Former reformist Syrian MP, Ma'moun Homsi, who was jailed for five year in 2001 for his part in he Damascus Spring movement calling for more political freedoms, has left Syria and is campaigning for more international pressure on the Syrian regime (Reuters, 6/14/06).
Homsi, now living in Jordan, released a statement calling on the European Union and the European Parliament to put more pressure on the autocratic Syrian regime to free political
prisoners, improve its human rights record and introduce democracy (Arabic. ME Transparent, 6/14/06). The statement is translated below.
Homsi, who was released from prison in February, further told Reuters that "[a]t least 13 were detained in this round but there are hundreds of political prisoners and we want them all freed as no one should be jailed for expressing his opinion." Homsi added, "Some of these people are in their 60s and they are sharing cells with common criminals. They need doctors and human rights groups to visit them because they are being mistreated."
He also said, "Every so often the regime talks about reform but it is lying. Their idea of reform is just to build bigger jails."
The National Salvation Front also sent a letter to the European Union calling on it to "support the Syrian people and pressure the totalitarian police regime so that the Syrian people may affect peaceful change and breathe the air of freedom." (Arabic. "Free Syria," 6/17/06). The European Parliament issued a resolution on June 15 calling for the release of all political prisoners and reminding the Syrian government that the yet-to-be-signed EU-Syria Association Agreement is conditioned on the respect of "fundamental rights and democratic principles."
The official media in Syria has ignored the European demands, and opposition sources expect the government to reject them as interference in domestic affairs, which is what the regime did with the statement by the European Presidency last month (Arabic. AKI, 6/16/06).
Here's a translation of the statement:
"In these difficult days, after the regime in Syria has escalated its repression and abuse of human rights, and after violating every international law and convention and all signed treaties, as well as the Syrian constitution which guarantees freedom of expression through peaceful means, I have left Syria. I am carrying with me the call for freedom for the prisoners of conscience and opinion. These men who have dedicated themselves for freedom are now suffering from injustice, oppression, and terror, along with their families, for the message of freedom and standing up to authoritarianism and corruption so that the Syrian people may have an equal and just share in the country's wealth.
These men are sending a message to the world that the people of Syria have provided the most wonderful images of brotherhood, coexistence and goodwill. They are seeking the coming together of peoples through love, away from the policies of the state. The Beirut-Damascus Declaration was but a step on that path and it was used as a pretext to imprison veteran politicians and intellectuals and the most prominent defenders of human rights, knowing that many of them are advanced in age and suffer from illnesses that require medical care and continuous supervision. Moreover, they are being treated in the worst way. We and [foreign] diplomats in Syria have witnessed how these fine gentlemen have been dragged to court in chains. The matter has now gone beyond a problem of imprisonment and has become a matter of systematic liquidation through different means.
Faced with such a bitter situation, caused by the Syrian regime which has ignored and snubbed the calls of the world to release the prisoners of opinon and conscience, I have come from the Damascus Spring to plead with the International Community to bear its responsibilities and apply pressure effectively, using means befitting this circumstance and these acts. Any delay in taking honest and clear positions will solidify the hatred that the regime is seeking to cultivate. This hatred will be one of the most important elements of extremism for which all of us will pay the price. Faced with all this, we call on the European Parliament and the European Union to:
1- Apply pressure and take firmer and more effective stands to save the lives of prisoners of opinion and conscience.
2- Send a warning to the government in Syria that unless your call is headed, you will recall your ambassadors from Syria.
3- Refer anyone who has assaulted prisoners of opinion and conscience to court to be held accountable for their actions against the prisoners and their families.
4- Send a medical delegation to provide necessary care, and pay proper attention to the health conditions of the prisoners.
My final call is to the Syrian people all over the world. We want your full support and more effective peaceful expression such as rallies and sit-ins. You should appreciate all those who stand by your side from Arab, Kurdish, and international organizations, parties and personalities for our just cause.
Long live Syria and its great people. Together to set free the beacons of freedom, the prisoners of opinion and conscience."