Bloomberg News

Syrian Activists Abroad Are ‘Monitored, Harassed,’ Amnesty Says

October 04, 2011

Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Syrians living abroad who are critical of President Bashar al-Assad have been “monitored and harassed” by officials from Syria’s embassies and other people believed to be acting on behalf of the government, Amnesty International said.

The London-based organization said it has chronicled the involvement of Syrian intelligence services in the cases of more than 30 activists in Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.

The activists say they have faced intimidation from embassy officials and that some of their relatives in Syria have been “exposed to harassment, detention and even torture,” to deter them from protesting, according to Amnesty. Demonstrators outside Syrian embassies often were filmed or photographed by officials, then harassed in phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages warning them to stop, the group said.

“This is yet more evidence that the Syrian government will not tolerate legitimate dissent and is prepared to go to great lengths to muzzle those who challenge it publicly,” Neil Sammonds, Amnesty’s Syria researcher, said on its website. “We look to host governments to act on credible allegations of abuses without waiting for formal complaints.”

Pianist’s Parents

The most high-profile case referred to by Amnesty involved the parents of Malek Jandali, a 38-year-old pianist and composer. His parents were attacked at their home in Homs after Jandali performed at a demonstration in support of the protesters in front of the White House in July.

“This is what happens when your son mocks the government,” Jandali cited the Syrian agents who beat up his parents as saying, according to Amnesty.

Protests to demand the ouster of Assad are part of the wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that has unseated governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. He has blamed the unrest in Syria on foreign-backed extremists.

Assad’s crackdown on the dissent has left more than 3,600 civilians dead since the rallies began in mid-March, according to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria. About 30,000 people have been detained and 13,000 are still being held, according to Qurabi and Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights.

The nationwide protests, which had been mostly peaceful since they began in the south, turned violent as soldiers who deserted the army clashed with state forces, activists said.

There have been intense clashes in the past week between state forces and military defectors, mainly in the central governorate of Homs, according to activists as well as witnesses and protesters interviewed by the Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera television networks.

The defectors left Rastan, near Homs, where the clashes occurred, and the army is now in control of the area, Merhi said yesterday.

--Editors: Heather Langan, Louis Meixler

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon, at mderhally@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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