Syrian activist Reem al Assil opens the 2014 Amnesty International UK conference

Amnesty International UK’s national conference opened on April 12 with a speech delivered by Syrian human rights activist, Reem al Assil.  What she had to say was melancholic yet ultimately inspiring. 

Reem has been a friend of Amnesty for some time and has spoken at our student conference, party political events and taken part in media interviews and training sessions organised by Amnesty UK.

She previously worked in Syria as a university lecturer. Due to her support and activism for a Syria free from authoritarianism, she was twice held for questioning in Damascus airport by the notorious Air Force Intelligence Branch, and was kept for interrogation in the State Security Branch. She was banned from travelling and when the ban was lifted in July 2011, she left the country and has been living in exile since.

Reem is the co-founder and manager of the Free Syrian Translators, an independent media group established in September 2011. She is also a member of the activist collective “Freedom Days”, and has been a member of the Syrian National Council since October 2012.

She has also worked with the “Syrian Nonviolence Movement” since it started and was previously the head of its media department. I’ve previously written about the SNVM regarding campaigns training they’ve received at Amnesty and this wonderful map of non violent activism inside Syria.

As a sign of appreciation, Amnesty activists created and signed a banner to show their support for the goals of the SNVM, thanking them for their courage and vision and sharing in the hope they express for a Syria where all can live free from violence and oppression.

I’ll be travelling to the region in the summer to deliver that banner on behalf of Amnesty's supporters during another round of training sessions with Syrian human rights activists.

All this gives a tangible sense of hope for the future but it’s always tempered with the horrendous reality – whether that’s the catastrophic humanitarian situation or the fact that human rights activists continue to be targeted, tortured and killed. Reem dedicated her speech to her friend Abdul-Hadi Sheikh Awad. He was a Syrian human rights lawyer and like many Syrians offering a vision of a new Syria based on dignity, equality and human rights, he was tortured and killed by the Syrian regimes security services in Damascus. 

Several seasoned amnesty activists were in tears as Reem was telling of the sadness and grief she and many others feel at the current situation in Syria, especially for those trying to build a new and better Syria. But the spirit of defiance that is so attractive and engaging in Reem had the final word. She closed her speech saying: “As long as there are human beings who decide to stand by their brothers and sisters in humanity there will be hope”. 

 

Kristyan Benedict is on Twitter as @KreaseChan 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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1 comment

What an amazing woman - her speech was the highlight of the weekend for me. Sorry, just got something in my eye there...

Ruth B 3 years ago