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Syria

    September 01, 2015

    The following statement was read by Monia Mazigh, Maher Arar's wife, as a press conference earlier today.

    I welcome today's announcement by the RCMP to lay criminal charges against Colonel George Salloum who was directly responsible for my torture while I was detained at the Palestinian Branch of the Syrian Military Intelligence.

    Since I launched my complaint in 2005, I gave the RCMP investigating team, during the many interviews I had with them, the information they needed to advance their investigation. This lengthy international investigation took the officers overseas to gather evidence. As a result, they were able to better understand the nature of interrogations in Syrian detention centers. Upon their return, the investigators were able to pass on their knowledge to other RCMP staff. 

    I believe this is vital for the RCMP to grasp given the increased urge to share information even with regimes who don't respect our understanding of basic human rights.

    August 31, 2015

    By Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece 

    The view was staggering upon my arrival in the village of Idomeni, near Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia).

    Up to 4,000 refugees, many of them from Syria including many families with children, were trapped after Macedonia’s government designated the southern border just outside the town of Gevgelija a “crisis area”, closing the border crossing and bringing in military backup. The refugees were all trying to pass through Macedonia on their way to northern European countries.

    February 09, 2015

    By Geoffrey Mock, orginally published on Amnesty USA blog

    What happens when a crisis so prolongs that the world tires of it?

    You get 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

    You get stories like the one told by this woman living in a refugee camps. She has been in a Lebanese camp for three years with her two sons, one of whom is autistic. She has necessities, but little else; what she dreams of is that her children get an education.

    “We don’t go to anyone, we don’t visit anyone because dealing with him is so difficult,” the woman told Amnesty International researchers. “People stay away because they are afraid he will hurt their children. This little room is our bedroom, it is our living room, it is our everything. Our financial situation doesn’t allow us to register him in such [specialist] schools… That is why we need to resettle in another country, to get help for our child. This will make it better for him and for us.”

    November 09, 2014

    By Noor Al-Bazzaz of Amnesty International’s Syria team

    Five months to the day after being abducted and held hostage by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), a group of 25 students from Kobani were unexpectedly set free on 29 October.

    They were the last remaining captives from a group of around 150 schoolchildren from the embattled Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria who were returning from their final year examinations in Aleppo in May when IS members stopped their school bus at a checkpoint and abducted them all. In the months that followed, they were sporadically released. Those we spoke to had horror stories to tell about life in IS captivity.

    In Suruç, a town in Turkey merely 10km from Kobani, refugees from the besieged city told me how the students’ harrowing experience was typical of the many abductions by IS in the year and a half since the armed group besieged their city.

    One of the released students, a 15-year-old boy who chose to remain unnamed, described the four months he spent in the hands of IS, detailing the armed group’s use of torture against students who broke the rigid rules, or attempted to escape.

    November 04, 2014

    Neil Sammonds, Amnesty's Syria Researcher, blogs from Kobani on the Turkey-Syria border

    A dust cloud from the US air strike drifts across the border from Kobani and blurs our view from the overlooking Turkish hilltop. Most if not all of those watching – all Kurds, it seems, from both Syria and Turkey – agree that the damage caused to the city by air strikes is a price worth paying. Many believe the city’s defence, led by Syrian Kurdish fighters, would have collapsed without them.

    “My home may get destroyed but if it forces out Da’esh”, as the armed group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS) is usually referred to locally, “then I am happy,” says one.

    Fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) lead the city’s defence against the armed group widely loathed by Kurds.  

    Residents of the scores of villages outside Kobani, and then the city itself, fled ahead of the rapid IS advance, well aware of the atrocities committed by the group against Iraqi Kurds in Sinjar and elsewhere. Some 200,000 fled into Turkey, two-thirds of them in just four days in September this year.

    September 12, 2014

    By Shappal Ibrahim, a Syrian Kurdish rights activist.

    When Shappal Ibrahim, a peaceful activist with the Union of Young Kurds, was approached by a Syrian government official claiming to be a fellow supporter of the country’s “revolution”, he did not realize it was part of a ploy to detain him for his human rights activities. After agreeing to meet the official on 22 September 2011, he was driven away and detained in the city of Qamishli, his hometown. He was held in secret for nearly two years, one of Syria’s many “disappeared” before he was released as part of a presidential amnesty on 29 May 2013. It was only then he learned that on 5 September 2012 a court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Here, he tells his story of how he was treated in some of Syria’s many detention centres.

    August 29, 2014
    Peaceful activist Mohamed Bachir Arab has been missing since 2 November 2011© Private

    The last time Rania (not her real name) spoke to her friend Mohamed Bachir Arab, was on 1 November 2011. As a hard working doctor and committed political activist, Mohamed had been living in hiding for six months, trying to evade the ever present tentacles of the Syrian intelligence forces, who routinely detain peaceful activists like him.

    The following day her worst fears were realized. A strap line on the evening news announced he had been arrested. None of his relatives knew where he had been taken.

    Mohamed was a marked man. He had been a student leader at his university in the city of Aleppo, in north-west Syria. Over the years, he had organized a number of protests against government policies, which had landed him in trouble with the authorities. Between 2004 and 2005 he was detained for several months before being released.

    But this time, his relatives and colleagues feared it was different. Since the crisis in Syria began in March 2011, the number of individuals who have been detained in secret by the state – or forcibly disappeared – has spiralled out of control.

    August 26, 2014
    James Foley once said he reported from the Middle East because, “We’re not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don’t try to get really close to what these guys – men, women, American [soldiers] … are experiencing, we don’t understand the world”
    Syria is a Dangerous Place for Journalists – But Here’s Why We Need Them There

    by Geoffrey Mock, Egypt country specialist and chair of the Middle East County Specialist, Amnesty USA.

    After three years of the Syrian uprising, it often appears like the world is tuning out. Deaths continue on a daily basis, some 9 million Syrians are listed by the U.N. as either refugees or internally displaced people, but the situation is sliding out of attention on news broadcasts, in newspaper headlines and popular attention.

    This is why the beheading of reporter James Foley is so important to anyone concerned about human rights in the region. It’s important not just because, as Amnesty International says, it is “a war crime,” but because Syria right now by most standards is now the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

    June 20, 2014
    By Anna Shea, Legal Adviser on Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International.

    What struck me most when I met Zeinah (not her real name), a 29-year-old Syrian refugee in Turkey, were her warm personality and marvelous smile. But her past and present experiences give her precious little to smile about.

    Zeinah arrived in Turkey four months ago, having fled her native Syria.

    Like other Syrians I met in Istanbul, Zeinah had experienced horrors in her country of origin, and was desperate to start a new life. A teacher by profession, she was jailed by the Bashar al-Assad regime for allegedly providing assistance to opposition groups. She said she was raped and beaten multiple times over the several months she spent in prison and was eventually released due to lack of evidence.

    The abuse she suffered in jail has left her with injuries to her spine – and serious psychological trauma – which remain untreated.

    June 19, 2014
    Maran and Gloria stand up for refugee rights
    By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner

    Maran was a journalist and owned his own media company in a country riddled with conflict. Believing that the media was a tool that he could use, he wanted to tell the story of his people to the world.  Telling these stories was a way to protect his people and bring peace to his country.  He faced horrible obstacles.  His land became a place of massacre.  At a certain point, he became helpless and lost the power to speak the truth and fight for freedom.  He had few choices - die, surrender to the Government and become a journalist of propaganda, or flee.  After his family was threatened because of his work, Maran fled.

    Leaving his family, he paid a smuggler who promised to take him to a country where he would be safe. He had no choice about the country, only a small hope that he would eventually be safe.

    February 10, 2014
    Like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal

    By Khairunissa Dhala, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International

    When Khalil, 26, entered Lebanon having escaped the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, he thought his life would finally improve.

    But one night, he was lured into a meeting with two men. He says they raped him, stole money from his wallet and his mobile phone.

    Khalil never reported the alleged rape to the police. He is a refugee, and he is also gay. He feared he would be penalized, and that no one would care about what had happened to him.

    Since then, he has tried to commit suicide – a friend found him and took him to hospital.

    Although Lebanon is often perceived as more tolerant than most countries in the region, like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal. The country’s lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) community is growing in prominence but the issue is still a taboo.

    As one of the nearly one million refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Khalil claims to suffer daily discrimination on the basis of his nationality. But as a gay man he faces further hardship.

    January 21, 2014
    Thousands are held in Syria’s state-run detention centres ©APGraphicsBank

    Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, comments on a recent report on Syria by three former war crimes prosecutors

    Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe… but it is hardly surprising.

    The thousands of photographs, part of a report published today, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

    While we cannot authenticate the images, the allegations are consistent with aspects of Amnesty International’s own research into the widespread use of torture and enforced disappearance by the Syrian authorities, as well as deaths in custody.

    The extensive experience and reputation of the international lawyers and forensic experts in charge of the investigation also contribute to its credibility.

    September 13, 2013

    By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Researcher

    As the threat of military intervention looms over an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, in a far flung corner of Syria the town of Deir Ezzour offers an insight into the suffering of ordinary Syrians.

    September 10, 2013

    By Refugee and Migrants Campaigner Gloria Nafziger and Secretary General Alex Neve

    With over 2 million Syrian refugees having fled to neighbouring countries and well over 4 million Syrians internally displaced within the country, the crisis of displacement that has resulted from the massive human rights violations in Syria over the past 2 ½ years has been termed the gravest humanitarian emergency the world has faced in years. In the face of such a massive crisis, it is vital that Canada play a leadership role in ensuring a strong and effective global response to the pressing needs of displaced Syrians.

    September 06, 2013

    By Maha Abu Shama, Syria campaigner at Amnesty's International Secretariat

    “We have no women for marriage” is Khawlah’s usual response when Jordanian or other foreign men ask about marrying her 14-year-old daughter when they come looking for a bride.

    Like other Syrian women refugees I met during a recent visit to Jordan, Khawlah – who lives in the Jordanian capital Amman – complained how Jordanian men constantly bombard her with marriage proposals or requests to arrange marriages with refugee girls. 

    “I do not have work for you, but could marry you if you like,” is what ‘Aisha was told when she went looking for work. A 22-year-old student of English Literature, she complained that one of the reasons her job search in Amman has been futile so far is that she often receives marriage proposals instead of paid work.

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