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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid