Published in Ahram Online
In response to last week’s disappearance of Syrian actor Jalal Al-Taweel, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) released a statement on January condemning the violent attacks and repression exercised by the Syrian regime against artists and activists supporting the uprising. ANHRI expressed its “deep disturbance over the catastrophic situation of freedom of opinion and expression under the illegitimate regime that uses all kinds of repressive measures to crush the revolution.”
Syrian actor Jalal Al-Taweel, known for his positions against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, went missing on 4 January reportedly when he was attempting to cross the border to Jordan.
According to ANHRI, while many fear that security forces were behind his disappearance, Al-Taweel’s wife, however, keeps faith that he will return because “he disappears from time to time due to the current situation and he often encounters beatings and threats.”
Moreover, even prior to his disappearance, in December 2011, El-Taweel had been brutally beaten by the Syrian security forces for participating in pro-revolution demonstrations in Damascus.
In December, 28-year-old photographer and film producer Guevara Nemer was arrested for her participation in the “intellectuals’ demonstration” against Al-Asad’s regime.
Over the past several months, Syrian authorities have embarked on a crusade of attacking artists and activists for their anti-regime stances. Their cruel methods are directed not only towards the prime “revolution defenders” but also targeted at families as a method of emotional blackmailing.
Parents of Malek Jandali, renowned musician and pianist based in the United States, were subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of the Syrian security forces for the opinions expressed by their son. In September 2011, they were beaten a few days after Jandali had participated in a pro-democracy rally for Syria in front of the White House in Washington D.C. Jandali performed the Syrian national anthem and premiered Watani Ana (I am My Country), and hundreds of attendees sang along in solidarity with the Syrian people.
Following this incident, Jandali reiterated to Ahram Online his commitment to support the uprising underscoring that his role is to “spread the message of peace, harmony and love through music.” He continued by saying that it is his responsibility as an artist to help the Syrian people to have their voices heard.
The 56-year-old world-renowned cartoonist Ali Ferzat, opponent of the Syrian regime, was been badly beaten in august 2011. Both his hands were broken, the security forces literally breaking the tools he uses to challenge the regime. The incident precipitated vocal support from artists internationally in solidarity against the brutal attacks on the artists and Syrian people.
The killing in July 2011 of Ibrahim Qashoush, a 42 year-old fireman from Hana, and a father of three children, known as a “revolution singer” shook the world. According to the Associated Press new agency, Qashoush was attacked by the security forces when singing “Time to leave,” at an anti-Bashar rally. “When [on 4 July 2011] his body was dumped in the river flowing through his hometown, his killers added an obvious message: His throat was carved out,” according to AP.
Many artists have expressed their disappointment over the crimes committed by the Syrian regime. Seventy-year-old Muna Wassef, one the highest paid actresses in the Arab world, and a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, has played a multitude of remarkable roles.
Though in the 1960s, she shortly worked at the Military Theatre connected to the defence ministry and was married to the Army General Muhammad Shahin, Wassef became a fierce activist supporting the uprising. As an act of protest, in May 2011 she asked the Syrian TV Production Company to strip her of the Order of Merit-Excellent Degree for her artistic accomplishments.
Wassef’s son Ammar Abdulhamid, from her late husband Muhammad Shahin, is a political activist himself and creator of the blog Syrian Revolution Digest. In the blog Abdulhamid presents himself as “a liberal democracy activist whose anti-regime activities led to his exile from Syria on September 7, 2005.” He now lives in the United States. Abdulhamid is the founder and director of the Tharwa Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to democracy promotion in the Greater Middle East and North Africa region. He continues to support the Syrian people, including actors and intellectuals, while in his blog he has also challenged the fabricated information about his mother emanating from Syrian official channels.
Prominent Syrian-born producer, director and actor Jamal Suleiman in august 2011 openly articulated that he is against the killing of protesters and defended their right to hold demonstrations and rallies. He also expressed his appreciation to Al-Jazeera satellite channel for its coverage of the events in Syria. Suleiman was then assaulted by Al-Assad’s supporters. In November while touring internationally, Suleiman received several death threats, and as a result decided not to return to Syria going to Egypt instead, which he now calls his “semi-permanent” shelter.
Over the past couple of months ANHRI has issued a number of statements revealing atrocities committed by the Syrian regime towards artists, media personnel, journalists and intellectuals. ANHRI continues to condemn the Syrian authorities for the brutality exercised over its alleged opponents.
ANHRI’s statement of 8 January, 2012, concluded that “the situation in Syria has become catastrophic. Activists and civilians calling for freedom are being faced by murder, detention, and abduction on the hands of security forces in an attempt to gag them.”