Arrests of Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change Conference Participants

This note came from Damascus today. 

Syrian authorities began an arrest campaign yesterday evening among participants of a conference held a few days ago by the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change.  Some were arrested after begin summoned to branches of the security service while others were taken from their homes.  While some were released shortly after questioning, the latest figures indicate that at least 18 are still in custody, including Najati Tayar, Muafaq Nairabia, Gazi Qador, Osama Ashor, Radeef Mustafa, Peer Rustom and others.

all the best


Comments (33)

Atassi said:

Rights Group Says Syria Holding 20 Opposition Activists

10 December 2007
Dow Jones International News
(c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP)–Authorities are holding in custody 20 opposition activists, a Syrian human rights group said Monday.

The National Human Rights Organization in Syria said in a statement made available to The Associated Press in Damascus that authorities summoned and detained about 30 members of the “Damascus Declaration” group on Sunday and Monday.

The group had held a conference Dec. 1, the statement said.

Ammar Qurabi, head of the rights group, said 10 of those detained were released shortly after questioning.

Syrian officials couldn’t be reached for comment Monday on the rights group’s report.

The NHRO called on authorities to free the detained and “move quickly” on a new law that would “organize political life” in Syria and allow all groups to freely express their opinions.

In 2005, some 500 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals signed the so-called “Damascus Declaration” that called on the Syrian government to improve ties with neighboring Lebanon, a sensitive issue in Syria.

When President Bashar Assad succeeded his father in July 2000, he released hundreds of political prisoners detained during Hafez Assad’s 30-year rule.

But the younger Assad soon clamped down on pro-democracy activists, a move that indicated there were limits to the level of opposition he was prepared to tolerate.

December 10th, 2007, 9:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why now? What is happening in Syria that led to these arrests being conducted now?

December 10th, 2007, 9:54 pm


Enlightened said:

AIG; This is Syria land of the free, and home of the brave (lol) er i mean land of the paranoid at the moment.

Its just the usual crackdown , just to let these democracy lovers know who is in charge. Dont concern your self, they will be just slapped around a little, some will be released, and some will be made examples of on some serious charges like inciting a foreign country to invade Syria and given hefty jail terms.

As I said nothing to worry about, its normal practice, the Syrian population is too numb and scared to do anything about it.

December 10th, 2007, 10:56 pm


offended said:

listen to what Ammar Abdulhamid has concluded after meeting George W. Bush:
The President agreed that freeing political prisoners and improving the human rights conditions in Syria were and would always be key parts of American policy toward that country.
Yeah, and it’d also be the key parts of the administration’s policy toward Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Al Maliki and Al Saniora…
Of course, Ammar doesn’t forget to pull the lip-service bit:
[Bush]spoke passionately in defense of human rights in Syria and worldwide and revealed in-depth knowledge of developments inside Syria.

December 10th, 2007, 11:05 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Any idea though why Syria is more paranoid at the moment than say a month ago? Are the arrests and internet censorship related?

December 10th, 2007, 11:13 pm


offended said:

No need to be paranoid. Syria is probably preparing for something massive on the regional scale and those arrests are only distractions from it.

December 10th, 2007, 11:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The “lion” is very fierce when it comes to non-violent freedom fighters and internet surfers, but its real strength was reveled when it did nothing against the Israeli attack. As the Lebanese say, “Asad in Lebanon but a Mouse in the Jolan”.

December 10th, 2007, 11:51 pm


Bashmann said:


The Syrian regime has always and will always be paranoid. The meeting of the Damascus declaration members took them by surprise and the security service under the direction of Mr. Shawkat have probably waited for the green light from the “wise” President, as some people on this blog like to call him, to make their move against the Damascus declaration members.

What’s amusing is that Dr. Landis post regarding the arrests did not include any of his usual comments. It seems Professor Landis saves his academic comments for the “appropriate” posts where the regime can score a round of political maneuvering over the US and only then we hear the accolades.

I would love to hear Dr. Landis view of such an action from the regime he seems to be an ardent supporter of. Or should we call this move by the regime just another “power consolidation” from the cub of the late lion of Damascus?


December 10th, 2007, 11:53 pm


Honest Patriot said:

OFFENDED: I don’t understand your sarcastic rant against President Bush, particularly your insinuation that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (whom you disparagingly call “Al-Saniora” and unfairly lump with other Arab leaders) is somehow guilty of violations of human rights and/or unfairly attacking his enemies. I’ll attribute this lumping of yours to ignorance. You should know that Mr. Siniora is the most educated, eloquent, sincere, and effective Prime Minister that any arab country has ever known. Sure he has a crappy deck of cards to deal with, but his intellect, humanity, lucidity, sincerity, and statesmanship are of a flavor that has rarely if ever been encountered in the arab circles of politics.
That he is or has been the target of vicious attacks by Hizbollah and by President Assad who called him a slave following the order of another slave (3abdon moussayar li3abden moussayar) only serves to further demonstrate his true value.
If the Middle East was ruled by Siniora-like leaders we would have had peace and true civilization decades if not centuries ago.

December 10th, 2007, 11:58 pm


EHSANI2 said:

On the Sale of 51% of Syriatel:

1- Turkcell is eager to diversify out of its operations. Mr. Makhlouf has already done very well on his investment. Selling 51% makes a lot of sense as a third operator seems to be on the way. Given that most of the mobile operators in the region trade at 15 times expected earnings, one would expect that this transaction has fetched a similar multiple.

2- Mr. Makhlouf is unlikely to take his money out of the country. The Syria report had already talked about the possibility of this sale sometime ago. The talk is that Mr. Makhlouf sees better opportunities in real estate investments at the present time.

This is a commercial transaction. The seller feels that this is the time to offload some of those assets to an eager buyer.

December 11th, 2007, 12:28 am


Enlightened said:

AIG; Article from Sydney newspaper! Is the industry that large?

Israel world’s fourth largest arms exporter
Article from: Agence France-Presse

From correspondents in Jerusalem

December 11, 2007 01:33am

ISRAEL has become the world’s fourth largest weapons exporter, shipping out arms worth more than $US4 billion ($4.58 billion) so far this year, the defence ministry says.

Only the United States, Russia and France export more arms than Israel, said the ministry’s director general Pinchas Bucharis.

New legislation to come into effect by the end of December will tighten control of Israeli companies and agents that sell arms or security-related equipment.

Israel’s defence ministry is bombarded with around 5000 requests for export authorisation each year, and around 70,000 requests to renew permits to export weapons or security-related material, Bucharis said.

The United States is the biggest buyer of Israeli arms, followed by Asian countries, Europe and Latin America.

The weapons industry employs 40,000 people in Israel.
Share this article

December 11th, 2007, 1:12 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

The “lion” is very fierce when it comes to non-violent freedom fighters and internet surfers,

–>Rachel Corrie

December 11th, 2007, 1:47 am


alle said:

Did something out of the ordinary happen on the conference that might have triggered the crackdown? I couldn’t find anything special in the communiqué on the Damascus Decl website.

December 11th, 2007, 1:55 am


Akbar Palace said:

Bashmann comments:

What’s amusing is that Dr. Landis post regarding the arrests did not include any of his usual comments. It seems Professor Landis saves his academic comments for the “appropriate” posts where the regime can score a round of political maneuvering over the US and only then we hear the accolades.


I noticed this as well. Always lots of criticism with more anti-Bush and anti-Israel articles than you could possibly count.

Then, all of a sudden, and without warning, Professor Josh is as quiet as mouse when it comes to the highly intellectual, human-rights champion, Bashar Assad.

December 11th, 2007, 1:59 am


ausamaa said:

Can we start something positive here instead of just the usual ranting about political prisoners??

Something that can really help Activists, Freedom Fighters, Democracy Seekers, and their Socities and families as well…

Some thing like an e-mail campagain to the Heads of State in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Bush Administration, and last but not least of course , Israel, requesting them to immediately free all the political and security detainees and suspects still held by them with or without trial!

Let us do something constructive, not just show disgust and concern!

Come on guys..if we are that concerned and serious, let us do something that can benefit thousands, sorry, hundreds of thousands of people across the whole Middle East, and not in Syria only…

December 11th, 2007, 5:42 am


offended said:

I am all for it Aussama.
Now, I’d like to know the email address of Olmert. I am sure that an emotional letter of appeal would touch him deeply and he’d start sobbing at once. I wouldn’t be surprised if the illness he’s got in his testicles was anxiety-induced. It’s the agony he watches on TV everyday that I believe had made him anxious. He’s the humane leader after all, you know. The thousands of Palestinians languishing in his prisons are great testimony to that.

December 11th, 2007, 5:58 am


offended said:

“Asad in Lebanon but a Mouse in the Jolan”.

AIG if you are referring to the infamous quote of Jumblat, then it is ‘rabbit’.

But mind you, even that has not been tested yet.

And it’s beyond stupid to suggest that Syria should have gotten engaged in the war last summer to prove its bravery, when it was all clear that Hezbullah alone was solely able to beat you up quite nicely.

December 11th, 2007, 6:07 am


Honest Patriot said:

OFFENDED: I’m still having problems understanding how the war of 2006 was “won” by “Hezbullah” when Israeli restraint from completely destroying Lebanon under International pressure (and excellent statesmanship by his Excellency Prime Minister Fouad Siniora) is what really made them stop the pounding. Claiming that “Hezbullah” was able to maintain the influx of rockets into Israel up to the last minute is but a lame excuse for this claim of “divine” victory. Just another example of hollow self-aggrandisement bordering on dementia.
And, FYI, Syria did not engage in the 2006 war because it was warned by Israel not to interfere lest it be punished, and the ‘rabbit’ “wisely” heeded the warning.

December 11th, 2007, 10:52 am


offended said:

Oh, at least the image of ‘hiz exzelensey’ PM Saniora, crying on the shoulders of his Arabic brethren, wasn’t wiped out by my temporary fits of amnesia. That’s good enough.

HP, let’s cut the ‘international pressure’ bullshit, the Israeli went in Lebanon with one objective in mind: to crush Hezbollah once and for all. They couldn’t. They simply failed. And Hezbollah is even stronger now than it ever used to be.

So why should Syria intervene when Hezbollah is able to stand to Israel by himself?

December 11th, 2007, 11:05 am


Alex said:

sorry here is is the site I forgot to post it.

December 11th, 2007, 11:30 am


CWW said:

I wonder why Syria is doing this now. Perhaps it is simply part of the revolving door of arresting and releasing Syrian prisoners. Ma baref.

December 11th, 2007, 11:50 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

First I stand corrected, rabbit it is and not mouse.
The fact that Asad did not react to the bombing in September proves that it does not really matter what rodent he should be compared to.

Second, it seems to me that some Syrian posters are constantly missing the point with the reference to Israel. Please point to examples where Israel has censored web sites or arrested non-violent lawful activists that are Israeli citizens? For example, the Israeli branches of the Muslim Brotherhood meet regularly and you imagine what they have to say. But nobody stops them from meeting and makeing their declarations because they are Israeli citizens and have rights to free speech. The Syrian government fights against it OWN people. That is the difference. It is such a huge and fundamental difference and it is the reason for the success of Israel relative to the Arab states. How can any country succeed when its government is at war with its people and is afraid of them?

December 11th, 2007, 12:59 pm


offended said:

Understandably, ‘Mouse’ had come to your mind instead, since yours is full of sewer.

How thoughtful! How reassuring!…is this the well-renowned Israeli palate that we kept hearing of for song long? …anyway… I am not holding my breath, or maybe I should…

I wonder what good democracy has brought over Israel, when your elected leader is a castrated pig.

December 11th, 2007, 1:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It has brought us the ability to have the strongest and most modern economy in the region which leads to the strongest army and the best universities etc. That is all. I recommend trying to replace your leader once every few years instead of letting him stay till he dies. You will see that this is very useful.

December 11th, 2007, 1:28 pm


CWW said:


I think the larger point is that comparisons to other regimes or governments in the Middle East do not justify instances in which dissidents are rounded up and tortured in Syria. The response of “oh well the US doesn’t have freedom of speech either” or “Israel should free its political prisoners” doesn’t have anything to do with the topic at hand which is that Syria has once again rounded up individuals who have merely expressed a desire for change with respect to their country’s relations with Lebanon. Even if these statements about the US, Israel, and the other democracies of the world were true that would do nothing to make such activity any more acceptable.

You wrote:
I wonder what good democracy has brought over Israel, when your elected leader is a castrated pig.

My Response:
Well, Olmert was elected on a platform of compromise. Kadima was created solely to continue Sharon’s evacuation from Gaza by pulling out of more settlements. It’s list was, and is, comprised of people on the left and the right whose single unifying goal was to continue leaving the Palestinian areas. Democracy allows for such people to gain support.

The regime in Syria on the other hand relies on acrimony to maintain the support of its population. It is the state of war which allows the regime to brand its critics as criminals who are “encouraging aggression by a foreign power.” If there were peace between Syria and its neighbor maintaining the support of the population would be a real challenge; fighting corruption isn’t easy. But unfortunately, the authoritarian nature of the regime deters it from seeking compromise.

December 11th, 2007, 1:40 pm


offended said:

AIG, what part of the “it’s none of your *…expletive…* business” you don’t understand?

December 11th, 2007, 1:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Interesting perspective on the possibilities of “flipping” Syria:

The price of being suckers for Syria
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain
The Daily Star
Dec. 11, 2007

The question as to whether Damascus can be made to break its alliance with Iran and alter its ways, as Western and Arab governments have sought of late, has confounded all those answering in the affirmative.

When Lebanon’s March 14 coalition recently approved the candidacy for president of army commander General Michel Suleiman, the pro-Iranian Hizbullah displayed reluctance in accepting. This suggested a possible crack between Syria and Iran, because Syria had long been viewed as supportive of Suleiman. Yet Syrian-Iranian divergences might really be more a product of Western wishful thinking than anything else.

Diplomats believe that during his recent visit to Damascus three weeks ago, Jordan’s King Abdullah relayed to Syrian President Bashar Assad what he described as a “final offer” for Syria to distance itself from Iran. Abdullah’s package reportedly included proposals that Syria would regain control of the occupied Golan Heights and would receive international aid, while the international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri would be scaled down.

In return, Damascus would have to ratify a peace treaty with Israel, cease its intervention in Lebanese affairs, end its ties with Iran, and cut off Iran’s proxy groups, particularly Hizbullah and Hamas.

The idea was that if Assad walked in the footsteps of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, he would end his country’s isolation and rejoin the international community as a full partner. Alternatively, if Assad refused the offer, he would have to endure more international opprobrium and be abandoned to his alliance with an increasingly isolated Tehran.

The assumptions behind such a scheme jar with what we already know about Syria and its behavior in the past. The Syrian regime has never taken one side or another when asked to do so, and this is particularly true of its relationship with Iran. For example, recently Damascus sent Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to Annapolis for the conference on Middle East peace. Yet only days earlier, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem had flown to Tehran to explain to the Iranians his country’s perspective on the gathering, which Assad had depicted as a likely failure.

Damascus wants to have the cake and eat it too. It wants the Hariri tribunal scaled down and its international isolation ended. At the same time, the Syrian regime wants to maintain its links to Hizbullah, preserve its ties to an Iran that has bought off Syria’s debt to Russia, and re-impose its hegemony over Lebanon. No matter how much international aid Syria receives, this would never sweeten Syria’s financial pot as did its control over Lebanon before 2005, the year its army withdrew from the country.

The Syrian regime also believes that if the international community is not willing to give Syria all it wants now, it might be willing to do so in the future. Damascus feels it has plenty of time to wait for the balance of power to change in a way that all its demands are eventually answered.

Now that the Annapolis conference is over, the Syrian regime can pretend that it has actually taken Abdullah’s offer. However, once the United States sends its ambassador back to Damascus and the international community scales down the Hariri tribunal, Syria would only ask for more. Among these demands is the restoration of its influence over Lebanon. As time goes by, Damascus would find excuses to reestablish its links to Tehran – assuming it severed them at all. In no time, Syria would have reneged on all its commitments, while the regime would have raked in all the benefits the international community had to offer.

Some history might be useful here. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in summer 1982, Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Beirut. Five years later, however, Damascus managed to send its forces back into West Beirut not only to restore civil peace after Amal and Hizbullah had fought a bloody conflict in the capital’s southern suburbs, but also supposedly to help release Western hostages. Washington approved the return. Between 1982 and 1987 circumstances had changed, yet the Syrian regime stood its ground and heightened its chances for a comeback. It succeeded.

There is no guarantee this won’t happen again. In early 2008 there will be a new administration in Washington and international circumstances will have probably changed. The recent release of a US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program has the potential to substantially alter American calculations in the Middle East, which could offer Syria greater room to maneuver. Nothing guarantees that Damascus won’t try to take advantage of the new situation in order to return in some way to Lebanon and take the country back to where it was before the Cedar Revolution. The world should be aware that this is the real Syrian game.

December 11th, 2007, 1:55 pm


CWW said:


C’mon, arresting dissidents and subjecting them to torture simply for calling for normal relations w/ Lebanon is cruel. Concern for these people should be the business of all people. We are talking about human rights.

And furthermore, repressive regimes are inherently unstable and inclined towards conflict, both of which, of course, lead to a more unstable region. That concerns the world for a number of reasons.

December 11th, 2007, 1:58 pm


ausamaa said:


looking at the above remark I begin to understand HOW the phrase “beating around the bush” was coined!!

All people have EQUAL Rights; be it Human, Political, National, Civil or Economic rights.

We just can not pick and choose as suits our argument! Or as suits our target country!

December 11th, 2007, 2:33 pm


Akram Elias said:

Bashar smotherings the Syrian people at home, Bush provides him with protection, Israel is satisfied with his practises, Mr. LANDIS is very happy to defend Bashar and his regime.

The game is being repeated in dofferent forms and tactics keeping the same strategy: Democracy is taboo in Syria

December 11th, 2007, 3:30 pm


offended said:

CWW, I wasn’t addressing you, I was addressing AIG.

Aussama, 🙂 it’s really mind-boggling to see people from the very country that still occupies parts of your territory, talking about the welfare of your own people.

December 11th, 2007, 4:29 pm


Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] December 11th, 2007 by celest.allred In the Daily Star, Hussain Abdul-Hussain warns, “Damascus wants to have the cake and eat it too.” It wants the Hariri tribunal scaled down and its international isolation ended, but also to maintain its links to Hizbullah, preserve its ties to Iran and re-impose its hegemony over Lebanon. He argues that Syria could take advantage of the political changeover with the upcoming US presidential election “to return in some way to Lebanon and take the country back to where it was before the Cedar Revolution.” Joshua Landis reports that Syrian authorities began arresting participants of a conference held a few days ago by the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change. […]

December 11th, 2007, 5:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is mind boggling is how people invent excuses not to pursue democratic reforms in their country. Right, the logic is obvious, since Israelis support democracy, it must be bad for Syria.

This is of course what Asad wants you to believe:
Syria is corrupt because of the Golan.
There is no freedom of speech in Syria because of the Golan.
Asad should remain in power till he dies because of the Golan.
It is ok to arrest democratic reform supporters because of the Golan.

How small a brain do you need to have to believe this BS?

December 11th, 2007, 6:49 pm


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