News / Middle East

Syrian Embassies Accused of Threatening Activists Overseas

A woman holds a Syrian flag as Jordanians and Syrians protest against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Amman, Jordan, October 3, 2011.
A woman holds a Syrian flag as Jordanians and Syrians protest against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Amman, Jordan, October 3, 2011.
Henry Ridgwell

Syrian embassies are being accused of carrying out a campaign of intimidation against activists and protesters living abroad. Meanwhile, Russia and China have vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria's government and threatening it with sanctions if security forces there do not immediately halt their brutal military crackdown against civilian protesters.

France, Britain, Germany and Portugal drafted the resolution, which they revised three times in an attempt to avoid the vetoes. The watered-down measure received nine votes in favor and four abstentions (Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil and India) in Tuesday's vote.

Human rights group Amnesty International says there also are allegations of retaliation by the authorities against the activists’ relatives in Syria, including torture and abduction.

Activists have been staging regular demonstrations outside the Syrian embassy in London against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, in solidarity with the anti-government protesters inside the country.

Ever since fleeing Syria for Britain after being released from prison there in the 1980s, Ghias Aljundi has attended many of the recent protests.

“I received a phone call from someone who claimed to be from the embassy asking me to stop demonstrating and acting against the regime. And the person stated that I am under their control so they can reach me anytime they want, and they can reach my family. My family is back in Syria, all of them,” said Aljundi.

Systematic intimidation

Aljundi said he knows dozens of Syrian expatriates living in Britain who have faced similar threats.

“So many people received emails, phone calls, or in person. Not only activists against the regime, they focused on students and those Syrians who live here and they need documents from the embassy, they blackmailed them. And also the students, they brought the students here and said if you don’t come and protest in front of the embassy against the anti-regime protesters, we will cut off your scholarship,” said Aljundi.

Razan Saffour was born and raised in Britain but she has been a regular at the anti-Assad protests.

“I know several people who, when they started coming out to protests, they would get phone calls from the embassy and they’d tell them, ‘If you don’t stop coming, or if you keep coming to the pro-freedom protests, we will put your name down under the Muslim Brotherhood.’ The Muslim Brotherhood are deemed as terrorists inside Syria. ‘We’ll call you a convicted terrorist, we won’t let you go back to your own country,’” said Saffour.

The allegations of harassment extend beyond Britain. Human rights group Amnesty International says it has documented campaigns of intimidation in at least eight countries, including the U.S.

Calls for protection

Neil Sammonds, a Syria expert with Amnesty, said, “Then we find even worse on the other side back in Syria. A fairly large number of relatives have then been contacted by the intelligence agencies. At least eight have been detained. Four have been tortured. Two have actually disappeared, so they went in detention and now there’s no information about where they are.”

Amnesty is calling on governments to be more proactive in protecting Syrian expatriates.

The Syrian embassy in London declined an interview, but issued a statement denying the allegations. It added, “The embassy is working and will continue to work in accordance with international conventions, and in respect of British sovereignty… The embassy has clear instructions from Damascus to help Syrians regardless of their political positions.”

Outside the embassy, many of the protesters hold up signs bearing their full names and identities. They say they will not be frightened into giving up their demonstrations - but they admit many fellow Syrian expatriates are too scared to join in the protests.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More