- In October, a court in Zablatani near Damascus convicted Fayez al-'Ezzo, arrested in 2007, of stabbing his 16-year-old sister Zahra al-'Ezzo to death in January 2007 because she had been kidnapped and raped by a family friend. The court ruled that the killing was "motivated by honour" and therefore sentenced him to only two and a half years in prison. He was released immediately as he had spent that period in prison awaiting the verdict. In November, Zahra al-'Ezzo's husband appealed before the highest court of appeal against the ruling, demanding a harsher sentence. The court had not reached a decision by the end of the year.
Discrimination - Kurdish minority
Kurds, who comprise up to 10 per cent of the population and reside mostly in the north-east, continued to face identity-based discrimination, including restrictions on use of their language and culture. Thousands were effectively stateless and so denied equitable access to social and economic rights.
- Suleiman 'Abdelmajid Osso of the Yekiti Kurdish Party in Syria and 15 other men were detained incommunicado for almost two months after peacefully celebrating the Kurdish festival of Newruz in March. They were all charged with "inciting sectarian strife" and participating in a public gathering. They were all released on bail in May and June and were awaiting trial at the end of 2009.
- Jamal Sa'doun and three other members of a band were awaiting trial on the charge of "inciting sectarian strife" for performing Kurdish songs at a wedding celebration in Derek near the town of al-Hassaka.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees remained in Syria, many of whom faced economic and other problems because they did not have the right to work or did not possess valid visas, so opening them to the possibility of deportation to Iraq. Palestinian refugees who were long-term residents of Iraq were not permitted entry and some remained at a desolate camp at al-Tanf, in the border area between Iraq and Syria.
Iranian Ahwazi Arab asylum-seekers remained at risk of forcible return to Iran.
At least seven men were sentenced to death after being convicted of murder and at least eight prisoners were executed, including four who were executed at Aleppo Central Prison in August. The true number of executions may have been higher as the authorities rarely disclose information about executions.
Amnesty International reports
Syria: Elderly Prisoner of Conscience charged (5 November 2009)
Syria: Lifetime law practice ban against Muhannad al-Hassani sends chilling message (12 November 2009)
Syria: Kurdish minority rights activists jailed (16 November 2009)
Trial of Kurds in Syria likely to be a parody of justice?, (15 December 2009)