Repression Goes Global: Syrians in US Targeted By Syrian Embassies

October 3, 2011

Syrian Embassy in London
Syrian Embassy in London

While the United Nations Security Council keeps bickering and remains inactive, Syrian authorities go global with their repression of free speech and assembly.

By now it’s well documented by both NGOs and the United Nations that crimes committed by Syrian security forces against peaceful protesters may amount to crimes against humanity. Since mid-March, more than 2,200 people are reported to have been killed and thousands of others have been arrested.

However, now Syrian authorities are taking it to the next level. In more than four years of working on international human rights crises, I have never seen a foreign government systematically targeting peaceful protesters globally, which is exactly what the Syrian government is doing.

Activists in the Unites States Targeted

Meet Malek Jandali from Atlanta, Georgia, a 38-year-old pianist and composer. After he performed at a pro-reform demonstration in front of the White House in July, his mother and father, aged 66 and 73 respectively, were attacked at their home in Homs, Syria. Malek told us his parents were beaten and locked in a bathroom while their apartment was looted. The agents told his parents:

“This is what happens when your son mocks the government.”

They have since fled the country.

The Syrian Days Of Rage Facebook Page
The Syrian Days Of Rage Facebook Page

Malek’s case is not unique. Alaa Basatneh, 19, a student originally from Damascus and now living in the Chicago area, is one of the administrators of the Syria Day of Rage, which carries information relating to human rights violations in Syria and pro-reform protests. She told us that in August, one of her friends – who is also a Facebook friend – was detained in Syria for two days after he was caught protesting at his university. While in detention, government agents forced him to open his Facebook account — a procedure that has been widely reported as a way of monitoring activists and their networks. Shortly after the friend was released, Basatneh received a Facebook message:

These words are directed at you, you agent, you traitor. Your messages have come to us. There is nothing that can be hidden from us, ‘Chicago girl’. We are waiting for you to come to the airport so we can show you what is good for you for what you are doing. We will make an example out of you.

Global Intimidation Campaign

The campaign of harassment by Syrian authorities is not limited to the United States. We know of more than 30 activists in eight countries – Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, UK and the USA – who say that they have faced intimidation from embassy officials and others. In some cases, relatives in Syria have as a result apparently been exposed to harassment, detention and even torture.

You can read more about all these cases in our new report The Long Reach of the Mukhabaraat or explore them on our Eyes on Syria website, an interactive platform where we track human rights abuses in the context of the popular uprising in Syria.

Eyes on Syria (developed by our partner Blueraster) also allows you to speak out against the harassment of Syrian expatriates and on individual cases at risk of torture and other ill-treatment within Syria.

To receive updates on the human rights situation in Syria and actions around this crisis, please follow me on Twitter.