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Syria

    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 23, 2014

    Any further intervention in the Middle East must include plans to address the suffering of Syrian civilians, a global coalition of 39 leading human rights and humanitarian organizations said today.

    Ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, the #WithSyria coalition, comprised of Save the Children, Amnesty International and others, is urging world leaders, whoever they support in the conflict, to make clear that they are on the side of civilians. This means by using their power to ensure that international law is respected and attacks on civilians including schools, hospitals, and shelters are stopped. According to the UN, direct, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks by groups on all sides are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths, as well as making it impossible in some areas for humanitarian agencies to reach those in desperate need.

    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 29, 2014

    “Nasser, every minute of our day is spent in pain and agony since you were detained. We have lost any joy and fear has become our companion…The children's fear over your fate is robbing them of their childhood.”  Farizah Jahjah Bondek, wife of Nasser Saber Bondek.

    On the evening of February 17, 2014, members of the Syrian security forces believed to be part of Military Intelligence, arrested at least four people from Sahnaya (a suburb of Damascus) including Nasser Saber Bondek. He has not been seen since.

    While the official reasons for his arrest are unknown, it is believed that it could be related to his humanitarian assistance activities. His wife Farizaqh is a peaceful political activist, known for attending demonstrations. Fearing arrest, she fled Syria with their children before her husband was taken by the authorities.

    August 28, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 29 August 2014

    Enforced disappearances in Syria are continuing more than half a year after the UN demanded that Syria put an end to this abhorrent practice, Amnesty International said ahead of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August. 

    “People in Syria are hauled off into the abyss of secret detention on a regular basis, providing clear evidence of the authorities’ systematic use of enforced disappearance as a tool to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. 

    “Despite the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution in February demanding an end to enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses, countless perceived opponents of the Syrian government – including activists, journalists, medics and lawyers – are routinely plucked off the streets or seized from their homes only to disappear into virtual black holes.” 

    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.

    August 20, 2014

    The apparent execution-style killing by the Islamic State (IS) armed group of a US reporter who went missing in Syria in 2012 constitutes a war crime and highlights the urgent need for all states with influence in the region to ensure other missing journalists are safely released, Amnesty International said today.

    A video published online by the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS) purports to show freelance reporter James Foley being beheaded, apparently in retaliation for US airstrikes against the IS in northern Iraq.

    “This shocking video, if genuine, is devastating for the loved ones of James Foley and chilling for the family, friends and colleagues of those journalists who are still missing in Syria and northern Iraq, feared captured by IS militants,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “It is a war crime and both those who carried out the killing and those who ordered it must face justice.

    July 14, 2014
    Yara Faris has been released following her arrest on 8 December 2013 for providing aid to internally displaced persons who had fled other areas of the country due to the fighting © Private

    A Syrian woman has been released from detention under the terms of a presidential amnesty, which pardons individuals charged with certain offences. She is one of the few political detainees known to have benefited from this amnesty thus far.

    What happened?

    Yara Faris was originally arrested by officers from Syria’s State Security agency on 8 December 2013 and held at a State Security branch in Damascus for the first ten days of her detention. She was then brought before an investigating judge of a criminal court in the Rif Dimashq Governorate, who referred her case to the Anti-Terrorism Court and moved her to Adra Prison.

    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.

    June 05, 2014

    Amnesty International has obtained details of a horrific raid in which 15 civilians, including seven children, were summarily killed on 29 May in a village in northern Syria raising fears of further attacks against residents in the area. 

    The killings in the village of al-Tleiliye in al Hassake governorate are believed to have been carried out by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Arab farming families were targeted, apparently for their perceived support of a Kurdish armed group, the YPG (People’s Protection Unit) or because they were mistaken for Yezidi Kurds. 

    The killings took place shortly after clashes escalated between ISIS and YPG forces in the nearby villages of Tal Khanzeer and al-Rawiya.

    “These cold-blooded killings serve as a bitter reminder of how complete impunity for the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria is fuelling brutality and inhumanity,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

    May 20, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs BST  21 May 2014

    A severe shortfall in international support has left many Syrian refugees in Lebanon unable to access crucial medical care, according to a new report by Amnesty International. The situation is so desperate that in some cases refugees have resorted to returning to Syria to receive the treatment they need.

    The report, Agonizing Choices: Syrian refugees in need of health care in Lebanon, identifies some serious gaps in the level of medical services available to refugees. In some cases Syrian refugees, including those requiring emergency treatment, have been turned away from hospitals.

    “Hospital treatment and more specialized care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon is woefully insufficient, with the situation exacerbated by a massive shortage of international funding. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are suffering as a direct result of the international community’s shameful failure to fully fund the UN relief programme in Lebanon,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International.

    April 30, 2014

    The UN Security Council must take concrete action, including threatening targeted sanctions, against parties in Syria that are brazenly flouting the terms of a unanimous UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian access and an end to human rights abuses, said Amnesty International.

    The Council is due to discuss Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second report on the implementation of the UN resolution today.

    “The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened,” said José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International's UN office in New York.

    “If the Security Council is to salvage what credibility it has left on Syria it has to ensure its unanimous decision is respected, including by making good on its intention to take further steps to get the different parties to comply. Additional measures, including sanctions, must be taken against those responsible for violating the terms of the resolution.”

    March 13, 2014

    •        Thousands of people to attend vigils held in more than 40 countries
    •        Banksy creates a #WithSyria reworking of his iconic “girl with a red balloon” image
    •        Nelson’s Column, the Lincoln Memorial and Eiffel Tower to be lit up in message of hope at the vigils
    •        115 humanitarian and human rights groups join prominent names and Syrian voices in demanding immediate action to ensure Syrians in need – including civilians in areas under siege, can access aid
    •        Stunning #WithSyria animation released with exclusive music from Elbow, who have given their song “The Blanket of Night” as the soundtrack

    Across the world from Moscow to Washington thousands of people will mark the 3rd anniversary of the crisis in Syria on Thursday with candlelit vigils, the lighting up of iconic locations and the release of Banksy inspired red balloons carrying messages of hope to Syrians.

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