We cannot say ‘let these deaths continue,” Erdogan said, in a further sign of Turkey’s taking the regional lead in addressing the crisis in Syria. He also said that he will no longer communicate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, that he will soon visit a Syrian refugee camp near the Turkish border and that Turkey will begin military exercises on its border with Syria this week. In addition, the highest-ranking Syrian military officer to defect, Colonel Riad al-Assad, said in the Turkish newspaper Anatolia that he was in southern Turkey.
Syria’s Economy Suffering
In another development indicative of the growing pressures on Assad’s regime, the Syrian government has revoked a ban on imports of consumer goods. The ban, which had only been imposed last week, had led to soaring prices on imported merchandise including such goods as cars, household appliances and food items and had outraged Syria’s business elite, which has so far supported Assad’s violent crackdown of protesters.
Syria’s economy has been adversely and severely affected by the crackdown, with a steep decline in investment and tourism. On top of this, the US and the European Union have imposed harsh economic sanctions on Syria, including an embargo on crude oil.
UN Resolution Blocked
However, a United Nations resolution to condemn the “grave and systematic” human rights violations in Syria — specifically, “arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters” — was blocked by Russia and China on Tuesday. Syria is Russia’s main ally in the Middle East and Russia had said that it would not accept a resolution containing any mention of sanctions, which the US and other European countries have been seeking to impose. The resolution had already been watered down to say that sanctions could possibly be considered, while not actually calling for them.
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Photo of anti-Assad rally in Washington in August by Elvert Barnes