During a security forces action in the costal city of Banias, Anas al-Shogre, a 23-year-old activist and student, was found hiding and was then arrested. The Syrian authorities have not disclosed the reason for his arrest or where he is being held although, according to his brother, his family has made relentless efforts to obtain information about him.
Anas has been detained incommunicado since May 2011, apparently for calling and leading protests in city. Reports suggest that he is in poor health and may have been subjected to torture or other ill treatment.
One of Anas’s brother, who lives outside Syria, has told Amnesty International that the family has learnt from an apparent reliable source that Anas is currently held at the State Security branch in Damascus where he is unwell and “has lost a lot of weight.”
Tortured and imprisoned for telling the truth
Anas’s family and local human rights activists believe that his arrest is related to his involvement in informing the media, including the BBC’s Arabic Service, about human rights violations committed in the city by Syrian security forces.
Amnesty International believes that Anas may be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and is concerned that he is being held in conditions that amount to enforced disappearance.
“He is so brave. The thing that makes Anas distinct from other people is his courage,” said Anas’s brother, Ibrahim al-Shogre, to Amnesty International.
The family’s source also told them that while in the Military Security branch they heard Anas scream, “I don’t want to live, let me die,” raising fears he was being tortured.
According to Amnesty International, his family visited that Military Security branch and asked for him on a number of occasions where the personnel confirmed that he was being held. However, the personnel said that the family had no right to ask about him while he was held in such an establishment, and refused to provide further details.
The Syrian authorities have refused to revealed the reasons for Anas’s arrest, nevertheless, the Syrian TV channel Addounia, which is perceived to be close to the authorities, has reported to have said that the purpose of the security operation in Banias was to arrest the “terrorist” Anas al-Shogre who leads an “armed group.”
Standing in defiance on the streets of Syria
Anas was the first to call for demonstrations in Banias, on 18 March 2011. He spoke in the mosque after the prayer, saying, “Whoever would like to call for freedom, join us. Whoever does not, go home. I’m going to the street even if I have to do it on my own.”
People followed him, and that is how demonstrations in Banias started. As Anas once said, “Our weapons are our minds, our pens and our cameras.”
Video Produced by Katherine Iorio.