Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HRW calls on Syria to release teenage blogger

From HRW:
The Syrian government should immediately release Tal al-Mallohi, a 19-year-old high school student and blogger held incommunicado without charge for nine months, Human Rights Watch said today. She has been held by Syria's security services since being detained on December 27, 2009.

State Security (Branch 279), one of Syria's multiple state security agencies, summoned al-Mallohi to Damascus for interrogation in December and immediately detained her. Two days later, members of State Security went to al-Mallohi's house and confiscated her computer, some CDs, books, and other personal belongings. Since the arrest, the security services have not allowed her family to communicate with her and have not offered any explanation for the arrest.

"Detaining a high school student for nine months without charge is typical of the cruel, arbitrary behavior of Syria's security services," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "A government that thinks it can get away with trampling the rights of its citizens has lost all connection to its people."

It is unclear why the authorities have detained al-Mallohi. According to her family, al-Mallohi, who is in her last year of high school, does not belong to any political group. Some Syrian activists have expressed concerns that security services may have detained her over a poem she wrote criticizing certain restrictions on freedom of expression in Syria. Her blog, which contains poetry and social commentary, focuses mostly on the plight of Palestinians and does not address Syrian political issues. Her homepage shows a picture of Gandhi with the quote, "you will remain an example."
What is chilling about this case is that al-Mallohi seems to be just an ignorant young blogger. Her blog contains no passionate criticisms of anyone except Jewish Zionists. Her politics seems hardly outside the mainstream for Syrians.

She has three blogs.

The first one she simply titles "My Blog" and it contains some poetry and pro-Palestinian Arab articles. She includes a picture of Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel; some praise for Venezuela and Erdogan, a picture making George Bush look like Hitler and lots of ignorant stuff about Jerusalem and how Jews have no rights there whatsoever and Israeli crimes. She signed her more recent posts "A Palestinian."

There are barely any comments on her posts there.

Her second site, "Palestinian Villages," is supposedly a list of Arab villages destroyed by Israel and their history. It includes a picture of what looks like a variant of Greater Syria.

Her third site, called "Latters" (probably meant to be "Letters") might be the one that is problematic to Syrian authorities. In that blog she writes a series of letters to the human race about human rights and freedom. It is possible that there are some veiled references to Syrian repression in those letters, but, again, this blog was hardly read by anyone judging from the number of comments.

If Syria goes after teenagers whose childish views would be all but unnoticed otherwise, and whose deviation from the Syrian version of political correctness is this slight, then the Syrian regime is even more paranoid than I thought it was. Usually such extensive paranoia accompanies equally extensive feelings of insecurity.

Which means that every citizen of Syria must live in incredible fear.