Assyrian blogger arrested in Syria

March 4, 2008

Osama Edward Mousa is an Assyrian (Syrian Christian) journalist, blogger and human rights activist. According to Mideast Youth ((Mideast Youth » Assyrian blogger arrested in Syria)), Mousa was arrested by Syrian authorities on February 27. Since then, he has not been heard of, but seems to be held in a Damascus prison. It is feared that he witnesses torture.

Although no reason was given for the detention, it seems as if Mousa was a victim of his online writing. Apparently he was arrested directly due to content on his blog, where he criticized the Syrian government and its economic policies.

Mousa is the second blogger currently imprisoned in Syria. He joins long-term arrested Tariq Baiasi ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested Bloggers: Tariq Baiasi)), who has been held in custody since July last year. Prior to them, at least three further Syrians had been detained by security forces, as our list of arrested bloggers shows ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested Bloggers)). Syria is notorious for its human rights abuse and a significant lack of press freedom. When the Reporters without Borders’ annual report on press freedom ((Reporters without Borders » Annual Report)) was released last month, it noted that “the filtering of online traffic significantly increased”, threatening bloggers such as Tariq Baiasi. He was subsequently arrested due to an anonymous comment left on his blog.

In the case of Osama Edward Mousa, it is not a rarely known blogger, but a political journalist who is imprisoned. Other than Baiasi, Mousa seems to have been become the victim of his own writings. There are close to no informations about his arrest; however it shows that the Syrian government and police do not care much for human rights and will continue threatening press freedom even in 2008.

Update: Esra’a of Mideast Youth has informed us that Mousa was released from prison on March 8 ((Mideast Youth » Assyrian blogger arrested in Syria)), but did not give any further informations about the backgrounds of the detention.


Campaign to free Syrian blogger Tariq Baiasi started

February 9, 2008

Tariq Baiasi ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested bloggers: Tariq Baiasi)), a Syrian blogger, has been in prison for more than half a year now. He has not been taken to court, no trial was held against him. Far too long, some of his fellow bloggers think – and have started the Free Tariq Campaign ((Free Tariq)) to help him.

Tariq had to wait a long time till his case even got attention. It’s been more than seven months now that the young computer seller, a quiet 23 years old from the city of Banyas, was kidnapped by the Syrian police. His father had spent 20 years behind bars because security agents who mistook him for a Muslim Brotherhood member – Tariq was arrested for a simple comment on the internet. A comment left on a public forum, criticizing the Syrian security forces, caused the bloggers detention on July 7 last year. And since then, nobody has heard of him.

But unlike other arrests of bloggers – i.e. Kareem Amer ((Free Kareem)) or Fouad Al-Farhan ((Free Fouad)) – his detention did not cause an international outcry. Tariq did not have the luck to have highly committed friends, he was no leading blogger. And silence came over his case. It lasted for months, till a single Syrian blogger started to post articles on Tariq again ((Global Voices Advocacy » Syrian bloggers campaign to free fellow blogger Tariq Biasi)). And soon, only a month later, five bloggers founded the group “Free Tariq” ((Free Tariq)).

It’s another one in the long list of groups supporting arrested bloggers. I’ve cited the two most famous Mideastern campaigns, our list of arrested bloggers ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested Bloggers)) includes some more. One could argue, that all these campaigns, actions, rallies have not freed a single blogger. Kareem, Fouad are still in prison, Hu Jia has just been arrested after two years of house arrest – and Tariq will not get out of prison because of half a dozen concerned bloggers. But the initiators of Free Tariq know these questions. They have interviewed Syrian human rights activist Razan Zeituna about the importance of their campaign ((Free Tariq » Syrian bloggers campaign to free fellow blogger Tariq Biasi)):

Free Tariq: Are these campaigns important? If so, in what sense?

Razan Zeituna: These campaigns are very important, mostly for unleashing the freedom of speech causes from the dual relationship between the regime and human rights organizations, to make it a public affair that would interest wider circles of people and groups. And while these campaigns lobby for and defend people whose basic rights and freedoms are abused, they also raise awareness on the cause for free speech.
Furthermore, it has been a long time in the Arab region since human rights abuses been taken place without effectual attention from media and human rights agencies. This is changing now; these kinds of campaigns and as they put symbolic pressure on the government, it gives the individuals whose rights are invaded, part of what they deserve, and treat them as people with names and dreams…these kinds of campaigns personify and humanize the abstract causes and transfer them from generalizations frames into personal frames.

Freedom is nothing one can get over night. It’s a process – and human rights campaigns, especially if they focus on freedom of speech, are part of this process. Groups like Free Tariq may not free the blogger they focus on, but after all they attract attention on the importance of freedom of speech and create a public consciousness for human rights. As long as people don’t even know about their freedoms, they cannot demand for them. Activists such as the initiators of Free Tariq create the possibility for people to get informed about human rights, enable them to fight for their own freedom and the freedom of others.