PEN International expresses renewed concerns for the safety of journalists, bloggers, writers and activists arrested in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests taking place across Syrian cities since mid-March 2011. It also welcomes the release on June 2, 2011, of at least five dissident writers in a limited presidential amnesty. PEN reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, and urgently seeks guarantees of their safety. It reminds the Syrian authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and is alarmed at the apparent use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, several dissident writers arrested in the recent crackdown on anti-government protests were reported to have been released in recent days as part of a presidential amnesty announced on June 2, 2011. Protestors had called for the release of all political prisoners in Syria, as well as other political reforms. Those released include:

  • Mahmoud Issa: Journalist and writer, arrested on April 19, 2011.
  • Khaled Sid Mohand: freelance journalist for a number of news outlets including  Le Monde, arrested on April 12, 2011.
  • Zaid Mastu: correspondent, arrested on April 12, 2011.
  • Mohamed Dibo: Journalist and writer, arrested on April 12, 2011, released on May 25, 2011.
  • Dorothy Parvaz: correspondent, arrested on April 29, 2011, and released in mid-May 2011 after being deported to Iran.

Novelist Raghdah Sa’id Hassan (f) was also released on June 2, 2011, under the presidential amnesty. She had been held without charge since  February 10, 2010.

PEN remains concerned about the following cases who have not been included in the amnesty and remain at risk of ill-treatment in detention:

Blogger and poet Tal Al-Mallouhi (f) was arrested on December 27, 2009, and sentenced to five years in prison on February 14, 2011.

Writer and editor Najati Tayara was arrested on May 12, 2011, and remains detained without charge. He has reportedly been transferred to a detention center in Damascus.

Amina Abdallah Araf (f), a popular young Syrian American blogger, was abducted on June 6, 2011, by three armed men as she walked to a protest meeting in Damascus. Her whereabouts are still unknown.

More information:

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the release of writers journalists and bloggers Raghdah Sa’id Hassan, Mahmoud Issa, Khaled Sid Mohand, Zaid Mastu, Khaled Sid Mohand, Mohamed Dibo, and Dorothy Parvaz;
  • Protesting the arrest of blogger Amina Abdallah Araf and the continued detention of all those currently held solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions, including writer and editor Najati Tayara and blogger and poet Tal- Al-Mallouhi;
  • Condemning the widespread arrest of journalists and bloggers for reporting on the recent protests, which PEN believes is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling on the Syrian authorities to investigate allegations of torture of detainees;
  • Calling for the release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street       
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: + 963 11 332 3410

His Excellency Said Sammour
Minister of Interior
Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: + 963 11 222 3428
Email: [email protected] 

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