Amnesty International's Northeast Regional Conference
Justice for Detainees in Syria (JDS) attended the Northeast Regional Amnesty Int’l Conference “People on the Move: Survival Migration and the Human Rights Implication in Syria" on Saturday, November 7th, 2015 held at Boston University’s George Sherman Union Building, 775 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA.
Hiam Altali Francis, JDS’ president, participated on the panel in the first morning session titled “People on the Move: Survival Migration and the Human Rights Implications in Syria”. The session looked at the global impact of refugees. Hiam’s presentation, in particular, focused on the root causes and political reasons of Syrian displacement. “…Because of the suppression, the political persecution, and detainment, Syrians started the Syrian revolution. The Syrian regime responded to peaceful demonstrators with violence. The fights between the Syrian army and the free Syrian army, plus the entry of foreign extremist armed forces have complicated the current Syrian issues. This bloody war has forced millions of Syrians to be displaced within Syria and migrate to different countries. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, have been detained…,” she said. Hiam gave special focus on Syrian children who are detained with their mothers in Syrian jails. People in the audience were affected hearing that children are being detained by the Assad regime.
Hiam connected the refugee crisis to detainee phenomena. “The war is the root cause of Syrian displacement: the suppression, political persecution, detainment, and the obsessive fear of arrest, were some of the factors that forced Syrians to migrate.
“The intimidation and arrest of intellectuals forced many of them to flee with their families.
For example, Abdullah, the father of the drowned two-year old boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose image became a rallying cry for humanity, had been detained and tortured. Sometimes, the only way for the Syrian detainees to get their freedom is to pay money to the security forces. Abdullah sold his business and his house in Syria in order to pay for his release. After he became free he decided to leave the country with a group of 23 trying to reach the Greek island of Kos in two boats. During the 13-mile Aegean journey, the vessels capsized. This man survived death twice; the first was from extreme torture in prison, the second was at sea. However, his children, 2 year-old Aylan, 5-year-old Galip, and Rehan, his wife, all drowned.
“This story is just one story of hundreds of thousands of Syrians today, who are fleeing from the risk of arrest to face the risk of death while attempting to escape. The devastation of losing their houses, businesses, family members, even their health, is seen in the infamous Aylan Kurdi photo, asking the world to address the Syrian needs, safety and dignity."
After finishing the speech, Hiam and Octavia Taylor, a JDS board member, met briefly with the Executive Director of Amnesty-USA, Steven Hawkins, and talked about Syrian detainees, with special attention paid to possible strategies to end of torture in the Syrian prisons.
One of the most important JDS goals is to cooperate with international organizations and human rights associations to draw attention to the plight of Syrian political prisoners. JDS will keep working hard on achieving its objectives and goals.