Syria tightens noose on dissidents
( dpa ) - In a show of strength by the ruling Baath Party Syria has embarked on a fresh campaign against pro-democracy reformers, dealing a blow to hopes of political change, a Syrian human rights activist said Thursday.
As many as nine human rights activists and pro-democracy writers have been detained since December. Scores others are regularly called in for questioning as part of a big crackdown on dissidents, the Damascus-based human rights activist told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Among the detainees are members of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change from across the country, said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The declaration, which was signed by Syrian secular political groups in 2005, called for democracy and abolition of emergency law, which has been in force since the Baath Party took power in a coup in 1963.
The Syrian Human Rights Organization condemned Wednesday the arrest of human rights activist, Muhmmad Haj Darwish, who was summoned on Monday and remains in detention.
There was no official explanation for recent detentions, but they are seen as part of a crackdown targeting members of the Damascus Declaration and other groups.
In December, the authorities arrested 30 activists, who took part in a meeting held by 168 members of the opposition ahead of the International Day for Human Rights.
At the meeting they called for gradual and non-violent democratic change.
Most activists were released a few hours after the arrest. However, eeight of them are still in detention, including the head of the Damascus Declaration Council, Fida al-Hurani, an ailing woman doctor, and the communist writer, Akram al-Buni, according to the source.
When President Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000, after his father's death, many had high expectations that the change would herald an era of reform.
For a while, the so-called Damascus spring saw relative openness and a degree of political debate. But this came to a swift end within a few months.
Since then, Syria has seen periodic crackdowns on opposition movements, dashing any hopes for serious political reforms.