Photos of Hafez Assad and his son Bashar Assad are festooned all over Syria and Lebanon. This gallery documents how a cult-of-personality for the Assads has been established by the Syrian regime in both countries. The photos come from a variety of sources.
Lawyer and human rights activist Shatha Nasser addresses a news
conference in Sanaa April 21, 2008 as her client, the eight-year-old
girl whose marriage was terminated by a court in Sanaa on April 15
Germany condemned Syria on Wednesday for extending the prison sentence of an opposition activist, Kamal Labwani. The German Foreign Ministry said he had only spoken out for democracy and freedom of opinion.
In a statement in Berlin, the ministry said a military court in Damascus had sentenced Labwani, leader of the Liberal Democratic Union, on Wednesday to a further three years in prison after convicting him of spreading propaganda and false information. Added to a 12-year sentence imposed last May, Labwani was now serving 15 years in prison. Berlin condemned that first sentence, when it was holding the European Union presidency last year.
"This new conviction is in breach of the international pact of civil and political rights which Syria signed in 1969," the ministry said. "Non-violently, Dr Labwani is advocating improvements to democracy and freedom of opinion in Syria."
Good to see the Syrian judiciary is open to revisiting and challenging past rulings!
Iran has freed a women's rights activist in her fifties whose arrest prompted a public protest letter signed by hundreds of her fellow campaigners, the Kargozaran newspaper reported on Thursday.
It said that women's rights and environmental activist Khadijeh
Moghaddam, 56, had been freed on Wednesday following her arrest on
suspicion of "acting against national security" on April 8.
Her bail of one billion rials (110,000 dollars) was paid by an unidentified individual...
Some 600 activists signed the letter demanding that "Khadijeh
Moghaddam's illegal detention end as soon as possible," reformist media
reports said earlier this week. "Who would believe Moghaddam has harmed national security or caused public offence?" the letter asked.
A Syrian appeal court on Wednesday upheld a 12-year jail term
against opposition activist Kamal Labwani who was jailed for contacts with
Washington, a human rights group said.
The court in Damascus upheld the sentence handed down by a lower court on May
10 of last year, said Ammar Qorabi, head of the National Organization for Human
Rights in Syria.
Labwani was convicted of having "contacts with a foreign country aimed at
encouraging it to attack Syria," after being arrested on his return to Damascus
from talks with White House officials in November 2005.
It was the longest jail sentence handed down against an opposition activist
since President Bashar al-Assad took power in 2000, human rights lawyers said.
A Syrian human rights activist was arrested last month in Damascus after writing articles critical of the government, the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (NOHRS) said on Thursday.
"Badih Dak al-Bab was summoned by the military security services on
March 2 in Damascus. NOHRS was informed yesterday that he has been
imprisoned in a security facility and that no one is allowed to visit
him," a statement said.
"Dak al-Bab has been summoned several times for questioning on the
activities of NOHRS, on his key role in defending (free) expression and
on his articles published in Arab newspapers, of which the last
criticised the Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal," the statement
And therein lies the mistake: going after the Information Minister directly. Speak truth to power and power decides to stick you in solitary.
Banned from leaving Iran to accept her award for courageous activism, Parvin Ardalan sent her sister to deliver her speech:
I had hoped that on this grand
occasion, which also commemorates the 100th anniversary of International Women's
Day and the just struggles of women around the world, I could be among you. But
unfortunately immediately prior to my departure from Iran, I was banned from
travel by the order of the courts and as such, was prevented from participating
in this event. These types of actions are not unusual in my country, where being
a woman and voicing just demands for equality requires continuous struggle and
brings with it exclusion..
For nearly three decades now, we
have been struggling to achieve the right to divorce and equal rights in
marriage for women. We have repeatedly claimed that polygamy rights for men
create an unbearable and disgraceful reality for women. But these patriarchal
laws have sustained. For years, we have objected to unequal diyeh, or
compensation for bodily injury, and have wondered why it is that being a man or
a woman determines the amount of compensation to be paid to accident victims? We
ask why our laws recognize men as full human beings, setting them as the
standard, and value women at half the male standard, and sometimes even less.
...We ask, why it is that the Iranian
government is a signatory to international conventions such as the UN Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, yet it does not feel obligated to implement them. We ask,
if according to these international conventions all forms of official
discrimination - including gender discrimination - are to be abolished, why do
our laws not adhere to these commitments? Why, for example, are there quotas
limiting the participation of women in fields of study at the University level?
...The One Million Signatures
Campaign is one innovative strategy of the women's movement in Iran, which has
utilized the experiences of our sisters in Morocco. While our Moroccan sisters
started and implemented their campaign initiative with the support of their
government, Iranian women have implemented their movement from below, at the
grassroots level, through the collection of signatures in support of a petition
demanding that the legislature change and reform discriminatory laws against
women, and through face-to-face education of our fellow citizens. By connecting
with our fellow citizens, we hope that we can raise awareness and strengthen
demands to reform the current laws which discriminate against women.
...The equal rights movement in Iran,
benefiting from these relations is quickly gaining strength and momentum. Of
course, our opponents have grown stronger and more determined as well.
But no fear! The peaceful activism
in which we believe will strengthen our resolve. And we will continue to be
empowered and energized by the fact and belief that the energy which flows
through our daily lives is at once innovative, productive, stimulating and
powerful. We will guard it with our lives. Thank you!
Worth reading in full, but here's an excerpt from this portrait of a Yemeni human rights lawyer in action in 2008:
Why does the name of Khaled Al-Anesi only appear in dangerous cases. Are
you looking for fame through these cases?
Some cases are dangerous and difficult and this is why many lawyers
prefer to escape them in search for safety. We feel that it is our duty
against these cases. Further, it appears to people that we are
specialists in dealing with such difficult cases. You know that people
with difficult and chronic illnesses seek specialized doctors, and not
just any doctor. It's the same with lawyers.
A year or so ago you filed a lawsuit against President Saleh. Were you
serious about the lawsuit or was it only to grab attention and a key to
We filed that suit against Saleh as a corporation at the Allawo
Corporation. We accused the president for being behind the imprisonment
of innocent citizens inside the political security apparatus. According
to the law, he is the first person in charge of the Political Security
Apparatus. I was one of the team members who raised that case. Because
the judge knew we were right and our case was strong, the judges
couldn't have the audacity and courage to adjudicate it. Finally we were
surprised when the judge ruled that Saleh is not responsible about the
prisoner who spent a long time in the Political Security Prison,
justifying his ruling that Saleh is too busy to know about such a case;
however, the law sees him to be the first responsible person in the
country. If Saleh is too busy to be in charge of the prison then have
someone else be in charge instead of embarrassing yourself with a
Does the government allow you to work freely?
According to the law, we have the right to work though the Ministry of
Social Affairs, but the ministry declined to give us license. The
government tries every once in a while to make our work difficult.
So HOOD is working today without an legal license?
We presented all the required documents, but they haven't renewed our
organization yet. By law if the renewal is not given, it means that the
government approves your work and existence.
He's spent almost a
third of his life in prison as a political dissident. She's been arrested many
times on myriad charges. Together, Taqi Rahmani and Narges Mohammadi are a
dynamic duo of political activism -- husband-and-wife "superheroes" fighting
human rights abuses by Iran's theocratic regime.It's not easy.
the regular time in prison -- an increasingly common fact of life for Iranian
activists, particularly during an intensified crackdown on dissent ahead of
parliamentary elections next month -- the couple vows to continue its campaign
to defend human rights in the Islamic republic...
"As a Muslim who supports freedom and democracy, I am opposed to a number of
principles and positions of the Islamic republic," Rahmani says. "That's how I
got involved in politics as an author and activist. I belong to a movement that
is known in Iran as a nationalist-religious movement. This movement believes
that religion should serve civil society. It also believes that all Iranians
have equal rights, and that they should be seen as equal citizens despite their
different viewpoints. For these ideas, I've spent more than 14 years in prison."
Rahmani's wife knows all about prison, too. A 36-year-old mother of two,
Mohammadi is an engineer by day. But her passion is the rights of political
prisoners and women. She is a spokeswoman for the Iranian Center for Defenders
of Human Rights, the organization led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi...
Are Mohammadi and her husband afraid of more time in prison -- or worse? "In
Iran, you don't have to be a human rights activist to get arrested," she says.
"In our country, many teachers and workers are put in jail merely for asking the
government to increase their wages. Students are put behind bars for wanting
their own publications. The Iranian government does not tolerate any criticism."
Mohammadi, for her part, says Iranian society is moving toward democratic
changes and better human rights conditions. She believes there is "no going
"Iranian society is rapidly moving toward claiming its right to democracy," she
says. "Students, workers, teachers, women, and young people -- these different
groups have serious claims, and the government has to answer them. The
government has to give them a satisfying response. It's not a question of a
handful of people -- it is about an entire nation."