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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs