PEN International fears for the safety of poet and blogger Dia’a al-Abdullah, who was arrested from his home in Asswaida on February 13, 2012, by the Air Force’s secret services after writing an open letter to the Syrian president. Al-Abdullah remains detained incommunicado at an unknown location, and is considered to be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. Concerns for his welfare are acute.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Dia’a al-Abdullah was arrested on February 13, 2012, when security forces raided his house after he published an open letter on his Facebook page entitled, "As A Syrian Citizen I Announce," in which he demanded that the president step down in order to prevent further bloodshed.
Al-Abdullah was previously detained and interrogated for his writing on June 29, 2011. He was held incommunicado until his release on January 13, 2012. After his release, al-Abdullah reported that he was subjected to severe torture during his detention.
Al-Abdullah was also arrested in 1999 and held for one year without trial or charge after publishing a collection of poems.
Below is a sample of his poetry, which was written during his previous imprisonment in 2011:
The crypt
Violence is
the means of people:
The jailor kills me with a sword
I answer with a word,
and he sets my pages alight

Oh God
I burn the cigarettes of these days
in my cell
My heart is the fifth wall;
I set it alight

Eid is coming
And it will bring
Only bad tobacco to smoke,
so I leave it aside

You promised
my heart would be made only for love;
now I am so enraged
– save me,
cover my heart with tenderness
Make it strong,
Offer him a touch
… a laugh …

The world has passed beneath me
And this place is the most terrible of all
I have begun to embrace
the sun of exhaustion

So, this is my homeland;
I became its enemy
by speaking out
Speaking out brings pain –
but how can we not?

My homeland,
if it were not for you
I would not be so brave,

and so:
they will not break me

My homeland,
I touch your hands
from behind bars

This child is a prisoner now,
and my mother screams:
Will no one bring down this oppressor?
I am strong
I scream
My mother
Translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi, with Mitchell Albert.
More can be found in Arabic here.

Anti-government protests were sparked in mid-March 2011 and have since spread across the country. There have been mass arrests and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators and bombarding opposition stronghold areas with mortar bombs and rockets. Thousands of civilians have been killed and many more wounded. Protestors continue to demand political reform and to call upon President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Syrian authorities continue to suppress these protests with force, often indiscriminately, despite promises to end the violence.
With the Internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Syrian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events. Most foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country and access to any independent media is denied.

For a statement by PEN International on recent events in Syria click here.

More Information:

Write A Letter

  • Expressing grave concern for the well-being and whereabouts of poet Dia’a al-Abdullah;
  • Expressing concerns for the safety of the poet, and seeking assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention in violation of Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of al-Abdullah and all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a state party.

Send Your Letter To

Given the present crisis in Syria, we suggest that letters are sent to the Syrian embassy in your country if possible.