Date: 06 May 2011
ARRESTS SURGE AS PROTESTS CONTINUE
Despite the lifting of the state of emergency on 21 April, the Syrian army and security forces continue to carry out mass arrests,
especially in the cities and towns where large popular protests have taken place. The arrests have also targeted people perceived
to have organized or openly supported those protests, whether orally in public gatherings, in the media, on the internet or
elsewhere. They include political and human rights activists, mosque imams and journalists. Amnesty International believes that
many of those detained are likely to be prisoners of conscience, held merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression
and association by peacefully supporting or taking part in protests.
Those recently detained and who remain incommunicado include the following individuals:
Dorothy Parvaz, an Al Jazeera journalist, was arrested upon arrival at Damascus International Airport on 29 April. According to Al
Jazeera, she flew from Qatar to help cover the ongoing events. Firas Fayyad, a film director, was arrested on 30 April at an
internet cafe in Damascus. ‘Abd al-Rahman Hammada, a 20-year-old student, was taken from his home in Damascus on 30 April
by security forces who were searching for his brother Wa’el.
Wa’el Hammada and his wife, Razan Zaitouneh, a human rights activist and leading human rights lawyer respectively, have gone
into hiding. ‘Abdullah Khalil, a human rights lawyer, was arrested in the city of al-Raqqa on 1 May, apparently for appearing on
Al Jazeera TV on 30 April when he spoke about the widespread arrests and advocated a democratic resolution of the situation.
Ahmed Haji Khalaf, a member of the board of directors of the Arab Organization for Human Rights was also arrested in al-Raqqa,
on 2 May, apparently for his activities in support of the protests. Human rights activist Manhal Mahmoud Barish and his two
brothers, Ayham and Shadi Barish, were arrested on 3 May as part of a widespread house-to-house raid in the town of Saraqeb.
For more than 20 years Amnesty International has documented the widespread torture and other ill-treatment which is committed
with impunity in Syrian detention centres. The disturbing first-hand reports of torture that Amnesty International has obtained
recently heighten concern for the safety of the above detainees and others held incommunicado. Two men from the coastal city of
Banias, for example, who were recently released, said that members of the security forces beat them and many other detainees
viciously on the neck and collarbone with rifle butts. One detainee said that after being stripped and beaten he was made to lick
his blood off the floor. He said that he and others detained with him had been beaten with sticks and cables as well as kicked
and punched. Held without food for three days in overcrowded conditions in one detention centre, he said they had to resort to
drinking dirty water from a toilet.
Amnesty International has also received reports that, out of fear of arrest, a number of other activities have gone into hiding. In
addition to Wa’el Hammada and Razan Zaitouneh mentioned above, Amnesty International is aware that Haytham al-Maleh, a
prominent human rights lawyer, Hind and ‘Omar al-Labwani, human right activists and children of prisoner of conscience Kamal
al-Labwani, Suhair al-Atassi, President of the unauthorized Jamal Atassi Forum, Walid al-Bunni, a member of the Damascus
Declaration for Democratic National Change opposition coalition and twice a prisoner of conscience, and Jwan Yousef Khorshid, a
Syrian Kurd and member of the unauthorized Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria (RASED), have all gone into hiding.
In the case of Jwan Yousef Khorshid, it was reported that Military Security threatened to arrest his wife on 5 May if he did not
hand himself over within 24 hours.
Amnesty International has learned that Mahmoud ‘Issa, a human rights activist who was detained by Political Security officials on
19 April, has been referred to court. Amnesty International is still trying to verify which court he was referred to and what charges
have been brought against him.
Further information on UA: 87/11 Index: MDE 24/019/2011 Issue Date: 06 May 2011