As you might have heard, the office in which I work at was raided by Air Force security branch on Thursday 16-2-2012. My boss, friend and mentor, Mazen Darwich, along with 8 male colleagues and friends, are still in detention since that day at air force security branch, known to be the worst security branch in Syria.
I spent only 3 nights there along with five other female colleagues, those three nights were the longest hours of my life. You know that I was detained previously for two weeks, which was my first experience with detention, but those 3 nights at air security branch were the worst in comparison to my previous detention.
Below is SCM statement with regards to the raid and the arrest of our male colleagues, please share it with whomever you think might be helpful in getting the word out around the world.
In a new escalation against freedom of expression and media work in Syria, the Office of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in Damascus was raided on Thursday 16 February at approximately one and a half PM by agents of the Air Intelligence Intelligence (Mazzeh branch). The raid, that was carried out by members of the security apparatus along with a group of armed men, who caused panic and fear among employees and visitors of the center, especially since the officer in charge did not disclose the arrest or search warrants that are supposed to be issued by a public prosecutor.
The security forces took the IDs of SCM employees and visitors in addition to their mobile phones. They were prevented from proceeding their work and were asked to gather in one room until 4 PM; they were transferred to the Air force Intelligence detention center of Mazzeh then.
Following are the names of staff and administrators who have been arrested that day:
1 – Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of expression.
2 – Yara Badr, Syrian journalist and the wife of Mazen Darwish.
3 – Hani Zitani, a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Sociology and university teacher.
4 – Sana Zitani, a graduate of the Faculty of Sociology and wife Hani Zitani.
5 – Abdel Rahman Hamada, student at the Institute of Accounting.
6 – Hussein Gharir, graduate at the Faculty of Information Engineering.
7 – Mansour Al Omari, English literature graduate from Damascus University.
8 – Joan Fersso, a graduate of the Faculty of Arabic literature.
9 – Mayada Khalil, graduate at the University of archaeology in Aleppo.
10 – Ayham Ghazoul, a dentist.
11 – Bassam Al-Ahmed, a graduate of the Faculty of Arabic literature.
12 – Razan Ghazzawi, a graduate in English literature.
13 – Rita Dayoub.
Two visitors were also arrested; Shady Yazbek (student in medicine) and Hanadi Zahlout.
Female employees working at the center were released on Saturday 18 Feb 2012 around 10 PM (Yara Badr – Sanaa Mohsen – Mayada Khalil – Razan Ghazzawi) in addition to the visitor Hanadi Zahlout on one condition that at they are to show up at Air force Security every day from 9AM to 2PM for further investigation until unspecified date. Rita Dayoub was released.
The arrest of the President of the SCM, “Mazen Darwish,” and male colleagues and visitor, however, continues: Hani Zitani – Abdel Rahman Hamada – Hussein Ghrer – Mansur Al Omari – Bassam Al-Ahmad -Ayham Ghazoul – Joan Fersso, and the visitor Shady Yazbek are still in custody.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression strongly condemns the raid conducted against its office as well as the ongoing arbitrary detention of the journalist Mazen Darwish and its staff. SCM expresses its deepest concern regarding the fate of persons remaining in detention, demands the Syrian authorities to release all detainees immediately and unconditionally, and holds the Syrian authorities fully responsible of the psychological and physical conditions of the detainees.
The center calls upon the Syrian authorities to put an end to arbitrary arrests and harassment of journalists, media workers and freedom of opinion and expression advocates.
Finally, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression expresses its gratitude to all institutions and individuals who have expressed solidarity with the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression against such oppressive policies.
After 37 days, Syrian blogger and activist Hussein Ghrer is now free. The judge approved his release on bail of 50,000 S.P. (around 1000$) today Thursday 1-12-2011.
The 32 year-old blogger was kidnapped in Damascus in an ambush on 24-10-2011 and was taken to security services branches in Al-Khateeb and Kafaقsouseh, then was transferred to Adra prison, a prison that is considered by activists and revolutionaries as “haven” in comparison to security services, or worse, Air Intelligence service- a place where worst kinds of torture is practiced against detainees.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression’s statement today on friend and fellow blogger Hussein Ghrer:
Syrian blogger and activist Hussein Ghrer was transferred today Thursday, November 17, 2011 from the general security headquarters-branch 285-to the civil court in Damascus. He was brought before the public prosecuters in Damascus then transfered to the Zablatani branch.
However office hours ended before Ghrer’s questioning session began, as a result he was transferred to Central Prison in Adra. Now he is awaiting his trial scheduled on Saturday 19/11/2011.
Many human rights and free speech organizations have called on to free the detained Syrian blogger who was detained 24/10/2011 for unknown reasons.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression stresses the need to guarantee Hussein Ghrer a public and fair trial as stated in Syrian constitution and again urges immediate release of all detainees.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression published the following statement today on detained friend and fellow blogger Hussein Ghrer:
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression expresses concern over Syrian blogger Hussein Ghrer’s disappearance, given that all communication with him has been cut off since the evening of Monday 24/10/2011. No information about him has come to light since that time.
The Center notes that the detained blogger suffers from hypertensive vascular disease and cardiac mitral valve prolapse. For that reason, the Center fears his health is deteriorating, a factor that may pose a direct threat to his life in case he is not taking his medications on a regular basis.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression considers the disappearance of blogger Hussein Ghrer a clear case of enforced disappearance, a systematic practice by the Syrian security services under the state of emergency declared in the country since 1963, despite a formal end to the law under the legislative Decree No. 161 dated 04/21/2011.
Syrian blogger Hussein Ghrer, born 04/11/1979, is a computer engineering graduate and works as a programmer. He is a married father of two children who blogs at http://www.ghrer.net. Many of his blog entries and articles are on freedom issues and Syrian or Arab public affairs. Below are some examples, all in Arabic:
1. Between the National Dialogue in Syria and the Detention of Blogger Anas Maarawi.
2. Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, history and citizenship after 2011
3. Vote against the Violence, and for Citizenship
4. Towards a culture of law: Legislative Decree No. 37 related to crimes of honor, a step forward, but?
5. Towards a culture of law: the Constitution (1)
6. Towards a legal culture: the new labor law -workers Union Shows Concerns but the Ministry Appeals
Syrian blogger Hussein Ghrer was one of the first to blog in solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples against Israel’s wars. He also participated in the “Syrian bloggers for the occupied Golan” campaign.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression demands the Syrian authorities to disclose the fate of the Syrian blogger Hussein Greer and release him immediately, or to submit him to a public court that meets the conditions of a fair trial, if a legal justification is available.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression considers Ghrer’s forced isolation from the outside world and the concealment of his fate and whereabouts which prevent him from accessing necessary medical, humanitarian, and legal assistance to be a clear violation of the Syrian Constitution and the International Declaration that both guarantee protection to all persons from enforced disappearance. Such systematic policies committed by Syrian authorizes contradicts its obligations towards the state of human rights and the treaties it has signed and ratified.
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Hussein is 30 years old, he is married and has two kids. He participated in several campaigns in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers during the Zionist invasion of Gaza and blogged about the war against Lebanon in 2006. He was well-known for his work with the “Syrian bloggers for the occupied Gholan” and for his solidarity with the victims of “Honor crimes” in the country.Fear of freedom and hatred against all liberties are responsible for Hussein´s detention. Words are Hussein´s weapons, and ours too. We want these weapons to break the silence. We command you to raise your voice for Hussein´s freedom and all prisoners of conscience in Syrian cells.
We demand the immediate disclosure of the fate of our friend and fellow blogger Hussein Ghrer and the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience, since their detention is against the law and universal human rights. We also demand the end of persecution against freedom of speech, because blind force, no matter how strong it is, will stay blind, and will stumble until it falls for good.