During the week of March 13, the regime arrested (and subsequently released) a number of dissidents and activists, including opposition member Riad Seif:
Riad Seif was arrested on March 13 after he demonstrated alongside Kurdish activists to commemorate the deadly 2004 clashes in Qamishli. An unknown number of Kurdish demonstrators were also arrested and are still in detention.
Ammar Qurabi, of the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria, was arrested upon arrival in Damascus on Sunday (3/12) after a tour in America and Europe, where he attended an opposition conference in Paris on March 9 (Arabic. Elaph, 3/9/06) sponsored by the Aspen Institute. Qurabi was released on March 15, but is now banned from traveling abroad.
Meanwhile, according to the Syrian Human Rights Committee, the activist Kamal Labwani, who was arrested after meeting with US officials in DC last year, is now facing charges (Arabic, 3/14/06) of "contacting a foreign state to instigate aggression against Syria," which carry the sentence of life imprisonment with hard labor, or even the death penalty. (An appeal on his behalf by the Liberal National Democratic Gathering can be read here. Arabic. Ahrar Syria, 3/15/06.)
A recent report in al-Hayat (Arabic. Via Ahrar Syria, 3/14/06) claimed that dissidents and journalists in Syria now face three additional Regime "red lines":
- No contact with external forces or participation in conferences of the external opposition.
- No street demonstrations.
- Journalists are forbidden from writing anything related to the security forces or the Armed Forces without an official statement of approval.
The Regime is intent on keeping the opposition fragmented and weak.
Riad Seif's recent arrest came after the security forces reportedly ordered (Arabic. Levant News, 3/12/06) the Arab participants in the demonstration commemorating the 2004 clashes in Qamishli (see post below), to leave the scene and separate from their Kurdish fellow-demonstrators. Similarly, the Kurdish Sheikh Maashouq al-Khaznawi was tortured and murdered last year after trying to cultivate ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and meeting publicly with its exiled leadership.