Amnesty International Condemns Crackdown in Syria After Protesters, Including Children, Are Beaten and Violently Dispersed

Press Release
March 16, 2011

Amnesty International Condemns Crackdown in Syria After Protesters, Including Children, Are Beaten and Violently Dispersed

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Condemns Crackdown in Syria After Protesters, Including Children, Are Beaten and Violently Dispersed

At Least 30 People are Arrested and Taken Away After Calling for Release of Political Prisoners

(London) -- Amnesty International condemned Syria’s crackdown on protests today after eyewitnesses reported that peaceful demonstrators, including children, were violently dispersed by security officers and beaten. More than 30 people were arrested and taken to unknown locations after calling for the release of political prisoners.

Those arrested included family members of prisoners of conscience and human rights activists.

The small demonstration was dispersed outside the Ministry of the Interior. The protesters were there to submit a petition for the release of political prisoners, led by relatives of the imprisoned. Shortly afterwards the group was violently dispersed by plain-clothed security officers wielding batons.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that at least 30 people were arrested and taken to unknown locations.

Several people were also arrested after protesting Tuesday in Damascus and Aleppo during peaceful demonstrations calling for more freedoms.  At least two have reportedly been released.

“Like many of the political prisoners whose release they were calling for, protestors appear to have been arrested simply for the peaceful expression of their views,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. 

“The Syrian authorities must immediately release all those arrested in the last two days for merely attending peaceful protests, and stop these attacks on freedom of expression and assembly.”

At the protest today, children, the elderly and women were among those beaten, witnesses said.  Demonstrators who tried to flee the assault were reportedly chased down and arrested. 

Security forces arrested family members of prisoners of conscience Kamal al-Labwani, Raghda Hassan, Tareq al-Ghorani and Mesh’al al-Tammo.

Others believed to be detained are the human rights activists Mazen Darwich, Suhair al-Atassi and Serene Khouri, former prisoners of conscience Nehad Badawiyah, Hassiba ‘Abd al-Rahman and Kamal Sheikho, and philosopher Tayib Tayzini.

One man being treated for a serious head wound was reportedly arrested at a hospital and also taken to an unknown location. 

“These protests have been real acts of bravery in a country known for its intolerance of dissent. The authorities must heed these peaceful calls for change,” said Luther.

Amnesty International -- today the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world with nearly 3 million members worldwide -- has helped win the freedom of tens of thousands of individuals jailed for expressing beliefs or defending basic rights, shut down torture chambers, halted executions, and established laws and treaties to protect the freedom and dignity of people around the world -- and in the United States. Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.