Syria Overview

In 2016, there is probably no deadlier place to be a civil society activist than in Syria. More than five years of civil war has almost totally destroyed all protections for civil society organisations and human rights defenders in the country. Indeed, CSOs and activists were amongst some of the first targets of increasingly brutal repression by the government of Syria, and this continues up to today. The arrest of thousands of civil society leaders, journalists and political activists was accompanied by disappearances, illegal detention, brutal torture and inhumane treatment in prison, and the deaths of many activists. Indiscriminate attacks during the conflict itself have also resulted in the bombing of civil society offices and projects. Freedom of expression is non-existent in many parts of the country, especially those controlled by government forces or extremist Islamist movements. Peaceful assemblies, which led to the crackdown in 2011, have become almost impossible and those assembling in public take huge risks with their personal safety.