International PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of Tal Al-Mallouhi, a 19-year-old blogger, poet, and high school student, who is reportedly facing charges of espionage. She has been held incommunicado in Damascus, Syria since December 27, 2009, although her detention was not publicized until late August 2010. She is considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment, and there are mounting concerns for her well-being in detention. No reason has been made known for the charges against her, although it is feared that Al-Mallouhi is being targeted for her online writings and poems which reportedly discuss political and social issues. PEN seeks further details of the charges against her, as well as assurances of her well-being in detention. It urges the Syrian authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Al-Mallouhi was originally detained on December 27, 2009, after being summoned for questioning about her blog entries. After her arrest, state security officers raided Tal Al-Mallouhi’s family home, and confiscated her computer, notebook and other personal documents. She was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location without charge or access to her family for the first nine months of her detention. Her family was allowed to visit her for the first time at Doma Prison in Damascus on September 30, 2010.

Until recently Al-Mallouhi’s family has sought her release through diplomatic negotiations and therefore did not want the case to have any publicity. However, on September 2, 2010, Al-Mallouhi's mother published an open letter to the Syrian president seeking information about her daughter’s welfare and calling for her release. On October 5, 2010, it was reported that Al-Mallouhi had been charged with spying for a foreign country. Al-Mallouhi has no known political affiliations, and sources close to the family are baffled by the charges. It is feared that she could be targeted for comments and poems published in her blog.

Freedom of expression is highly restricted in Syria, and PEN has long been concerned about the number of writers, journalists, poets, and bloggers detained for their writings and non-violent opposition activities. Many have been sentenced by the Exceptional Supreme Court, whose practices fall short of international standards of fairness.

There are widespread reports of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria’s detention and interrogation centers, police stations and prisons. Detainees are often held for long periods of time incommunicado without charge or trial, during which time they are particularly at risk. PEN is also increasingly concerned about writer Raghdah Sa’id Hassan, who was arrested by Tartus political security services on February 10, 2010, after writing her first novel. Raghda is still being held incommunicado without charge and has no access to either her family or a lawyer. Her current whereabouts remain unknown and there are mounting concerns for her welfare.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern about the detention of writer and student Tal Al-Mallouhi, and seeking further details of the charges against her;
  • Expressing concerns for Al-Mallouhi’s safety, and seeking assurances that she is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention, which would violate Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • Urging that she is allowed full access to her family and lawyer, and any necessary medical treatment;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a state party.

Send Your Letter To

Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410

Minister of Interior
Major Sa’id Mohamed Samour
Ministry of Interior
‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 222 3428

Minister of Foreign Affairs
His Excellency Walid al-Mua’llim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Abu Rummaneh
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 7620

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Syria in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after October 31, 2010: ftw [at]