News / USA

Syrian-American Activists Fearful for Relatives in Syria

Mana Rabiee

As protests in Syria continue, Syrian-American dissidents in the U.S. are increasingly faced with a troubling dilemma:  Do they pursue their activism from afar - even if it places their relatives and loved ones back home in Syria at greater risk? 

Radwan Ziadeh is a Syrian-American activist in Washington. Ever since the uprising in his homeland, this mild-mannered university professor has been a central figure in the Syrian opposition movement in the United States. Then last week, he got the message he had hoped never to receive.

"I get one line from my brother in Syria saying that ‘I have bad news for you, Radwan,'" Ziadeh said.

Ziadeh’s brother, Yasin, a small business owner, had been arrested after a protest in their hometown Daraa.  Now, Ziadeh and his family are concerned that Yasin’s treatment in detention will be especially brutal - to pressure his activist brother in the U.S. into silence.

"This is why I always have some guilt that I have put my family in some pressure and always they been interrogating my mother and my brothers, trying actually to use them as a hostage to push me to be quiet," Ziadeh said.

Ziadeh is not alone.  Khalid Saleh is a spokesman for the Syrian-American Council based in Chicago. He said Syrian-American dissidents are now thinking about how their activism in the U.S. may jeopardize the safety of their families back home.

"A few of us also were contacted by our family members in Syria telling us ‘Please cool things down because you are putting us at risk.’ The ‘mokhaberat’ - the secret security forces in Syria -- have reached out to a few of our family members, asked them questions about our activities here in the States, trying to get more information about us," Saleh said.

Some of those relatives have already paid a price for their family members’ activism in the U.S.  

Malek Jandali is a Syrian-American composer and performed at a protest rally outside the White House in July.  

A few days later, he said his elderly father and mother were attacked in their home by government security forces.  "She was asking them ‘Why are you hitting me? What’s going on?’ and they kept referring to me and to my concert and how I stand by the people and how I mock the government and they kept beating her and telling her ‘We’re going to teach you how to raise your kids.'"

Reports of similar incidents have reached the U.S. State Department. They have raised the U.S concern with the Syrian embassy in Washington over allegations that Syrian-Americans as well as their families in Syria may have been harassed and intimidated by supporters of the Syrian government.

“Everyone has the right to have their opinion be heard without fear of repercussions, without fear of arrest, and without fear of their families being attacked. And any country that seeks to do those types of things to its citizens is completely inappropriate and acting outside of international norms and that’s unacceptable,” said Andy Halus, a State Department spokesman.

But as pressure on the Assad regime grows, activists like Ziadeh say they continue to receive threatening emails and text messages nearly every day.

"He’s threatening that ‘If your brother get exit from the prison I will kill him,'" Ziadeh said reading a threatening text message from his cell phone.

"Every minute I ask [my] self ‘Where is he right now? What is he doing inside the prison? Does he get good food? Does he get water? How is his family doing?’…This feeling make me very nervous every day, day by day, because I cannot do more," Ziadeh said.

Other Syrian-American activists also say that while they themselves are far from Syrian police and prisons - they never forget that each new protest could bring retribution on their loved ones back home.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid