The National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR) has confirmed that 17 public sector employees have been sacked from their jobs on a decision by the Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otri. (Arabic. Elaph, 6/19/06)
The NOHR believes the sacking comes as punishment for lending their signature or support to the Beirut-Damascus Declaration (BDD). The BDD was a joint document signed by 274 Lebanese and Syrian activists and intellectuals which called on the Syrian regime to radically correct its relationship with Lebanon and to respect its independence and sovereignty starting with demarcating the common border and establishing diplomatic relations.
The regime considered the Declaration "provocative" and its timing "premeditated" to coincide with UN Security Council resolution 1680. Several of the Syrian signatories were arrested, and those who have come out in solidarity with them, such as the Suwayda activists and intellectuals, have been questioned and intimidated.
Middle East Transparent published the names of the sacked employees and pointed out that 5 of them are signatories to the BDD while the other 12 are signatories of the Suwayda Declaration. (Arabic. 6/18/06). One of the employees is Suleiman al-Shammar, who is one of the 10 activists arrested for signing the BDD.
Ammar Qurabi of the NOHR told Reuters, "The regime is showing no leniency, it wants to decimate dissent. The less international pressure on Syria the more it spreads its totalitarian grip." (Via aljazeera.net, 6/19/06).
Nevertheless, despite the intimidation, unidentified sources told AKI that the Lebanese intellectuals are still gathering signatures for the Declaration and now have around 600 new signatures from Syrian and Lebanese activists and intellectuals (Arabic. AKI via Ahrar Syria, 6/15/06). The sources added that the Lebanese are the ones gathering the signatures due to the intimidation and restrictions that the Syrian activists face.
Amnesty International has condemned the dismissal of the employees for expressing opinions, calling it a violation of international human rights. Arab rights and civil society activists have expressed solidarity with them and called on the regime to stop its campaign against intellectuals and activists. (Arabic. Levant News, 6/21/06).