Despite de-escalation agreement, civic space under severe threat in Syria

Expression

In the context of the ongoing conflict in Syria, and despite the de-escalation agreement reached in May 2017, freedom of expression and the media continue to be under severe threat. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), in the first half of 2017, 26 media activists were killed, 34 injured and 20 arrested. In June alone, SNHR reported one media activist killed and five injured. 

In addition, the Syrian Center for Journalistic Freedoms (SCJF) documented eight violations against journalists in Syria during June 2017, a significant decrease compared to previous months, which is most likely a result of the decline in hostilities and the cessation of shelling in most areas inside Syria. According to SCJF's monthly report, Da'esh was the top perpetrator of attacks against journalists in June, committing four violations, with the Syrian regime was responsible for two, and those responsible for the other two violations documented were not identified. 

Also in SCFJ's report, media activist Mehran Kargosli was killed during bombing and shelling operations by the Syrian government's forces in the town of Haza, a Damascus suburb. Journalist Maher Ziad Abu Hamza also died under mysterious circumstances near the city of Suweida, when he was shot dead in his car by an unknown assailant. 

In a separate incident, on 29th June 2017 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called upon the Kurdish authorities to release journalist Barzan Hussein Liani, who as reported by the Monitor, was detained by Asayish security forces in May 2017. According to CPJ, no formal charges have been made nor has the reason for his detention been made public, and he has only been allowed one brief visit from his wife.

Peaceful Assembly

Syria Deeply and Global Voices reported that in June 2017, activists took to the streets in Maarat Al-Numanal-Numan, Idlib province to protest against an Al-Qaeda affiliated coalition of armed groups known as Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). The protest was ignited by an incident where clashes erupted between HTS and the Free Syrian Army, during which several civilians were killed and injured. According to information received by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the protest in June was disrupted by HTS militants, who fired into the air to disperse the crowd. There were no documented cases of any injuries.  

Association

Civil society organisations have called for the release of thousands of citizens in detention, many of whom are human rights defenders, as part of the Ceasefire Agreement in three southern provinces. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, there are 21,000 people being held in these three provinces and over 100,000 in total throughout the country.