Forcing the Father of Activist and Doctor, Amani Ballour, to Appear on Official State Media and to Promote the Security Services’ Falsified Version of Events
(Link below to download full report)
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) notes in its report released today that the Syrian regime threatens, arrests and tortures the families of dissident political and military activists, using mafia-like methods, citing the way in which the father of activist and Doctor, Amani Ballour was forced to appear on official state media and to promote the security services’ falsified version of events.
The eight-page report notes that the Syrian regime has not only carried out arbitrary arrests and brutal torture against political dissidents detained in connection with the popular uprising, but has also forced many citizens, through torture and coercion, to appear on state-run or pro-regime media TV programs, and to make statements and coerced confessions promoting the regime security services’ falsified accounts of events. In many cases, the Syrian regime uses the families of detainees or political activists now outside Syria who still live in areas under regime control, forcing them to appear on state media disavowing their children or other family members and accusing them of working for the West, of supporting terrorism, and of other false, pre-prepared charges which are then repeated by the Syrian regime and other affiliates. In this context, the report documents at least 364 such media appearances by detainees held by the Syrian regime, or family members of political activists who were forced to issue these grotesque ‘confessions’ broadcast by government or pro-regime media outlets, including media outlets affiliated with Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, with approximately 300 of the individuals filmed making these ‘confessions’ being subsequently forcibly disappeared.
The report adds that the Syrian regime, backed by its Russian and Iranian allies, is making massive efforts and spending vast sums of money on propaganda in its attempt to evade responsibility for its crimes, blurring and distorting the truth completely, and that the regime and its loyalists have established many websites and organizations to promote this historical revisionism and false narrative of events, as well as producing serials and documentaries that serve to present a falsified historical record and to cast doubt on the authenticity of records documenting its crimes. Although the Syrian regime is fully aware of the difficulty of achieving this objective, it seeks through its efforts to promote uncertainty and to obscure the reality, turning the truth into a subject open to many possible interpretations in front of local and international public opinion, and taking advantage of the fact that most people don’t closely follow the reports of the UN investigation committees and international and local human rights organizations, which have consistently presented plentiful evidence to substantiate the facts of the regime’s crimes against humanity and war crimes in a clear and direct manner.
The report notes that in the service of the Syrian regime’s falsification of events, Syria’s Al-Ikhbariya TV aired a documentary film on April 20, 2021, entitled “From the Tunnel to the Light”, whose primary aim was to reiterate the regime’s claim that it had not used chemical weapons on the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus Suburbs governorate; in the film, the regime’s security services presented a number of former field hospital workers in the Eastern Ghouta who remained there after the Syrian regime took control of the area, with the security services ordering them to play these roles in exchange for not forcibly displacing or arresting and torturing them.
The report reveals that another objective of this film was to distort and malign public perceptions of Doctor Amani Ballour and Doctor Salim Namour, both of whom worked to treat those wounded or injured in Syrian regime bombardment with chemical weapons and conventional weapons for many years. In service of this despicable goal, the Syrian regime summoned the father of Doctor Amani Ballour, who wasn’t displaced and had remained in the Eastern Ghouta, forcing him to appear in this program and express support for the Syrian regime’s falsified version of events, denying the regime’s chemical attacks and claiming that they were staged and fabricated by terrorists.
As the report further notes, it seems that the Syrian regime has deliberately grievously slandered and distorted the image of Doctor Amani Ballour, due to the heroic role she played during the time she worked at al Kahf Hospital (the Cave), and following her forcible displacement from the Eastern Ghouta, after the Syrian regime took control of the area following its chemical attack on Douma city in April 2018.
In this context, the report outlines the most prominent achievements of the activist doctor, Amani Muhammad Ballour, which led to the Syrian regime targeting her and her family, the latest of which was her participation in a Security Council special session on the humanitarian situation in Syria, during which she testified about the Syrian regime’s chemical attack on the two Ghoutas of Damascus on August 21, 2013.
The report further notes that the Syrian regime has used various methods to punish its political opponents, with the targeting of family members, friends and relatives being among of the most brutal methods employed, indicating that Syria is not only facing a dictatorial political regime, but that such offensive, mafiosi tactics acts are a standard part of the regime’s strategy toolkit. As the report documents, at least 20,847 of the individuals arrested by the Syrian regime since March 2011, including 13 children and 27 women, are still detained or forcibly disappeared in regime detention centers over their kinship with activists in the popular uprising or opponents to the Syrian regime, as of May 21, 2021. These constitute approximately 16% of the total documented number of those detained or forcibly disappeared by Syrian regime forces. Among those detained in this category are at least 137 individuals over the age of 70, with at least 7,929 other individuals, who were arrested over their kinship with individuals wanted by the Syrian regime, including 147 children and 180 women, being later released.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has repeatedly forced the relatives of political activists in the areas under its control to appear on pro-regime media, and to make coerced ‘confessions’ scripted by the security services, which include condemning and disavowing their family members, and that the regime, which completely controls all official state and other media outlets in Syria, uses these to deny its own crimes, which it attributes to ‘terrorists’, seeking to create a state of confusion, ambiguity, controversy and skepticism.
The report adds that the Syrian regime has followed mafia-style methods of threatening and intimidating political opponents through the arrest, rape and murder of their family members, with women and children not being spared this ordeal. The Syrian regime has also followed the tactic of arresting, torturing and disappearing the families of persons active in the popular uprising in a widespread and deliberate manner, in order to both deter and punish these individuals for their opposition to the regime, and to terrorize other citizens, silencing any expression of dissent or similar actions for fear of what might befall their family members.
The report recommends that UN Security Council should condemn the Syrian regime’s use of such mafia methods against Syrian citizens, and should clearly condemn the way in which Amani Ballour’s father was forced to participate in a pro-regime film falsifying events, especially in the wake of her testimony before the UN Security Council.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to demand the immediate release of nearly 21,000 Syrian citizens who have been detained or forcibly disappeared due to the participation of their relatives in the popular uprising against the Syrian regime, and to accelerate the implementation of the process of political transition towards a democratic government in Syria that respects human rights.
The report also calls on Russia to assume responsibility for deterring the Syrian regime from such shameful mafia practices, to demand that its ally, the Syrian regime, release the 21,000 Syrian citizens, and to stop threatening and persecuting activists’ families.
The report further calls on the Syrian regime to stop exploiting dissidents’ families and using family members as part of the media propaganda promoted by the regime, to stop using state institutions, including state media, in efforts to exonerate the Syrian regime of the atrocious violations it has committed, and to end its attempts to rewrite history and falsify the historical record of events.
The report additionally provides a number of other recommendations.