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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid