The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Akhtam Naisse wins HR award

The Syrian human rights activist Aktham Naisse has been awarded one of the most prestigious human rights prize in the world. The Martin Ennals Award is awarded by a group of 11 of the most well-known human rights NGOs in the world, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Aktham Naisse is a man who keeps faith in democratic values.  Aktham Naisse embodies the soul of the democratic movement in Syria and has been involved in this struggle for over 30 years. He is one of the founding members of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria (CDDLHR), created in 1989, and the publication “Sawt al-Dimokratiyyah” (the voice of democracy).  Many in the Arab world see this date as the start of the modern human rights movement in Syria.  During all these years Aktham Naisse has written articles and courageously spoken out in national, regional and international forums.  He was arrested six times for publicly demanding respect for human rights, he was held incommunicado and even tortured. He is currently not allowed to travel abroad. A trial against him will resume on 16 January 2005 and he risks 15 years prison.  

The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, called Aktham “an extraordinary example of a man who has fought for fundamental rights in spite of constant harassment and threats”. He stated that "there was complete consensus among all eleven human rights organizations on the Jury that Aktham deserves the award for his long-standing struggle for the defence of human rights, at the risk of his own health and life”. The Jury also noted the fact that many Arab human rights organisations and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network support Aktham in his work. 

Naisse is charged with spreading false information, forming an underground association with links to international human rights groups, opposing the ruling Baath party and "undermining the objectives of the Revolution: the Arab Unity, Liberty and Socialism." He has been in and out of a military hospital because of his treatment in jail, notably because he is not being given access to insulin to treat his diabetes. During the first week of his imprisonment he suffered from a cerebral stroke that has left the right side of his body paralyzed. He previously won the
Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, a Belgian award.

There has only been one previous Arab recipient of the Martin Ennals Award, the Palestinian activist Eyad El Sarraj, in the 12 years since it was established.

In other Syria news, UPI is reporting that the Bush administration is considering a strike on Iraqi insurgent camps in Syria. The story also contains some interesting analysis of both the situation inside the Syrian regime (depicting Bashar Al Assad as under increasing pressure from old guard hardliners) and the various parties within US intelligence circles.