Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Christian Assyrian-Aramaeans in Syria imprisoned

September 28, 2010 by sks

PRESS RELEASE Göttingen, September 27, 2010
Two young Christian Assyrian-Aramaeans have been in police custody for one week now in Syria because they waved Assyrian flags at a concert. As the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) in Göttingen learned today, Gabriel Isa Iskander and Nahir Hanna were apprehended by the Syrian security force, “Al Mukhabarat Al Syasi,” on September 20 in Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria predominantly inhabited by Kurds, Assyrian-Aramaeans and Armenians. Syrian officials have charged the two youths with violation of Paragraph 307 of the Syrian criminal code and the crime of “fomenting ethnic and religious hatred.”
“The allegations against these youths are absurd; Assyrian-Aramaean national symbols are not prohibited by applicable law in Syria,” criticizes Kamal Sido, head of the STP’s Middle East section. “Our human rights organization demands the immediate release of these two young Christians.” Exiled representatives of the oppositional Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) have also sharply criticized the arrests.
According to official doctrine, the citizens of Syria – approximately 21 million people – are “Syrian Arabs.” In fact, about 83% of the population are Arabs, most of them Sunni Muslims. Christian Assyrian-Aramaeans, who reside primarily in the northeastern province of Al Hasakeh but also in the metropolises of Aleppo and Damascus, speak Modern Aramaic. They are the largest ethnic group among the Christians in Syria, who make up about 15% of the population. The more than two million Syrian Kurds are denied linguistic and cultural rights.
The STP is in possession of a list naming 590 political prisoners in Syria, who are faced with torture and other abuses. That is why the STP demands the abandonment of the German-Syrian extradition treaty. The treaty enables deportation of the roughly 7,000 Syrian opposition members who live in Germany, including for the most part Kurds and Yazidi, but also Christian Assyrian-Aramaeans. But Syrian officials take action against foreign nationals as well: Just last month, on August 23, 2010, a German human rights activist of Kurdish descent was detained at the Aleppo airport and taken in by authorities. Since then, no information has been made available regarding his location nor his state of health.
For more information, contact the head of the STP’s Middle East section, Dr. Kamal Sido by phone at +49 (0)173/ 673 3980.