Update 1 January 2013: Write for Rights has now ended, and this action has closed.
A huge thank you to everybody who left a message of support for Anas's family, we were bowled over by your response. We are gathering the messages together and will get them to Anas's family in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, thank you again for taking the time to leave such thoughtful messages. If you haven't seen them, read the messages now
Deadly clashes in Syria have become so common that news of yet another arrest, disappearance or attack on protestors by security forces often fails to make it to the front pages of international media. I know only too well the risks involved in taking part in peaceful protest.
Before arriving in the UK in September 2011, I took part in several demonstrations in Damascus. I always managed to avoid arrest, but witnessed first-hand the brutal treatment protesters were subjected to at the hands of police and security forces. Brutality that began just minutes in to the peaceful protests.
One of the many Syrians who were not so lucky is Anas al-Shogre. He has been detained and denied communication with the outside world since the night of 14 May 2011, when he was arrested in Banias, Syria. The authorities have not said where he is being held and have not revealed the reasons for his arrest.
But it isn’t that hard to imagine. Anas was one of many who called for anti-government protests in Banias, right at the beginning of the uprising. He bravely led the protests and reported on them for the international media – including BBC Arabic. He exposed the human rights violations being committed by the Syrian authorities in the city. Anas’s family and local human rights activists believe that this is why he was arrested, and I am inclined to agree with them.
Tortured and imprisoned for speaking out
The people at Amnesty are worried. They think that Anas could be a prisoner of conscience - detained for peacefully expressing his views. They also fear that Anas has been tortured. Given the testimonies collected in their report
this seems highly likely.
Anas has almost certainly experienced the horrific methods of systematic torture that have become so commonplace following the massive wave of arrests taken place during the Syrian uprising, torture meted out by the Syrian government, security forces and ‘shabiha’ gangs.. The treatment of detainees is so violent that many have said to me they wished that they had died before the ‘shabiha’ gangs had got their hands on them.
Standing in defiance on the streets of Syria
Despite the huge danger, Syrians have not given up. Many of my friends who got arrested are back on the streets protesting the same day they are let out of prison. They are peacefully standing up for their human rights, in defiance against the Syrian regime. And they do so in the name of those who now can’t and who paved the ground for this defiance. People like Anas.
"He is so brave. The thing that makes Anas distinct from other people is his courage" - Anas's brother Ibrahim al-Shogre.
Messages from people around the world can be a great source of hope for families in situations like this. You can stand in solidarity with Anas and send a message of support to his family by adding a comment below. Our friends at Amnesty will ensure that your message reaches them.