Human rights defenders arrested and journalists injured

Association

Human rights lawyer Yasser Al-Saleem and activist Abdelhamid Al-Bayoush were arrested in the early hours of the morning on 22nd September 2018 by an armed group, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. The group stormed the home of human rights lawyer Yasser Al-Saleem in Kafr Nabl, located in Idlib governate in Syria and arrested both activists. Subsequent reports indicated that they were taken to Al-Eqab prison in the Jabal Al-Zawiya area, located about 40km south-west of the governorate capital, Idlib city.

Al-Saleem who has been undertaking human rights activities in the city of Kaft Nabl had participated in demonstrations that took place in Kafr Nabl the day before his arrest. The demonstrations called for the release of citizens of the city of Sweida who were kidnapped a month before.

Expression

In a positive development, Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda was released on 24th October 2018 after three years as a hostage in Syria. As previously reported in the CIVICUS Monitor, Yasuda had been captured and held hostage by an Islamist group in June 2015. 

On 30th September 2018, Syrian writer Souleman Yousph, was arrested and detained without charge and held for five days. Yousph, who is a contributor to several media outlets, including the Assyrian news website Ankawa, the independent Arabic news website Elaph, and the political and cultural online secular magazine Ahewar, had previously published an article criticizing the Kurdish Democratic Union, the political wing of the People's Protection Units, and its ally, the Syriac Union Party.  In the days prior to his arrest, he had also published a series of posts on his Facebook account that criticised the Syriac Union Party for ordering the closure of private Assyrian schools and for trying to impose a national Kurdish curriculum. A day after his arrest, the police issued a statement on Facebook saying that action had been taken against ‘those spreading lies, that democracy has rules and limitations, and that defamation is punishable by law in Western countries’.

On 2nd September 2018, an armed group arrested journalist Marwan Al-Hamid in the town of Kafr Nabl in Idlib governorate and transferred to Al-Eqab prison without specifying the reasons for his arrest. There has been no news of him since his arrest. Al-Hamid has worked as a journalist in several media stations since 2011, and has also worked on several projects by humanitarian organisations. 

As the conflict continues in Syria, journalists continue to face grave risks to their lives. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ibrahim Ahmad and Gulistan Mohammed, who work for the Syrian Kurdish news agency ANHA/Hawa, sustained gunshot injuries on 2nd November 2018 while covering the clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces and the Turkish army’s cross-border bombardment of the town of Tal Abyad. 

Syria ranks 2nd on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index released on 2nd November, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. CPJ has documented the killings of 123 journalists since the outbreak of the war in 2011 and impunity for these killings remains the norm.