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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people 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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
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 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 First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic 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 Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs