Monday, May 30, 2005

Atassi 8 Freed

The Atassi 8 have been freed.

Here is Ammar Abdulhamid's comment about it:

Another Demonstration of Weakness and Confusion! A few hours ago, the Atassy 8 were released. International and internal pressures seem to have paid off. As such, and rather than coming as a demonstration of strength, as it was intended to be, the entire move came as a further demonstration of the Regime’s weakness, confusion and lack of resolve.

Mr. Ali Abdallah, however, the leftist activist that had read the Muslim Brotherhood statement in the Forum is still under arrest and will reportedly be tried under Law 49 outlawing the Brotherhood and prescribing the death penalty against those who collaborate with it. The same fate seems to await the lawyer and human rights activist, Muhammad Raadoun.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the government arrested another well-known lawyer and activist, one Habib Salih. No reason was given for the arrest. Also, the official spokesman for the Atassy Forum, Mr. Habib Issa, jailed two years ago, is still in jail and is not expected to be released anytime soon. So are the MPs Riyad Seif and Mamoun Homsi. The same applies to scores of Kurdish, Islamist and secularist activists that have been arrested over the last few months and years. The promise that the President made less than a year ago to end the file of political detainees still goes unfulfilled, and still witnesses unexplained reversals.
Patrick Seale had this to say about the Atassi 8 arrest:
The harsh response by the authorities is regrettable and counterproductive. Bayanuni himself had long since persuaded his branch of the Muslim Brotherhood to renounce violence and extremism. He has repeatedly called for national reconciliation and the healing of wounds. He has even won the support of Syria's "Mandela," the veteran Communist Riad Turk, who spent 20 years in jail. Turk, whose new party name is the People's Democratic Party of Syria, advocates cooperation with a range of political groups, including Baathists and reformed Muslim Brothers.

Before her arrest last week, Suhair Atasi, daughter of the founder of the Atasi salon, was also campaigning for a national dialogue involving Baathists, communists, Kurds, Muslim Brothers and civil rights activists, to thrash out a reform program helping Syria protect itself against foreign pressures. What distinguishes the strands of the Syrian opposition is that they are all resolutely "patriotic," refusing any collaboration with the United States, or any outside power, against their own country.

In this, they differ sharply from the U.S.-based Farid Ghadry, an "opposition" figure of little local credibility, who has been taken up by Washington and by some European officials in Brussels. The Damascus opposition derides him as the Syrian Ahmad Chalabi.

The Atasi group is not, however, the only victim of Syria's security services. There have been several arrests at Damascus airport and elsewhere, as well as reports of political kidnappings. Armed robberies have also taken place by criminal gangs, some of them linked, or so it would appear, to disorderly cousins of the president, or even to his brother Maher Assad, a commander of the Presidential Guard.

Mohammad Raadun, president of the Arab Human Rights organization in Syria, was seized from his office in Latakia on May 22 for advising Syrian exiles not to return home for fear of arrest or worse. Meanwhile, the former head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazaleh, and his three siblings, have been accused by the Medina Bank of Lebanon of defrauding it of tens of millions of dollars. The general impression is one of racketeering, lawlessness, and of unchecked security services, which Assad seems unable or unwilling to bring under control. The French daily Liberation described Syria as a "dictatorship without a dictator."

It is a fact of life, however, that when a small country is in danger of being overrun by an aggressive superpower, it would be wise for it to clean up its act in order to win some protection from the international community - and more importantly from its own nationals. For whom in the country today, apart from those profiteering from the regime, would rise in its defense?


At 5/30/2005 07:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria needs evolution not a revolution, with syria under attak by the usa trying to do to syria what they did to iraq where most the christians left to syria for thier safty the least the oposition could do is to avoid publisity for a party that is responsible for killing university teachers syria spends alot to educate to be blunt we christians of syria fear the muslem brotherhood more than any secular regime even if is a dictatership if the US contue it,s stand against then the US should be ready for massive christian migration as after Syria there is no safe haven for them in the midleast.

At 5/30/2005 09:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:39 pm is supicious post ..are u sure that u are christian ?

At 5/31/2005 01:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Tribulations and Salvation of Syrians
Hazem Saghieh Al-Hayat 2005/05/30

Contradictory opinions about some fundamental issues have emerged recently from Damascus. It's said that the upcoming Regional Command Conference of the Baath Party will dissolve the Regional Command, or alternatively, that it will strengthen this body. There are reports that Syria has halted security and intelligence cooperation with the US, followed by others claiming that the latter took this step. There have been various and unending predictions about the economic path that Syria will follow.

These contradictions are worrying in a country with a centralized political system, economy and media, especially since a traumatic event like Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon has not spurred debate or an official review of what happened; no official has been held accountable. Also, it's worrying that Washington and the Iraqi government have accused Damascus, in friendly and not-so-friendly ways, of facilitating terrorism in Iraq, while there are accusations that Damascus retains an intelligence presence in Lebanon.

However, when it comes to repression, there has been no conflicting information. What has befallen the Jamal Attasi Forum only confirms that the Baathist rulers have no treatment for their dilemmas other than policies that confirm their authority. This use of the old, frightening ways has had corollaries, which we saw in the last meeting of the Palestinian "factions" in Damascus. We have also seen escalation and threats in the latest speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanon's Hizbullah.

In the face of these serious issues, one should avoid puffing up one's chest and acting tough. A "strategy" such as this leads, as the Chinese saying goes, to air leaking into the stomach, with embarrassing results.

The reason is that the environment that was targeted by arresting Jamal Attasi Forum members is not hostile to the slogans raised by the regime, or its regional and foreign policies. This demonstrates that the corrosion has reached an advanced stage. The policy of rallying around the regime after the withdrawal from Lebanon has been a pure failure. It doesn't help to complain about conspiracies represented by UN Resolution 1559, or play the chauvinist tune to match the chauvinist tune coming out of Lebanon. Showing off by playing the "regional force" card, and acting imperial, will not help. If this continues, Syria will be weakened and served up as a tasty morsel for the ambitious US plan for the region, or we will see civil conflict that cannot be contained.

With these dark possibilities in mind, we see that the regime is feeding them as well. It would be better to derive some strength from paying attention to the Syrian nation and people, rather than continuing a policy of defensiveness, closing ranks and monopolizing power.

There are two fears now competing with each other for prominence. One involves a dramatic development, whether or not this is hinted at by the US, that will leave Syria without any authority or power. The second is that the Syrian authorities will continue a path that delays the explosion, but makes it more violent when it does take place. One can eliminate both these possibilities only by contemplating a gradual disengagement of the Baath Party from power, a disengagement that will save society the evil of an explosion, whatever the direction society takes. Syrian opposition members have offered sufficient indications that they posses no instant or definitive solutions and that they are uninterested in taking revenge or taking power through a coup d'état-like event. Will the authorities give counter-signals indicating that they support seeing the public interest win out over all other considerations?

Unfortunately, past experience in Syria and the Arab world is not a cause for optimism.

At 5/31/2005 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

To: Anonymous #1 and #2:
I am a half-Lebanese (by my father) half-Syrian (by my mother) Christian, and all my relatives in Syria are essentially apolitical. They are all for democracy from within, and all deride Mr. Ghadri ("al-Ghaddar") as a Western-sponsored unprincipled opportunist of the worse sort. But the overwhelming problem is... the economy, stupid. Most Christians trying to come to Canada or to the US are leaving because the economy is not delivering for the "common" citizen, and certainly not because of issues having to do with religious freedom.

At 5/31/2005 12:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before the totalitarian regime,the christian community of Syria was very active in cultural,economical and political activities creating a positive climate that has attracted the lebanese intellegentsia , the former lebanese president Charles Helou and the founder of Dar Assayad
Said Freiha have worked as journalists for an aleppine french language newspaper owned by the armenians.
And the senior lebanese politician ,Nasri Maaluf studied in Damascus Universiy.His teacher was the former syrian prime minister, Fares al Khoury.
Many businessmen and bank managers in Lebanon are in fact Syrians who fled Syria for Lebanon between 1958 and 1963.For example,the biggest lebanese bank is managed by a syrian family.
Paradoxically ,the so called secular baath limited dramatically the christian influence in Syria in all sectors.
Christian community has dwindled to make up less than 7 % from the 20 % of the pre-baath era.

At 6/01/2005 01:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick Seale is regrettable

At 6/01/2005 02:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


AI Index: MDE 24/036/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 150
1 June 2005

Syria: Leading Islamic cleric “tortured to death”
A prominent Islamic religious leader has been tortured to death, according to information received by Amnesty International. Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznawi died on 30 May, 20 days after he “disappeared”, apparently detained by Syrian Military Intelligence at an unknown location.

"The Syrian authorities should launch an immediate, independent investigation into Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznawi's death in custody," said Neil Sammonds, Syria Researcher at Amnesty International. "The results must be made public and those responsible for his torture should be brought to justice."

Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznawi was an outspoken member of the Kurdish community who practised as an imam in the city of Qamishli in north-eastern Syria. He was a critic of violence and terrorism and recently called for reforms in Syria and for more dialogue between religious groups. In February and March 2005 he travelled to Norway, Brussels, and Germany, apparently in connection with his work on building relations between the EU and Kurdish community.

Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznaw "disappeared" after leaving the Centre for Islamic Studies in Damascus on 10 May. The Syrian authorities denied that they were holding him but then handed over his body to his family earlier today. It was being taken back to Qamishli to be buried this evening. The family and body were accompanied by ten Military Intelligence cars on the journey between Damascus and Qamishli, according to witnesses.

According to Amnesty International's information, Sheikh Muhammad Ma’shuq al-Khiznawi is at least the sixth Syrian Kurd to have died as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody since March 2004. Amnesty International has not received information about any investigations into any of these deaths in custody, nor into any other of the scores of allegations of torture that it has received over many years. The organisation knows of no cases in which officials responsible for torture have been prosecuted. More than 2,000 people, almost all of them Kurds, were arrested in the wake of March 2004 disturbances. Most of these were held incommunicado at unknown locations, and about 100 remain in detention.

At 6/02/2005 01:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DAMASCUS, June 1 (AFP) - 20h04 - Syria Wednesday blamed the murder of an outspoken Kurdish Muslim religious leader on criminals, but Kurdish parties claimed he was tortured and killed by the authorities.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of mourners turned out for the funeral of Sheikh Mohammed Maashuq al-Khaznawi near Qamishli in northeast Syria where served as a prayer leader, Kurdish officials told AFP.

The sheikh had gone missing on May 10 and was believed to have been detained by Syrian police, according to Kurdish parties.

The body was handed over to his family by the authorities earlier Wednesday.

The 46-year-old Khaznawi "was killed at the hands of Syrian authorities," a spokesman for the banned Yakiti party said in a statement received by AFP in Beirut.

But an interior ministry official in Damascus, quoted by Syria’s state news agency SANA, said the sheikh was kidnapped and killed by a criminal gang.

"Five people kidnapped Sheikh Khaznawi in Damascus and took him off to Aleppo (to the north) where they killed him," the unnamed official said, without giving a motive. "The gang has been arrested," he added.

However, an official of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria, Nazir Mustapha, told AFP the sheikh had been seen at a military hospital in Damascus with "traces of torture" on his body.

"The authorities should show the gang on television," said Mustapha.

The sheikh was a popular figure in Syria, and was known for teaching that Islam and democracy are compatible. He was last seen leaving Damascus’s Islamic Studies centre, of which he was vice president.

Amnesty International said Khaznawi was "at least the sixth Syrian Kurd to have died as a result of torture and ill-treatment since March 2004".

The religious leader "died on 30 May, 20 days after he ’disappeared’, apparently detained by Syrian military intelligence at an unknown location", the rights group said.

It called for Syrian authorities to launch "an immediate, independent investigation" into the sheikh’s death "in custody". The results should be made public and "those responsible for his torture brought to justice", it said.

Days before his disappearance, the Syrian Kurdish religious leader was reported to have called in an interview with the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail, for regime change in Damascus.

"Either the regime will change or the regime must go ... I could not have said this five years ago because the Americans weren’t in (neighbouring) Iraq five years ago," he said.

"The reason I and others can speak out is because the Americans are trying to get rid of dictators and help the oppressed," he was quoted as saying.

His disappearance led some 10,000 Kurds to demonstrate in his hometown of Qamishli near the Turkish border on May 21, demanding that authorities release news of the cleric’s whereabouts.

Qamishli was the site of riots in March 2004 that began with stadium fighting between Arab and Kurdish football fans and grew into bloody clashes between Kurdish protestors, Syrian security forces and Arab tribesmen.

Kurdish sources reported that 40 people died in the fighting. Syrian authorities said 25 were killed.

Hundreds of Kurds were arrested following the disturbances but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March ordered all the prisoners released.

Hassan Saleh, Yakiti secretary general, said in early May that the pardon had not been fully carried out, and alleged that more than 100 Kurds remained in jail.

Saleh also said a number of Kurds were arrested anew by Syrian forces in early May.

Syria is home to some 1.5 million Kurds, around nine percent of the population. They are fighting to have their language, culture and political rights recognised.

At 6/11/2008 08:28:00 PM, Blogger xicao said...



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