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PEN joins 'The Free Syrian Voices Coalition' Campaign

PEN joins

PEN International has joined 'The Free Syrian Voices Coalition' to support the ‘Heart in Our Hands’ campaign, which is in support of Syrian human rights defenders and calling for the release of the peaceful Syrian activists, held by the Syrian government and armed groups.

PEN/Malawi President Alfred Msadala has disclosed that the PEN International is also asking the global community to join in the campaign whose timing over the Valentine’s Day weekend and through February 17, 2015, marks the 3rd anniversary, on February 16, of the arrest and detention of Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, and two staff members, Hussein Ghrer and Hani Zaitani.

On February 16, 2012, 14 human rights defenders were arrested at the organization’s offices in Damascus. The security officers closed the office and blindfolded the human rights defenders, then took them to an undisclosed location and while others were subsequently released, Darwish, Ghrer and Zaitani remain behind bars, charged with “promoting terrorist activity.”  The Terrorism Court, which is handling the case, has repeatedly postponed the trial. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in November 2013 that the three men’s deprivation of liberty was arbitrary.

“They remain in Syrian government jails solely for their human rights work, along with hundreds of other human rights, media, legal and humanitarian workers detained since the peaceful protest movement in Syria started in 2011, and in support of Syrian human rights defenders,” reads in part a statement from PEN International, made available by Msadala.

Msadala further disclosed that the PEN International has said that during the campaign, using social media, supporters are asked to post and share pictures of themselves holding signs featuring hearts and messages or making shapes of hearts with their hands in solidarity with the imprisoned Syrians.

According to PEN International the intention is to pressure key actors on Syria, particularly Russia and Iran, to use their influence for the release of the peaceful activists.

And in a separate statement by Yara Badr, Mazen Darwish’s wife and the current director of the organization says more than the personal, it is Syria that this is the biggest loss, observing that what Mazen and others who suffer the same fate were trying to do was to make real change in Syria through nonviolent means, recognizing the dignity of all. 

‘It is now three years since my husband, Mazen, and our dear friends and colleagues Hani and Hussein were taken from us and locked away in the Syrian regime’s prisons. By locking away these people, the regime has ensured that the only space available in Syria is for brutality, violence and inhumanity on a large scale.  Not only do I need Mazen free, Syria and the Syrian people need all our heroes in prison freed immediately, for the sake of our future,” reads in part the statement by Badr.

UN Security Council Resolution 2139 of February 22, 2014 strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and torture of civilians in Syria, as well as the kidnappings, abductions, and forced disappearances. The resolution demands the immediate end of these practices and the release of all arbitrarily detained people, starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded, and elderly people, and including UN personnel and journalists. Syria has not complied, and there has been no follow-up from the Security Council.

The Free Syrian Voices coalition was formed in March 2014 to coordinate the work and advocacy of international human rights organizations in supporting Syrian human rights defenders and activists.