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Petition Tag - mansur al omari
In a new escalation against freedom of expression and media work in Syria, the Office of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in Damascus was raided on Thursday 16 February at approximately one and a half PM by agents of the Air Intelligence Intelligence (Mazzeh branch).
The raid, that was carried out by members of the security apparatus along with a group of armed men, who caused panic and fear among employees and visitors of the center, especially since the officer in charge did not disclose the arrest or search warrants that are supposed to be issued by a public prosecutor.
The security forces took the IDs of SCM employees and visitors in addition to their mobile phones. They were prevented from proceeding their work and were asked to gather in one room until 4 PM; they were transferred to the Air force Intelligence detention center of Mazzeh then.
Following are the names of staff and administrators who have been arrested that day:
1 - Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of expression.
2 - Yara Badr, Syrian journalist and the wife of Mazen Darwish.
3 - Hani Zitani, a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Sociology and university teacher.
4 - Sana Zitani, a graduate of the Faculty of Sociology and wife Hani Zitani.
5 - Abdel Rahman Hamada, student at the Institute of Accounting.
6 - Hussein Gharir, graduate at the Faculty of Information Engineering.
7 - Mansour Al Omari, English literature graduate from Damascus University.
8 - Joan Fersso, a graduate of the Faculty of Arabic literature.
9 - Mayada Khalil, graduate at the University of archaeology in Aleppo.
10 – Ayham Ghazoul, a dentist.
11 - Bassam Al-Ahmed, a graduate of the Faculty of Arabic literature.
12 - Razan Ghazzawi, a graduate in English literature.
13 - Rita Dayoub.
Two visitors were also arrested; Shady Yazbek (student in medicine) and Hanadi Zahlout.
Female employees working at the center were released on Saturday 18 Feb 2012 around 10 PM (Yara Badr - Sanaa Mohsen - Mayada Khalil - Razan Ghazzawi) in addition to the visitor Hanadi Zahlout on one condition that at they are to show up at Air force Security every day from 9AM to 2PM for further investigation until unspecified date. Rita Dayoub was released.
The arrest of the President of the SCM, "Mazen Darwish," and male colleagues and visitor, however, continues: Hani Zitani - Abdel Rahman Hamada - Hussein Ghrer - Mansur Al Omari - Bassam Al-Ahmad -Ayham Ghazoul - Joan Fersso, and the visitor Shady Yazbek are still in custody.
Mazen Darwish was born in 1974 and graduated from Law School at Damascus University in 1998. A couple of years later he already began to advocate human rights and freedom of speech in particular by helping to establish the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Freedom and Human Rights (CDF) with a group of Syrian activists.
His fight for freedom of expression intensified in 2004, when he said, “there are no prisons to accommodate free speech” and claimed, “we cannot wait another 40 years”. Darwish then founded the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the first non-profit organisation advocating human rights and defending freedom of speech in Syria. His aim was to highlight and spread freedom of opinion and expression, belief, variety and tolerance within the Syrian society, while promoting the work of journalists and defenders of these freedoms.
Providing legal and technical support to journalists and activists, as well as researching and publishing reports and around 10 studies on human rights abuses has put the SCM on the Syrian government´s watch list. Since its foundation the SCM´s members were subject to harassment, Darwish arrested and beaten several times. The authorities finally shut down the Centre´s offices in 2009.
Darwish and the SCM´s members continued their work undercover and have been one of the most important contributors to the fight for human rights in Syria though living in constant fear and facing enormous difficulties. In 2011 the SCM was granted “Consultative Status” by the UN´s Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC.
UPDATE JUNE 9, 2012: Reports Without Borders has issued the following statement:
"According to our sources, he has been badly tortured in detention. We have good reason to think his life is in danger because he suffers from serious ailments and his condition could worsen rapidly if he is not getting the treatment he needs. The Syrian authorities refuse to say where he is being held. He is not being allowed access to his family or lawyers, in complete violation of international law. So far, no charges have been brought against him.
Darwish is in grave danger. The authorities arrested him in order to silence him, because he was telling the outside world about acts of violence by a regime that persists in its deadly folly. A staunch defender of human rights and freedom of expression, Darwish played a key role in providing daily information about the situation in Syria, at a time when almost all foreign journalists are banned from visiting the country.
Without the courage of Syrian journalists and bloggers, no freely reported news and information would be available."