Demonstrators in Syria Face Harsh Government Crackdown

Washington

Freedom House strongly condemns police violence against protesters in Syria and urges the government to end human rights violations and release its political prisoners.
 
Several hundred protesters gathered today at the Ministry of the Interior in Damascus. The demonstration was organized by the families of political prisoners in solidarity with the prisoners’ hunger strike, and to call for their release. Security forces and plain-clothes thugs violently dispersed the protest, beating demonstrators, confiscating phones and cameras, and arresting more than 38 people. Those arrested include Syrian Author Tayeb Tizini, human rights activist Soheir Atasi and seven relatives of prominent opposition figure Kamal Labwani, who is serving a 12-year jail term. Two of those detained have since been released. A similar protest was held yesterday in Damascus, where a reported 200 people responded to a call issued on Facebook for a “Day of Rage.” These demonstrators were similarly subject to police violence and arrests.
 
“The fact that just a couple hundred peaceful demonstrators can elicit such a strong government response is very telling about the Syrian regime’s belief in its own legitimacy,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “This level of repression may temporarily silence calls for reform, but as we’ve seen in other parts of the region, Syria is likely to face a much greater uprising if does not take measures to increase respect for the rights of its citizens. This includes the release of thousands of political prisoners.”
 
The state of emergency, in force since 1963, gives the security agencies virtually unlimited authority to arrest citizens and hold them incommunicado for prolonged periods without charge. Many of the estimated 2,000 to 2,500 political prisoners in Syria have never been tried. Since succeeding his late father Hafez Assad as president in 2000, Bashar Assad continues to crack down on political opposition.
 
Syria is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010. It was included in Freedom House’s Worst of
the Worst 2010, a report on countries with the worst human rights records.
 
For more information on Syria, visit:
 
 
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.  
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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